REPORT

Golf boom: How Scotland's munis are thriving

Municipal1

The release of a KPMG report into golf participation last week painted a bleak picture of Scottish golf with a loss of more than 6,000 members. However, in a recent issue of bunkered (Issue 155, May 2017), we investigated a sector of the Scottish golfing landscape that is thriving...

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As membership numbers continue to decline and governing bodies acknowledge the many challenges they’re facing in the times ahead, the mainstream media would have you believe that the future is bleak for golf, with headlines painting the game we love as ‘in crisis’ or, worse yet, ‘dying’.

But a visit to your local municipal course will tell you a completely different story. Golf on these courses is thriving - and few places are enjoying the benefits more than Scotland’s two main cities.

In 2015, Edinburgh’s six municipal courses averaged 27,014 rounds played - 26% higher than the UK-wide figure - while last year, Glasgow saw an average of 30,088 rounds played across its six courses, an increase of 21% on the national average.

Always open to public scrutiny, municipal courses tend to get a bad rap, highlighted recently in South Lanarkshire when there was uproar on social media at the council’s 7% rise in annual fees for residents and 20% for non-residents.

But over the period of a few weeks, we investigated just how important they are to their local communities and to Scottish golf.

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SOCIAL

As the population ages, loneliness among the elderly is fast becoming an epidemic.

According to recent research, the UK is a country where two-fifths of older people say that their main source of company is their television and more than half of those aged over 75 live alone.

At Edinburgh Leisure, through various membership schemes and discount cards, they’re doing their utmost to ensure that, through golf and other sports, the elderly are remaining healthy both physically and socially.

“We consider our golf courses as a pillar of local communities,” Mathew Harper, golf operations supervisor at Edinburgh Leisure, told bunkered. “They’re hugely important, especially for the elderly, and it’s clear that they see the benefits of being able to play regularly at affordable prices because, well, you just have to look at how healthy most of them are. I often get a surprise when I’m renewing a membership and take somebody’s date of birth down.

“Although some may have their usual group they go out in, it’s great to see friendships being formed even at such a late age.

“We had a guy at Silverknowes who was still playing nine holes at 95 and even now, despite not being able to manage that anymore, he still comes down to the course to hit a few balls and meet his mate for a coffee. That just typifies how important they are.”

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