Martin Dempster: Scottish Golf deserves praise for serving a fair slice of pie
Every little helps. That’s how golf clubs will hopefully be feeling about how they can benefit from Scottish Golf’s share of the £7 million R&A Covid-19 Support Fund.
Set up to aid clubs and other golf facilities affected by the pandemic, it has been revealed that Scottish Golf is to receive £685,000 as its piece of the pie.
That might not sound a huge amount of money when you consider it is potentially being split among around 550 clubs, but it certainly shouldn’t be sniffed at.
The R&A Fund, after all, was also made available to the other national associations in Great Britain and Ireland, as well as other affiliated bodies.
It emerged recently, for instance, that £300,000 had come out of the fund as additional annual support the R&A provides for the Challenge Tour as it helps groom Europe’s new wave of professional stars.
In short, just because it is based in St Andrews, it is not only clubs in Scotland that the R&A should be supporting as they try to recover from a three-month shutdown due to the cornonavirus pandemic.
Since reopening just over four weeks ago, lots of Scottish clubs have enjoyed an unexpected but welcome membership boom due to the sport offering an avenue for many on the route out of lockdown.
At the same time, though, clubhouses are still lying closed while professional shops have only just reopened along with other non-essential businesses around the country.
Lots of clubs are still facing huge financial holes later in the year, hence why the support now being offered by the R&A via Scottish Golf should be applauded.
In fairness, having taken a bit of time to assess the situation and not jumped into this feet first, Scottish Golf seems to have come up with a fair and sensible plan for its affiliated clubs.
The money available has been split into two pots – £285,000 going into the Covid-19 Fixed Costs Grant and the remaining £400,000 being allocated to the Club Relief Fund.
So, how do these work?
Well, the Covid-19 Fixed Costs Grant is pretty straightforward. Every single club in the country is being offered £500 maximum from it to effectively offset costs incurred in the reopening process and delivering “safe golf”.
Any Covid-19 related spend, be it the provision of sanitation products, health and safety products or signage, is being covered through this payment, which is likely to be claimed by most, if not all clubs.
Less straightforward but the one that could make a big difference for some clubs, the Club Relief Fund is set to offer support of between £1,000-£5,000.
It has been created to aid clubs who have been “impacted by the pandemic” and is “concentrated on enabling clubs to reinstate or to increase expenditure in key areas to either improve member experience or boost income generation potential”. The application process for it involves clubs having to complete a four-stage application, which includes showing a commitment to growing the game, providing financial information and illustrating the impact of funding.
“The long-term impact of Covid-19 on the golfing landscape is still unknown, but this fund is aimed at helping clubs take the first steps to recovery and look to thrive again in the future,” said Scottish Golf in outlining that particular aid avenue for clubs.
The application process for both funds are now open and will close on Friday, 24 July. Money not claimed through the Covid-19 Fixed Costs Grant will be transferred to the Club Relief Fund.
“Whilst the provision of this funding from the R&A is most welcome, we do anticipate the volume of applications to be high and the criteria outlined will be strictly applied to ensure that the funds available are distributed where most needed,” added Scottish Golf.
“We continue to explore other funding options for clubs to access and will communicate any additional opportunities should these arise.”
Credit where credit is due. Having been like a rabbit caught in headlights when the Covid-19 virus hit, Scottish Golf now seems to have grasped that clubs needed proper support and guidance in these unprecedented times.
Having already rebated £575,000 in affiliation fees back to clubs to help them deal with cashflow taking a major hit when courses were closed, using this money constructively can hopefully now help a number of clubs stay afloat.
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