Lack of ambition and foresight, officers’ mess-type rules being imposed in clubhouses and golfers being treated like cash cows who are meaningless once they have stumped up their subscription.
Just a few of the reasons why Scottish golf clubs have lost around 50,000 members over the past decade, according to grass-roots golfers getting involved in the ‘Scottish golf at a crossroads’ debate in The Scotsman this week.
“The squeezed middle is the issue here,” said Bryan O’Malley of the category made up of golfers with families who can’t play during the week. “I love the game but do have to question the value of club membership when the course is unplayable for approximately a third of the year.”
David Begg, the former BBC Radio Scotland football commentator and one-time Open Championship press officer, also reckons Mother Nature is impacting the game in a big way. “Given the weather, pay and play is the way ahead for the marginal golfer,” he said. “Many older friends now join a non-course owning club for around £100 and then play about 60 fantastic senior opens for around £12-£15.”
He also reckons certain facilities are geared up better for the modern-day golfer. “Kingsfield (on the outskirts of Linlithgow) is a great set up,” he added. “Superb practice/teaching facilities, adequate catering without crazy overheads, and an improving course. Definitely the way forward.”
Clark Black echoed comments from David Roy, the club manager at Crail Golfing Society, about clubs losing out on valuable business from big companies. “Having run a golf society, working practices have changed and time off is more difficult,” he said. “Interest in societies has reduced over the years.”
Commenting on scotsman.com, Golfminder wrote: “The sooner that the demise of the weakest clubs is accepted the better. Fewer, stronger clubs with the dinosaurs hopefully falling by the wayside.”
Lots of clubs are living in the past, according to The Ayrshire Bard. “I have visited too many clubs over the years where the committees are largely composed of retired Army or RAF officers who have imposed the rules of the officers’ mess upon the clubs,” he said.
“I am also a bowler and am very aware that many clubs are thriving because of a huge influx of lady members over the years. The world has moved on, but too many golf clubs are hanging onto the past.”
Concurring, Mark Alexander, pictured left, said: “Clubs for too long have remained stagnant, paralysed by committees dominated by older members and short-sighted by limited two-year tenures. Fearful of change, clubs have lacked ambition and foresight. Time for serious change!”
Colin Scully has stopped paying more than £1,000 per year to play at one of the leading clubs in Glasgow. “I’ve joined a cheaper course closer to where I now live,” he said. “Let’s hope this one treats its existing members a bit better and doesn’t just look at them as cash cows who are meaningless once their money is in.”
Graeme Gibson reckons some clubs have only themselves to blame. “Quite frankly clubs are getting into a mess offering discounts like confetti ultimately at the cost of full members who paid a joining fee and are regularly ripped off then ignored!” he said.