It may not be an entirely new concept – a similar event, though on a much smaller scale, used to be held – but the Scottish Golf chief executive, Blane Dodds, believes the introduction of a Scottish Mixed Championship to the amateur fixture list can show club golfers they are valued by the governing body.
It’s often been claimed that members of Scottish golf clubs have received little in return for the per capita fee that comes out of their annual subscription, a commom gripe having been that the focus is more on the elite amateurs rather than the rank and file.
The advent of an event like the Belhaven Best Scottish Club Handicap Championship, coupled with regional development officers coming on the scene to liaise with clubs in the fight against dwindling memberships, has helped to change opinions, and now this new tournament is another indication of an effort being made for the majority as opposed to the minority.
With Ping, one of the game’s leading equipment manufacturers as its title sponsor, the Scottish Mixed Championship will involve clubs holding a qualifying event, either using an existing mixed tournament or introducing a new one, from April through to the end of July. The pairings with the top 40 Stableford scores nationwide will qualify for a Grand Final, which will be staged on the Queen’s Course at Gleneagles in September.
“We’re pleased to launch this new mixed event for club golfers in 2017, one which adds further value to club membership and offers the chance to compete at a world-class venue for the final,” said Dodds, who took over as Scottish Golf’s chief executive from Hamish Grey three months ago and is now starting to get his feet under the table.
“We are delighted to be working with Ping for the first time and it’s great to have such a strong global golf brand supporting grass-roots golf in Scotland. The environment remains challenging for attracting investment from sponsorship, but these partnerships illustrate our continued determination to grow the game and enhance the golfing experience for club members.”
Launched at Gleneagles by Beth Allen, the Edinburgh-based American who has just topped the Ladies European Order of Merit as well as securing a card for the LPGA Tour next season, and 2016 Scottish Men’s Order of Merit winner Euan McIntosh, it is hoped that around 15,000 club golfers will compete in the new event.
Worth five figures in each of the three years the initial deal covers, it takes the total Scottish Golf sponsorship to around £500,000, a figure that also includes what are described in the marketing world as “in-kind” arrangements whereby no cash actually changes hands but something tangible is still evident.
According to Ross Duncan, Scottish Golf’s commercial and marketing director, events like this new one and the Scottish Club Handicap Championship are now more appealing to potential sponsors than the organisation’s flagship match-play tournaments. “We don’t currently have sponsors for those events but, with more than 200,000 club members in Scotland, companies are keen to tap into that market through handicap events,” he said.
“Take Belhaven, for instance. They aren’t interested in elite amateur events. They are trying to attract the guys having a drink in the clubhouse on a Saturday and they are looking to try and have an activation with them all year round.”
The new event has been added to a list of exciting tournaments looming on the horizon at Gleneagles. In 2018, it is set to be the golf venue in the European Sports Championships, a big multi-sports event being hosted by Glasgow and Berlin, before the Solheim Cup takes place there the following year.
According to Gary Silcock, the director of golf at the Perthshire venue, the Queen’s Course is the perfect venue for the Ping Scottish Mixed Championship.
“It is quite often ranked higher than the King’s Course and, at 6,200 yards, is a good distance. It’s really enjoyable and great fun,” he said.