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Thursday, June 03, 2021

HANDICAPS FOR INDEPENDENT GOLFERS - Scottish Golf announce launch of new scheme to provide handicaps to non club members

Scottish Golf have today launched a scheme to provide official handicaps to non club golfers in Scotland for the first time.

Despite widespread condemnation from many of the the member clubs of Scottish Golf since the introduction of such a scheme was floated three years ago, the national body have decided to press forward with the project, entitled Open Play.

The full information released to member clubs today by Scottish Golf is reproduced below.


Dear Affiliated Club, 

As many of you will recall at the 2018 Scottish Golf Conference, we announced our intention to launch an integrated software platform for golf clubs that would create inclusivity and a pathway into membership for all golfers. The principal aims and objectives of our strategy are: 

  • To make golf Scotland’s Game for Everyone, ensuring the game is an inclusive and accessible sport for all 
     
  • To finance the game in Scotland with the introduction of new revenue streams to reduce the reliance on external funding and member contributions and ensure that all who consume golf in Scotland make a financial contribution 
     
  • To invest in technology to support member clubs in a way which allows them to embrace modern society through digital means 

Since that time we have been researching, developing and testing our approach and are now in a position to provide you with details of our new subscription service OpenPlay which launches today.  

OpenPlay is our independent golfer programme, where we have created a monthly digital subscription model for non-member golfers to obtain an official handicap in a way that our extensive research shows will more closely meet their needs and lifestyle. 

As you can hear from Martin Gilbert, Chair of Scottish Golf, Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A and Open Champions Paul Lawrie and Catriona Matthew, they all strongly believe that OpenPlay will reach out to the estimated 500,000 golfers in Scotland, who are not members of a club, to create inclusivity and a pathway into membership. 

We believe that our model is responsibly priced at £5.99 per month, which compared to the annual affiliation fee for Scottish golf clubs of £14.50 per person, is over £57 more per year and ensures that independent golfers are contributing to the fabric of the game in Scotland.  
 
More details on the background to OpenPlay are in this podcast interview with National Club Golfer.
 
Research, from other golfing nations that have successfully introduced similar programs, has shown that such a product appeals to a wide range of golfers who play golf either occasionally or regularly but not as members of golf clubs. In New Zealand, 20% of independent golfers went on to join a club in the first year and the average age of those golfers was 43 which is 20 years younger than the average age of their golf club members. 
 
We strongly believe that this will be the experience in Scotland, however we are also very conscious and sensitive to the position of our member clubs and have provided the tools for golf clubs to protect membership and engage with this dynamic new audience. 
 
Throughout 2021 we have been encouraging clubs to issue CDH IDs to members, as this is the identifier we will use to manage any golfers who leave a club. Any that do so and try to join OpenPlay will be unable to do so for up to 12 months after the end of their golf club membership.  
 
To do this clubs would resign the member in the Scottish Golf CDH so everything is in control of clubs. Clubs can exempt members from this restriction if they feel it is appropriate to do, such as if the member has a change in personal circumstances like moving home to a different part of the country. 
 
Scottish Golf also provides clubs that use our Venue Management System (VMS) with the tools to have 100% control of the tee sheet so that clubs can manage the balance between green fee pricing and membership effectively. 
 
Our aim is to target non-member golfers only, through non-traditional channels to encourage golfers to be part of golf in Scotland and to contribute to the development of the game. 
 
We will be reaching out to a different type of golfer for whom the unlimited golf membership fee model does not suit their needs at this point in time. Our research shows that these golfers are not interested in competitions, but do want the flexibility to play for a handicap when it suits them due to family commitments. They want to benchmark their performance or give and receive strokes in a friendly game like any other golfer does. 
 
By embracing these golfers we are giving our member clubs the opportunity to engage with them by promoting membership through the app, by creating green fee rates specifically for them, by showing that being a part of something in golf brings benefits, all of which we believe will take them along a pathway to membership. 
 
It is imperative as a not-for-profit member organisation that we evolve and move with the times. The fact remains that we have more non-members than member golfers in Scotland and it would be remiss of us to ignore the opportunity to have ALL golfers giving back to the game.  
 
It is hoped that over time, this additional revenue stream will give Scottish Golf greater flexibility in investing more through our clubs to ensure the recent healthy growth in membership numbers can be both maintained and developed further.
 
I understand that change can be challenging and daunting to many, but our technical engagement and a more inclusive model is critical to ensuring our game moves with the times, and remains relevant and of interest to commercial partners. On the basis of our digital direction we have had renewed interest in sponsorship of Scottish Golf and an exciting new partnership will be announced shortly. 
 
Of course it is the choice of every club as to whether they wish to engage with our independent golfers, but I hope you will do as there is everything to gain and it is our belief that the future of the game in Scotland depends on it. 

Find out more about OpenPlay

 https://scottishgolf.org/openplay/ 
 
Yours sincerely,
Karin Sharp,
 Chief Operating Officer, Scottish Golf 


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