Martin Dempster: Funding blow can renew hunger in Scottish golf

Blane Dodds, chief executive of Scottish Golf, which faces  a cut in funding from the National Lottery and the Scottish Government in his first year at the helm. Picture: Contributed
Blane Dodds, chief executive of Scottish Golf, which faces a cut in funding from the National Lottery and the Scottish Government in his first year at the helm. Picture: Contributed
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So, Scottish Golf has been hit with a serious blow after sportscotland slashed its investment in the governing body by more than a third for 2017-18.
According to a report, which hasn’t been denied, that source of funding has been reduced from £1,025,000 in 2016-17 to just £665,000. That is quite a headache for Blane Dodds in his first full year at the Scottish Golf helm, but it has come as no surprise.

The chief executive had known since earlier in the year, perhaps even before, that bad news was in the offing due to sportscotland seeing a reduction in the money 
it receives from the National Lottery and the Scottish Goverment, with that figure believed to be 
£13 million over two years. Golf, along with other sports, has been hit in the pocket as a consequence.

“Scottish Golf is working through the implications of this reduction and has been in regular communication with 
sportscotland,” said a spokesperson for the governing body in reacting to the report about the drop in its funding. “We are developing a new four-year strategy that will be focused not only on growing the game, but also developing increased revenue to invest in golf in Scotland to support new growth.

“The plan will be finalised following the current consultation period we are going through with our Areas, Counties, clubs and partners, and a longer-term strategy implemented thereafter in partnership with sportscotland. Golf brings huge economic and health benefits to Scotland and we continue to stress the importance of the sport to the nation.

“The Scottish Government also allocated an extra £2m investment in April to all sports governing bodies in response to the reductions and Scottish Golf will benefit from this allocation.”

There are two ways of looking at this. On the one hand, golf shoulddefinitely be treated differently to numerous other sports because of Scotland being the game’s home. We can never under-value that privileged position, so therefore every effort should be made to support golf in this country.

But, on the other, is this an opportunity for Dodds to streamline and really shake up an organisation that, certainly before the Scottish Golf Union amalgamated with the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association, had appeared to have grown out of proportion?

By all accounts, Scottish Golf – and, in fairness, this process was started before Dodds arrived – does a great job these days working closely with clubs on a variety of matters and rightly so. It’s the members of those clubs, after all, who pay a per capita fee each year to Scottish Golf, so they deserve to feel that money is benefiting grass-roots golf.

That area, therefore, should continue to be developed rather than be the target of potential cutbacks, but can the same be said when it comes to investment in players? Yes, I know that might well go down like a lead balloon, but can anyone honestly say that the money that has gone on coaching, Academy programmes and trips abroad has been well spent?

The fact the average age of the Scots currently holding European Tour cards is 37 would suggest otherwise and, while it is definitely encouraging to see someone like Grant Forrest bucking the trend of players struggling to make that transition from amateur to professional, perhaps we should be looking at ripping up the structure currently in place and starting all over again. Let’s take away that cotton wool we seem to wrap players in and, first and foremost, make them hungry again.