Pressure is continuing to mount on Scottish Golf to offer some sort of financial support to the golf clubs it represents as the country continues to be gripped by the chaos of COVID-19.
Many of the 550-plus clubs in Scotland face a battle for survival as a result of the pandemic, with some registering a significant reduction in members for the 2020 season.
Considering the current fragile financial state of the grassroots game in this country, the coronavirus situation has created a worrying financial scenario for some.
But it seems action is being taken from within, and not necessarily from above.
The Dumbartonshire Golf Union made the decision to help its 24 member clubs by refunding 100% of fees back to its member clubs. bunkered.co.uk has learned that the Glasgow Golf Union and Stirlingshire Golf Union returned 50% of fees to clubs, with a number of the 16 area associations doing likewise.
John Struthers, the secretary of the DGU, said it was the least they could do to help the clubs they represent.
“I mean, for goodness sake, what are reserves for if not for situations like this?” he told bunkered.co.uk.
Last year, the DGU took in roughly £18,000 in fees from its 24 clubs and this year was expecting around £17,000. That money is used to fund coaching for juniors and general expenses for team matches.
“To a large extent, we have refunded that money because there is nothing for us to do at the moment,” said Struthers, who has been secretary of the DGU for four years. “But we have reserves that we can use if, as the season goes on, we are able to do some coaching and or run team matches.”
Struthers said he wrote to Scottish Golf chief executive Andrew McKinlay and the chief operating officer Karin Sharp to ask if Scottish Golf could follow the lead of the DGU and return the affiliation fees to clubs.
Clubs currently contribute £14.50 per club member, with the average total per club said to be around £7,500 - significant cash in the current climate. Following Scottish Golf's decision to cancel all competitions for the coming year, it seems that money could be returned to aid clubs during the current plight.
Struthers said: “Andrew McKinlay responded saying that, although they were sympathetic to the need for that, they weren’t in the position at that time to do anything. He said they were lobbying government and other bodies looking for assistance.”
Struthers then wrote again, this time in his position as captain at Hilton Park Golf Club to the north of Glasgow, the former home course of PGA Tour star Martin Laird.
Again, the reply was not a positive one.
“I made a particular point in that letter that, like a number of clubs, we were not able to access the business support grant for £25,000 because our rateable value was too high," he said. "Again, they said they were not in a position to offer a reduction or a rebate, but would be coming out to the clubs shortly with a payment plan. They haven’t be in touch yet with what that will be like.”
Struthers says the response from the administrative body of golf in Scotland has been “disappointing”, although he accepts we are in the early stages of dealing with the issue.
“Hopefully they are considering their options. But it is disappointing that they were perhaps less encouraging to us that there might be something available. Cutting back and having money available to the clubs when they really need it would have been very helpful.”
He added: “Scottish Golf will be spending a lot of the money on the new software system and app, which will bring money in to benefit clubs in due course – but we need money to benefit clubs now.
“They said they were going to carry on with their projects, cancel all competitions and furlough staff – the bit that was missing, at least for me, was what they were doing for the clubs. They told us what they were doing, cutting back, we can see that – but can they do anything for the clubs?
“Hilton Park are not in any severe danger of going bust but this will wipe out our reserves. That’s the reality of it. It’s painful and a tough one to take."
bunkered.co.uk has contacted Scottish Golf for comment.