Martin Dempster: Beauty of golf is shown by both Traigh and Silverknowes

Silverknowes trophy winner, Adam McIntyre
Silverknowes trophy winner, Adam McIntyre
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It was a lovely way to end the second Scottish Golf national conference. After watching a short video of some members of Traigh Golf Club extolling the virtues of possibly the gem of hidden gems in golf’s birthplace, you could sense that around 450 delegates left the Edinburgh International Conference Centre feeling proud of the sport they are involved in.

In short, the video captured the essence of what the game is about in this country: a course in a stunning setting (admittedly, this one is pretty special with its breathtaking views of the islands of Eigg, Rhum and the Cuillins of Skye) and people getting so much fun and enjoyment from playing it. Oh, and there was also a bit of humour thrown in.

It certainly made this correspondent think that the sport in this country is not the one of boring bleakness that often seems to be portrayed and, later on Saturday while attending the Silverknowes Golf Club prize-giving dinner as a guest, I was given another reminder of why this game really is the greatest of them all.

The ovation for Adam McIntyre, one of the 2018 trophy winners at the Edinburgh club, was, by a country mile, the loudest and warmest I’d ever experienced at such an event. It definitely warranted an explanation. It turned out it was the first time the individual in question, one of the club’s most enthusiastic members but not someone known for shooting the lights out, had picked up a prize.

It was one of the most heart-warming things I have witnessed in golf. While still enjoying himself, he hardly let go of his trophy for the rest of the night, clutching it with pride, almost as though it was the Claret Jug itself. That’s the beauty of golf. It can provide moments to cherish for golfers of all ages and abilities. This success may well be the only one that individual enjoys. It won’t stop him going out and trying to prove otherwise, though.

Yes, of course, golf in Scotland is nowhere nearly as healthy as it once was, with those delegates at the EICC being reminded that 50,000 club members had been lost over a ten-year period.

At the same time, though, there are lots of clubs that are soldiering on thanks to loyal members and, for me, Silverknowes almost typifies what a golf club should be about in many respects.

It has good people at its core. It has people who are passionate about golf and their club. It has people who don’t appear to be burdened by taking life too seriously, as often seems to be the case with so many others these days - and not just those involved in the world of golf.

For all that, Silverknowes is not immune in that ongoing membership fight. Its prize-giving dinner used to be held in two separate rooms in the clubhouse, such was the demand, but is now comfortably accommodated in one.

The atmosphere in that, though, was infectious and here’s hoping it’s exactly the same at lots of clubs around the country as they stage similar events at this time of the year.

Whether the aforementioned national conference becomes another regular event at the end of the season remains to be seen, but there can be no denying, surely, that it is a worthwhile platform for the governing body to be getting its main messages out to members while, at the same, allowing stakeholders to have a public forum to express views on the running of the game.

The main focus of the conference was on a new app that is being made available to every golfer in the country through computer software that is being offered free to clubs by Scottish Golf. It was a pity, then, about the age demographic at the gathering at the EICC. Rachel Foster, a promising young Prestwick St Nicholas golfer, was probably the only person in the room under the age of 20 and that was only because she was part of four-person club panel.

In fairness, though, Scottish Golf recently launched a Young Person’s Golf Panel so there is no reason why valuable insights can’t be offered in future from the people who really need to have a voice at such an event, with this one certainly sending out a message that effort is indeed being put in by the governing body to try and help clubs like Silverknowes.

Incidentally, what a great thrill to discover on Saturday night that I had joined an elite band of honorary members of the capital club.

To receive an honour conferred in the past to both an Open champion in Tom Weiskopf and a Scottish football legend in Gordon Strachan, as well as a handful of the club’s leading lights, both on and off the course, is truly humbling. Another example of how this great game really is second to none.