Scottish Golf warned that plans for ‘virtual club’ could ruin the game

Scottish Golf has been warned it could deliver the “single biggest blow imaginable” to the sport in its birthplace by launching a virtual golf club.

Scottish Golf chief executive Andrew McKinlay revealed plans to charge nomad golfers £4.99 per month.

The governing body is planning to introduce an affiliate membership for pay-per-play golfers as part of a new digital platform being rolled out free of charge to clubs.

For a cost of just £4.99 per month, it is being proposed that affiliate Scottish Golf members would be able to obtain a CONGU handicap and play in competitions at clubs prepared to welcome them into the fold.

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The “radical” plan was revealed at the Scottish Golf national conference at the end of last year by chief executive Andrew McKinlay, pictured, as part of a strategy to help member clubs.

However, Harburn vice captain Jim Stewart is worried that the introduction of what he described as a “virtual golf club” could have the opposite effect.

Speaking at the Lothians Golf Association annual general meeting at Newbattle Golf Club, he said: “This could be the single biggest blow to 
Scottish golf imaginable.”

He later told The Scotsman: “I’m very concerned at the possible outcome for clubs who absolutely depend on membership take up and I believe Scottish Golf should be doing more to encourage club membership rather than introducing a rival scheme that could potentially negatively impact club membership even more.

“I personally have no issue with pay-per-play players who are referred to as nomads in the industry as club membership is not for everyone.

“But the introduction of an affiliate membership and virtual golf club by the very organisation that purports to support their member clubs is, in my opinion, poorly thought through.

“I think it says more about Scottish Golf trying to protect and grow their own income rather than taking steps to 
protect the very clubs they claim to represent.”

Allan Shaw, one of the Lothians representatives on Scottish Golf’s regional forum groups, said the plan for affiliate membership is “still evolving”.

However, Stewart said that, on the basis of what had been said by members of the Scottish Golf team at a meeting of Linlithgowshire Golf Association clubs at Bathgate, the governing body is “pressing ahead” with the proposal.

As he stepped down as Lothians president, Paul Gibson admitted it had “been a time of change at both national and local level” in the game.

He added: “Things are now in place that should serve us well, as well as clubs. There have been challenges on the Lothians Executive, but hopefully it makes us stronger.”

Scottish Golf holds its annual general meeting in Stirling tomorrow.