GOLF degrees should be taught in Scotland to stop the game sliding into further decline in the nation where it was invented, an MSP has said.
Keen amateur golfer Chic Brodie made the call amid growing concern among players and officials over the lack of big name Scottish stars in recent years.
The Great Britain and Ireland side for this year’s Walker Cup competition against the United States did not include a Scot for the first time since 1949.
Brodie, SNP MSP for South Scotland, said young Scots seeking the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) “gold standard” qualification have no choice but to study a PGA-run course at Birmingham University.
Applicants for the three-year professional golf degree in Birmingham must have a handicap of no more than four for men and six for women.
Brodie said: “We need to find and develop Scotland’s world-class golf champions of the future. The global reach and level of coaching offered by the elite PGA is superb, beyond compare and has a global reach recognised everywhere.
“We need to have a degree course at a university in Scotland, recognised by such a body, where our talented young players can train to become the best in their sport and then take that talent with them out to clubs and coach the next generation to find the future Sam Torrances, Sandy Lyles, Catriona Matthews and Paul Lawries.
“Scotland has some of the best golf courses in the world and an abundance of them but we have a mismatch in not developing our own homegrown talent to world class PGA standards.”
A study earlier this year found that golf is worth more than £1 billion annually to the Scottish economy and provides employment for more than 20,000 people. The Scottish Government has said that next year’s Ryder Cup tournament at Gleneagles could generate an additional £100 million for the Scottish economy.
A number of universities in Scotland offer golfing bursaries in conjunction with mainstream degrees while others offer non-PGA golf management courses.
Brodie last week asked the Scottish Government what discussions have taken place between ministers and the PGA to develop a foundation degree similar to the one in Birmingham and whether undergraduates from Scotland on the Birmingham course would be offered student loans.
But Education Secretary Michael Russell told him that providing golf degree courses in Scotland was a matter for universities and that no discussions were under way. Russell said that funding for students from Scotland on the Birmingham University course was not available because it was classified as a distance learning course.
Steve Paulding, golf performance manager of the Scottish Golf Union, backed Brodie’s call.
He said: “To have a course recognised by the PGA is really important. It is the only truly recognised qualification and once you’ve got it you can get into the market where its recognised nationally and internationally. It is the leader in the development of coaches.
“If the PGA were willing to endorse a similar course in Scotland that would be fantastic.”
Dr Kyle Phillpots, the PGA’s joint chief operating officer and director of education and career development, warned that establishing a PGA-run course in Scotland would be fraught with logistical and administrative problems.
He said: “The University of Birmingham was selected for two main reasons. Firstly because it is one of the top universities in the world. The second reason was because it is only 14 miles from the PGA Training Academy at the Belfry.
“This enables us to work closely with the university, streamline the administration process and ensure that the programme is of the highest quality. In 2011 this programme was recognised as the best golf training programme in the world by KPMG.
“Currently we have students from 24 different countries, including China, Russia, America and most of Europe. Those from within the European Community, for example France, Spain, Greece and Bulgaria can all access the student loan system, students from Scotland cannot.
“The fact that there is such an international mix adds to the experiences of the students. They all attend a residential week at the National Training Academy as part of their course as well as having workshops throughout Great Britain and Ireland.
“The employment rate after graduation is 97 per cent and many of them choose to work abroad with around 1,800 of the 7,500 PGA members being based overseas.”
He added: “There are many outstanding universities in Scotland, but their distance from the National Training Academy would create logistical and administrative problems. So for now we are not looking to establish such a partnership with a Scottish university.”