Hamish Grey, the chief executive of the SGU, has admitted that helping the country’s struggling golf clubs to stay open is one of the biggest tasks facing the organisation.
Lothianburn Golf Club in Edinburgh closed its doors for the final time earlier this year, with another capital club, Torphin Hill, also rumoured to be in dire straits.
Grey revealed that, to his knowledge, three Scottish clubs have closed in the last six years and, ominously, he said that he expects more will suffer the same fate.
The problem, he believes, can be partly attributed to over-supply.
“In Scotland, we currently have one club for every 9,800 people,” said Grey. “In England, that figure is one in every 28,000. In France, it’s one in every 112,000, whilst Germany is one in every 113,000.
"It is important that we help clubs to help themselves" - SGU chief, Hamish Grey
“We are dealing with a variety of market forces, such as the weather and the economy. But for me, the real issue is that consumer behaviour is changing. People are engaging with golf in different ways. There is more choice than there ever has been.
“There are no less people playing golf, the participation rates are still more or less the same. However, how they are participating is different.
“Clubs, therefore, need to get some key things right. First, they need to understand what they are about and where they fit in the marketplace. Secondly, they need to have not just governance but sustainable governance. They also need to have quality people running the club, both paid and volunteers. And, perhaps most important of all, they need to adapt their product to match consumer behaviour.
“From our point of view at the SGU it is important that we help clubs to help themselves.
Grey revealed that, of the 550-plus clubs in the country, around 60% have sounded out the SGU for support through its team of development officers. However, he was quick to add that many of these clubs are currently healthy.
SGU chief defends performance spending
Pick up the next edition of bunkered, issue 128, to read what SGU chief executive Hamish Grey has to say about the time and money being invested in the country's top young amateur talents on the back of a disappointing season. On-sale from all good newsagents on December 19.