Chief executive Andrew McKinlay is looking for a “game-changer that could potentially bring in millions” for Scottish Golf. He’s hoping he has found it with an App that aims to see golf clubs getting 100 per cent of green fees from a huge nomadic golfing population in the sport’s cradle.
Set to be McKinlay’s trump card at the second Scottish Golf national conference in Edinburgh on Saturday, the new App is linked to a free suite of software that the governing body is offering to its member clubs, many of which are facing a battle for survival. The main aim of the Scottish Golf App will be to get the so-called nomads – a group that currently makes up around 80 per cent of Scotland’s total golfing population – to book their pay-and-play rounds directly with the clubs rather than going through an outside booking website.
The company delivering the App already works with more than 20 tours around the world and both McKinlay and Iain Forsyth, a golf industry expert who is now helping Scottish Golf explore commercial opportunities, are confident it will prove money well spent by the governing body as it bids to step up its support for clubs.
“The return on investment [part of the cost is being funded by a £3.25 increase in the affiliation fee paid by club members] is potentially huge, both in what clubs can save by not paying for systems they currently use but also in relation to income from pay-per-play golfers,” said McKinlay.
“This new system will connect all those who play the game in Scotland. We have a situation at the moment where circa 21 per cent of golfers are members and they are paying most of the upkeep of courses in Scotland. You have another 80 per cent, who are paying some by paying green fees, but this system will look at ways of bringing them into the fold and we are really excited about that.
“People sometimes think there’s a lot of talk from Scottish Golf but they don’t actually do anything. We had a presentation about a mock up of this last year. Twelve months on we have an actual App and it’s a really impressive piece of kit.
“We are looking to start testing after Saturday. We know clubs are interested. Some are contracted in with other parties, but others want to get right in and involved in the new year.”
According to Forsyth, the Scottish Golf App, which is a trail-blazer among the four Home Unions, will be more user-friendly than some of the current tee-time booking systems. “We are going to offer every club a level-playing field of good quality, state of the art software,” he said. “Where did we take our cue from? Well, forget golf. If you are banking, booking a flight etc, what is now acceptable?
“The techie guys are all into how many clicks does a consumer make before they go away. As an example, we tried to get on to a well-known golf course in Scotland and we were 17 clicks in before we got to pay. We are going to be three or four by the time you pay.
“We want to enable clubs to make it easier and make the experience for the golfer smooth and relative to the world they live in. Right now, people have to bend over backwards and put up with stuff because it’s golf. We want to get away from that. We want to speak to 100 per cent of golfers, not 20 per cent.
“Generally speaking, there are tee-time bookings out there on various platforms and clubs have to barter away to get that if they can’t afford it. We take that away. We’ll be part of the barter system. [With the new App], the clubs get 100 per cent of the fee paid by the pay-and-play golfer and they’ll also get a free website.”
McKinlay, who attended the inaugural conference 12 months ago as a club member, said he is going into this one with “genuine positivity”. His rallying cry to the 500 delegates heading to the EICC? “Let’s get together. We are in the home of golf, we have an amazing product, so let’s shout about it positively for a change,” he declared.
“We got the affiliation fee through in October and I say, ‘yes it’s important to get the money’ but to get a 60 per cent vote said to me that there is a feeling that we are starting to go in a different direction. I hope we feel that in the hall on Saturday. I’m not expecting all 500-odd people to have banners and make it like a Trump rally. There will be naysayers there, but it’s our job to persuade them and get them on the positive side.”