Donald Trump to tee off as golf in Scotland looks for younger players

Donald Trump plays a round at his newly opened golf links in Aberdeenshire in July 2012. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
Donald Trump plays a round at his newly opened golf links in Aberdeenshire in July 2012. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
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He is the world’s best- known amateur golfer and a high-profile proponent of the game in Scotland.

Donald Trump is expected to arrive at one of the two courses he owns in the country this weekend following meetings with Theresa May and the Queen in England.

But the US president proved a controversial figure in Scottish golf long before he took office, as evidenced by the protracted and at times bitter legal battle to build what would become the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.

The leader of the free world will tee off at one of his courses at a time when the sport north of the Border is attempting to attract younger players to reverse declining participation rates.

While many new players are likely to be put off by the green fees at elite courses such as Turnberry and Trump Links, efforts are being made at a more grassroots level to ensure the game is open to all.

There are 587 clubs affiliated to Scottish Golf, the game’s governing body, with a number having closed in recent years. Unless change takes place, it is predicted that in ten years’ time only 4,500 of Scottish golf club members will be aged under 17 while 44,500 will be between 55-64 and more than 57,000 will be over 65.

The Golf Participation Report for Europe 2017 found there were 192,533 registered golfers in Scotland in 2016, a fall of 6,711 from the 199,244 recorded the year previous. The decline of 3.37 per cent meant Scotland joined the Czech Republic in being the only two countries to lose more than 2,000 golfers.

The most recent statistics provided by Scottish Golf revealed 89 per cent of members are aged 35 or over.

Work is now underway to increase participation, especially among girls and women, and younger players more generally.

“Scottish Golf remains the largest sporting organisation in the country by membership,” chief executive Andrew McKinlay told The Scotsman. He continued: “Golf also has the broadest active participation age demographic of any sport. The health benefits are greater and more attainable than any fitness fad.

“I believe, traditionally, that we have been too modest to extol its many virtues and, fundamentally, celebrate and promote the role of Scottish Golf in helping achieving many of the Scottish Government’s health objectives.

“We must work closer with our membership to make the compelling case for this sport’s bright future.”

Along with increasing participation, Scottish Golf’s two other identified objectives are supporting clubs who seek to help it in developing a sustainable business model and improving its commercial performance in order to become more financially independent.

Mr McKinlay added: “These are three clear and unequivocal objectives that will enable us to fulfil our commitment to make golf accessible to all, regardless of age, gender, race or social standing.

“This week, we supported a GolfSixes event at the Wee Course at North Berwick, which involved youngsters from North Berwick, Haddington, Gullane and Craigielaw Golf Clubs taking part in the popular short-form version of the game.

“We need to make golf and golf clubs a more welcoming environment for young people across the board. Ultimately, we strive to be the trusted hosts in the Home of Golf, where everybody is welcome.”

The week after Trump’s arrival Scottish golf will receive another high-profile visitor in the form of the 2018 Open Championship.

The 147th staging of the competition will be held at Carnoustie and tees off on 19 July.