Martin Dempster: Scottish Golf needs to be proactive to get ‘yes’ vote

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Here we go again. Straight after the excitement of a Ryder Cup, reality will hit home as Scottish Golf comes under the microscope once more and, based on recent history, that means, sadly, that we can expect muck to be flying around.

It has started already, in fact. No sooner had it been announced that a general meeting of the governing body had been called for 4 October to vote on a new proposal for the affiliation fee than social media was alive with activity on the matter.

In short, the message from that was clear: it’s by no means a certainty that a bid to increase that charge from £11.25 to £14.50 will be successful. Which means that Scottish Golf has two weeks to do everything it possibly can to try and get that “yes” vote on this occasion.

In March, when a proposal to raise the fee to £15 was rejected by stakeholders, it wasn’t until after proxy votes had been submitted that information which could well have led to a different outcome was actually offered by Eleanor Cannon, the chair of Scottish Golf.

That mistake simply can’t happen again and, in fairness, there seems to be a bit more clarity already, with the governing body spelling out how it plans to spend what would be an additional £552,500 per year if the new proposal is approved.

The biggest chunk of that – around £150,000 annually – is being earmarked on trying to help member clubs raise income from “nomadic” golfers who pay and play at courses at cut-price rates ,at a time when club membership in Scotland is declining.

That’s an area that certainly needs to be tackled and it’s a priority for Andrew McKinlay, the Scottish Golf CEO, to throw some light on how providing clubs with a “new non-compulsory free-of-charge IT 
system” can be part of a possible solution.

According to a statement on the Scottish Golf website, other areas of investment if the new figure is improved include a potential £100,000 on a “national junior 
programme” that would aim to build on current initiatives for youngsters by having a “collaborative approach”.

Again, stakeholders need to know as much as possible about what that might entail because, let’s face it, two excellent junior foundations are already in place thanks to Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher and, moreover, the governing body, albeit under a previous regime, has already tried to inject new blood into the game through clubgolf, the junior initiative that was part of the 2014 Ryder Cup legacy.

In the build up to that vote earlier in the year, Scottish Golf seemed to have lost faith from some of its stakeholders, leaving McKinlay spending the start of his tenure 
trying to rebuild bridges around the country at the same time as being faced with budget cuts due to sportscotland funding being drastically reduced.

The fact this latest affiliation fee proposal has been tabled by a group of Areas and Counties calling itself the “Requisionists” shows a willingness for Scottish Golf to be given a chance to see if, in fact, it can prosper under McKinlay, but others, clearly, still need to be convinced.Gone are the days when the majority of club members didn’t even know that this per capita fee came out of their annual subscription. A combination of the process that led to the merged Scottish Golf being formed almost exactly three years ago coupled with all the publicity before and after the vote in March has brought it to light and rightly so.

That being the case, it really is down to Scottish Golf to go into overdrive between now and that next vote and convince those doubters why it deserves the support of its members to implement that £3.25 rise, which, incidentally, will be “frozen” until 2022.

In some ways, the governing body is fortunate to be getting this second chance quite so soon and, quite frankly, there can be no excuses on this occasion. Another “no” would be a total and utter embarrassment, so let’s see some positive activity from Scottish Golf over the next fortnight that helps convince stakeholders to support this proposal. Do nothing and then they’ll just have to live with the consequences, unfortunately, if it’s another rejection.