Scottish Golf has received six times the number of enquiries from golf clubs they expected about using the new technology systems they proposed at last December’s conference on the future of the game in Scotland.
The governing body hopes to provide a free to it’s 500 plus member clubs a one-stop booking system which will allow them to retain all of their green fees instead of paying commission to outside agencies.
The system will also include a phone app designed to be the main point of access by the many thousands of “nomadic” golfers – those who choose not to be members of clubs but take advantage of cut-price green fees to play wherever they like. This will again allow golf clubs to control and retain 100 per cent of their green fees.
The governing body had hoped that they would get 50 interested clubs willing to sign up or at least to investigate the possibility of installing the technology, but the number expressing an interest has been over 300, according to chief executive Andrew McKinlay.
“We thought we could get the software into a few clubs and start rolling it out, expanding on word of mouth,” said McKinlay. “In fact we have more than half our clubs interested already.”
The plan is still to pilot the system in “five or six” clubs, starting with the next week or so, and gradually roll it out to others who want to come on board, he continued.
“A number of clubs won’t be able to take it yet because they have commitments with other companies,” added McKinlay. “We’ll start working on a pilot basis, get feedback where there are issues, then we’ll start rolling it out in the summer.
“I’d be delighted by the end of the year if we had it in 100 clubs, that would be a huge success, and that’s something to aim for.”
At least 50 clubs, with a wide geographical spread, need to be signed up and operation on the app for pay-to-play golfers before it can go live, he added.
“You’re only going to get one hit with many of these people so it’s got to be right,” continued McKinlay. “I wouldn’t like to put a time on that, maybe back end of this year.
“It has to be something that’s easy for them or they won’t like it. Also, we’ve got to prove out product. That’s our big challenge at the moment, but a fantastic challenge to have.”
With an agreed increase in the affiliation fee paid by all golfers to the governing body agreed last year, Scottish Golf can now target a way to self-fund, McKinlay believes.
“The software is free to clubs but it’s still being paid for through the membership fee, but they’re currently paying for systems so it’s a saving for them,” he went on.
“The affiliation free has made developing it much easier, so the plan is in three to four years we’ll have a different funding model. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have sportscotland or membership funding but we’d be less reliant on it.
“I think governing bodies in general get a reputation for maybe a lot of talk and not enough action, but I think people left the conference thinking `they actually have something here.’
“There is an attitude of `what to Scottish Golf do for us’ and it’s it’s for us to shout what we offer, obvious things like helping clubs market themselves to potential members, savings on energy usage, help focusing on juniors, on girls and women, on environmental, and on handicapping.
“But we need to reach out to the club golfer because they’re still sceptical about what we do for them.”
Scottish Golf has established a young person’s panel – consisteing of members aged 14 to 24 – aimed at increasing participation, and will also back the R&A’s Women in Golf Charter.
“We’re very firm on the fact we don’t want people just ticking a box to be registered for the charter, there’s certain things we want clubs to do, mixed competitions, gender-neutral tees, proper facilities for women, those are a big push for us.”