Under-fire golf App still on track to create cash for clubs

Scottish Golf chief executive Andrew McKinlay.
Scottish Golf chief executive Andrew McKinlay.
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It was almost exactly a year ago that Scottish Golf announced plans for an all-singing, all-dancing App that was hailed as a “game-changer that could potentially bring in millions” by the chief executive, Andrew McKinlay.

The product, which was to be linked to a free suite of software being offered to member clubs, was endorsed by Paul Lawrie when he attended the governing body’s second national conference in Edinburgh last December, with a number of clubs reported to have been quick in expressing an interest in the new App.

Little has been heard publically – other than directly to associations, counties and clubs – in the past six months in particular, leading to a claim being made recently on social media that it had been “scrapped”.

That is not the case. In fact, rumours of its “death” have been greatly exaggerated. “Most of the system is finished and in operation and our goal is to have all of the functionality complete for April,” Iain Forsyth, Scottish Golf’s chief commercial officer, told me. Forsyth is a golf man through and through. He worked with Nick Faldo, was responsible for setting out the strategic direction for Nike Golf in Europe, has an ongoing close connection with the aforementioned Lawrie and knows the game inside out.

He is passionate about the App he has helped bring to the table and just wishes people would look at it with open eyes rather than viewing it as Scottish Golf being heavy-handed and trying to squeeze out current ISV (Independent Software Vendors) companies linked with clubs.

“I am very comfortable where we are at,” he added. “I am getting why people are worried but I don’t think they get a lot of what we are doing. Everyone is on the back foot. There are some horrendous stories going around and I feel I don’t have enough broomsticks at times to put the fires out.”

A total of 130 member clubs have registered for the VMS (venue management system), with 25 currently involved in parallel testing. Gourock have now successfully run 97 competitions on VMS since April this year, including handicap calculations. They have also now moved to the booking and payment system, saving the club a “considerable” sum.

The system is fully integrated, giving full connectivity to both club and golfers, empowering both to administer their own data. For example, when a golfer makes a booking, a golf club using VMS can easily identify a golfer from another club either by using the VMS system or their CDH number. This integration gives clubs the ability to offer preferential rates to members of other clubs across the county. “We are viewing the bigger picture, knitting everything together in a way it has never been done before,” explained Forsyth.

Due to dwindling memberships, golf clubs continue to be forced into closure in the sport’s birthplace. Eastwood shut in May, Mount Ellen fell by the wayside in the summer and now Dollar has also bit the dust.

One of the main aims of the new Scottish Golf App is to try to help clubs make more money from the so-called nomads, the non-members who currently enjoy cut-price golf available at clubs around the country, often getting a hit for a cheaper price than a member if they worked out their average cost of a round per year. “We are trying to encourage people spending money on green fees to put that directly into the clubs,” said Forsyth. “At the moment, we have a situation where what should be the most expensive option for a round of golf is the cheapest. We are trying to flip that.”

While I’m certainly no expert when it comes to Apps, I’ve got to admit that, as a golf nut, I was impressed when Forsyth showed me everything this one can do.

He hopes others will feel likewise when they get the same chance.