Comment: Scottish Golf has jumped gun by scrapping entire 2020 schedule

Many golfers have asked why such a huge decision has been made so early

The ‘Course Closed’ sign is displayed at Carnoustie,as at every club across Scotland during the current coronavirus crisis.
The ‘Course Closed’ sign is displayed at Carnoustie,as at every club across Scotland during the current coronavirus crisis.

So, two of the biggest calls in golf during the coronavirus crisis have now been made in the sport’s cradle after the R&A’s decision to cancel the 149th Open at Royal St George’s in July was followed by Scottish Golf scrapping its entire 2020 fixture list.

The announcement on Thursday by the game’s governing body in Scotland involved close to 30 amateur events, due to take place from last week through until the end of September, all being cancelled.

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The list included a visit to Muirfield for the Scottish Men’s Open, the women’s equivalent at Troon, as well as the Scottish Amateur and Scottish Women’s Championships at Murcar Links and Ladybank respectively.

Medal events for club golfers due to be held at Prestonfield, Williamwood, Forrester Park, Deeside, Eyemouth and Balbirnie Park leading to a grand final at The Duke’s at St Andrews also bit the dust.

In one fell swoop, the 2020 domestic calendar was wiped out on 9 April, leaving many to ask why a huge decision was made at such an early stage, even allowing for the fact there is so much uncertainty at the moment in these unprecedented times.

South of the Border, England Golf has postponed events until week commencing 27 July, having originally set a date of 7 June, while Wales Golf and the Golfing Union of Ireland are also looking at tournaments on a rolling basis at the moment, similar to what is happening on the main professional tours.

It could be, of course, that there will be no tournaments, amateur or professional, at all to look forward to later in the year because, let’s face it, no-one actually knows how long this is going to have its grip on the world and, equally, how long it will take for normality to return thereafter.

So, it could be the case that Scottish Golf, led by chair Eleanor Cannon and CEO Andrew McKinlay, has got this call spot on and, if so, I will gladly take my hat off to them in due course.

Right now, though, my gut feeling is that they have jumped the gun and, in the process, left a small army of golfers feeling very disappointed indeed at a time when they are already down in the dumps due to courses the length and breadth of the land being closed.

Take some of the junior events on that now cancelled 2020 schedule, for example. The Scottish Boys’ Under-14 Open was due to be held at Kirkcaldy in August, with the girls’ under-14/under 16 equivalent supposed to be taking place at Stirling at the same time.

At a time when they are in lockdown with their families, some youngsters would perhaps have been using those tournaments as motivation as they hit chip shots in the garden or rolled putts in the hallway, but that has now been taken away.

In a statement announcing the fixture list being cancelled along with all the performance programmes and staff being furloughed, Cannon said Scottish Golf was having to make some “tough decisions” and indicated that this was in light of a “significant delay in our member income”.

She is referring, of course, to the affiliation fee paid by golf club members through their club subscription, an increase to £14.50 having increased that revenue stream by approximately £500,000 per year after it was given the green light by stakeholders in October 2018.

Some clubs will already have paid their dues for this year to the governing body, but others would just about have been getting round to it under normal circumstances and, sadly, some might not be in a position to do so at the end of the current closure because they will be out of business.

The big question now, of course, in the light of this call on the events and those performance programmes is whether the more fortunate clubs – and some of those have to fork out big sums as an affiliated member - should now be reimbursed, either in full or partly.

As things stand, this is about trying to help save as many clubs as possible and, if Scottish Golf’s answer to that is “no”, then it needs to start showing some strong leadership at a time when it is badly needed around the country.

Asking clubs to send an email if they have any “specific requests” is not how this should be tackled. The skeletal staff – and we don’t even know what that actually consists of – should be making personal contact with every single club in the country and getting a grasp on the individual needs of those clubs.

I’m not saying Scottish Golf should necessarily be handing out money – and it clearly doesn’t have the reserves to do that – but, at the very least, it needs to make every single club member in the country feel it is playing a key part in what, in some cases, will be tooth and nail fights to survive.

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