OPINION

"What does Scottish Golf do for me?" Finally, some answers.

Scottish Golf Flag

What does Scottish Golf do for me?

That has been a popular refrain amongst disillusioned golf club members over the past few years.

Since its formation in October 2015 – following the amalgamation of the former Scottish Golf Union and Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association, of whom the same question was also often asked – the governing body in the cradle of the game has hardly had its troubles to seek.

Chief executives have come and gone; likewise, performance directors and other key members of staff; visions for the future have been no sooner drawn up than ripped up; funding has been cut; budgets have been slashed; personalities have clashed.

The sum of these parts? Increasing disquiet amongst the rank and file, and that same question time and time again.

What does Scottish Golf do for me?

What does Scottish Golf do for me?

What does Scottish Golf do for me?

More than just a question, it has become the unofficial campaign slogan for those who believe the organisation has ceased to be of both relevance and benefit.

“It’s only interested in creating tour pros.”

“It’s out of touch with the likes of us.”

“It’s run by a bunch of blazers.” 

And so the beat goes on: what does Scottish Golf do for me?

Yesterday, at the second national conference  at the EICC in Edinburgh, close to 500 delegates got their answer. 

Scottish Golf

What does Scottish Golf do for me? Amongst other things, it has developed a bold new digital platform that might, just might, help to keep struggling clubs afloat.

In simple terms, it will enable clubs to “take control of business” through a single, centralised system. Everything from tee time bookings, to a point of sale system, to a customisable website for every club, area and county in the country, will be available - free of charge.

There will also be an app for golf club members, which will allow them to easily book tee times as well as access a raft of other great features, such as a digital scorecard, real-time competition leaderboards and even a virtual caddie.

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Non golf club members will also be able to download the app but will be required to pay a small fee. The revenue generated from sales made through the app – all of the revenue – will be reinvested into the game. This, in turn, is intended to help to redress an imbalance whereby golf club members, who account for just 20% of Scotland’s golf 808,000-strong population, contribute the majority of club maintenance and associated costs.

According to chief executive Andrew McKinlay, below, the return on investment is “potentially huge”.

Key word: potentially.

Sg Ceo Andrew Mc Kinlay 700X467

Developing this platform is the second step in a three-step process that, in the most reductive of terms, goes: identify the problem; develop a solution; implement the solution.

Scottish Golf can do (and has done) the first two. The third part, the most important part, is in the hands of the country’s clubs and members.

To paraphrase JFK, they need to ask not what Scottish Golf does for them, but ask what they can do for Scottish golf.

Bluntly? They need to do something that many in the game have been stubbornly unwilling to do.

They need to embrace change.

It’s a tough one, is change. It requires commitment without guarantees. It requires no little courage. It requires a leap of faith. When you take that and add in a considerable dose of “but we’ve always done it this way”, it becomes a tall task.

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To be absolutely clear, Scottish Golf isn’t saying that its new digital management service will transform fortunes for all beyond-all-doubt. What it’s saying is that it firmly believes it is the best solution, and it’s asking for your trust on that.

Trust.

Faith in the organisation has, of course, been shaken by a series of missteps and mismanagement over the years, and it's unrealistic to think that one piece of software is going to completely resolve all that. It's neither a magic wand nor a silver bullet.

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However, is it not unfair to judge the ongoing viability of an organisation on the failings of its previous regimes? Is it not obtuse to, on the one hand, demand to know what it does for you and, on the other, reject the answer because it doesn’t suit your agenda? For the first time in a long time, there appears to be hope and conviction emanating from the management of Scottish Golf. They’re trying to turn a corner – but they can’t do it alone.

Look, it’s not for me to sell the platform on Scottish Golf’s behalf. That’s absolutely not my intention. Instead, I’m saying this: take a closer look at it and try to do so with an open mind. If there’s a chance that it might make a difference to your club, what do you have to lose? 

Still, let us not be complacent. Yesterday’s conference was an encouraging way to start what will hopefully be a brighter domestic future - but it was only a start. It is important that Scottish Golf’s stakeholders continue to hold the organisation to reasonable account and that Scottish Golf continues to try to rebuild the bridges burned by the turmoil of the last few years.

There is much work still to be done. However, by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror, all any of us succeed in doing is pulling the handbrake on momentum.  

And that is good for nobody.

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