We can learn from the Scots

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Behind the Scenes - By Stuart McLean, Edi­tor

It’s not al­to­gether sur­pris­ing that Scot­tish golfers have been dom­i­nat­ing the SA Ama­teur Cham­pi­onship (May is­sue) in re­cent years. Ama­teur golf in the UK, par­tic­u­larly Scot­land and Eng­land, is highly or­gan­ised all the way up from grass­roots to elite level, and the work of these gol ng bod­ies is hav­ing great re­sults thanks to ex­cel­lent fund­ing and dis­ci­plined strate­gies.

A Scot­tish golfer, Con­nor Syme, 20, also won the Aus­tralian Ama­teur in Jan­uary, ar­guably an even bet­ter achieve­ment than his coun­try­man Craig Ross win­ning the SA Ama­teur at Ge­orge. At grass­roots level, ClubGolf Scot­land in­tro­duced more than 50 000 pri­mary school chil­dren to golf in 2015.

There’s much that the SA Golf As­so­ci­a­tion can learn and copy from Scot­tish Golf, if they had the mind and will to do so.The two countries have a good gol ng re­la­tion­ship, and there are key par­al­lels be­tween us. Nei­ther of us are that big in world gol ng terms, but we have a shared pas­sion and tal­ent for the game. Dur­ing the boom years Scot­land reached a peak in 2005 of 263 000 mem­ber golfers at 600 cour­ses. That is now down to 220 000 mem­bers, but cam­paigns have turned the tide of de­clin­ing mem­ber­ship.

We have also seen a li­ated mem­bers of clubs drop to un­der 120 000 men and 17 000 women, but no one at the SAGA ap­pears to be tack­ling this as a na­tional prob­lem.

The Scot­tish Golf Union web­site presents a clear pic­ture of how di er­ently they view the fu­ture of golf com­pared to how we do so here. Scot­tish Golf works closely with each and ev­ery one of its clubs, and they have a pow­er­ful vi­sion of how to build and grow the game. Their site pro­vides an in­struc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for golfers with valu­able and rel­a­tive in­for­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly those new to the game. There’s a Club Finder tab which re­veals ev­ery­thing you need to know about ev­ery golf club in Scot­land – mem­ber­ship o ers, spe­cial deals, open com­pe­ti­tions for vis­i­tors.

You can nd jobs in the golf in­dus­try on this site. There’s a Scot­tish Golf ra­dio show, a 35-minute dig­i­tal podcast which can be down­loaded weekly, and a Scot­tish Golf mem­ber­ship card for club mem­bers which pro­vides a va­ri­ety of benets. When you look at what they’re do­ing, and the way they pro­mote the game, by com­par­i­son we’re still in the 20th cen­tury. Golf clubs here are ex­pected to do ev­ery­thing on their own, with­out na­tional sup­port.

One of the head­ings within their web­site is, What Does Scot­tish Golf Do For Me? That one state­ment shows a com­mit­ment and prom­ise to ev­ery club golfer in Scot­land. Could the SAGA get away with say­ing some­thing like that, and com­ing up with an­swers?

Scot­tish Golf has 7 key goals which they be­lieve will help them re­alise their vi­sion for the game. They are: Stronger Clubs, More Golfers, Qual­ity Coach­ing, Win­ning Golfers, Out­stand­ing Events, Ex­cel­lent Gov­er­nance, and Strong Part­ner­ship.

Once the new Golf RSA body is up and run­ning, we need to rein­vent our vi­sion of golf in this coun­try. Our a li­ated fees need to be used in grow­ing di er­ent ar­eas, pro­mot­ing golf, and not just go­ing to elite pro­grammes and ex­pen­sive over­seas trips.And we need to relook at our de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes.Are the right chil­dren be­ing tar­geted, or is de­vel­op­ment only about the un­der­priv­i­leged? There is in­cred­i­ble golf­ing tal­ent in South Africa, the game is still pop­u­lar, we have won­der­ful cour­ses, but we need im­proved and in­spi­ra­tional lead­er­ship from those who con­trol the game here.

stuart.mclean@new­me­di­a­pub.co.za

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