Golf: Ex-Lothians chief fears membership drop

Former Lothians golf president Denys Flaherty took great delight in ''seeing Grant Forrest get his hands on the Scottish Amateur trophy at Royal Dornoch
Former Lothians golf president Denys Flaherty took great delight in ''seeing Grant Forrest get his hands on the Scottish Amateur trophy at Royal Dornoch
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FEARS have been expressed about the future of some 
Lothians golf clubs if this year’s wet weather leads to members dropping off.

Compared to other areas of Scotland, immediate past 
Lothians president Denys 
Flaherty reckons clubs in around the Capital have not been hit as badly so far in terms of declining membership.

Following one of the wettest years on record, though, he is worried that tough times could be just around the corner.

“I think next year is going to be a really big test for some clubs,” Flaherty told the Evening News. “I think the weather this year is going to influence a lot of people when it comes to pay their subscriptions.

“‘How many times did I get to play this year?’ is a question they’re going to be asking.

“A number of clubs have taken steps to survive in these difficult times but it’s only a few clubs, the likes of Royal Burgess, Bruntsfield Links and Murrayfield, that still have waiting lists these days.

“Just look around Edinburgh these days and see the number of clubs that have big signs up offering membership.

“One thing that the current trend in membership might curb is the development of more private courses and I 
believe that might not be a bad thing.”

Flaherty also said officials involved in the new round of talks to create a unified body to run Scottish golf will need to agree to some “give and take” to see the proposal come to fruition at the second time of asking.

Having been involved in the first attempt to see Scotland fall into line with most other countries in the world, he insists that’s the only way that 
“hurdles” are going to be overcome.

Having recently stepped down as Lothians president, Flaherty will no longer be part of a process that took up most of his first year in office.

However, with a formal statement on the progress made on amalgamation due to be released in the near future, he is hopeful the bid to merge the Scottish Golf Union and Scottish Ladies Golfing Association can still happen.

“I am looking forward to the amalgamation talks starting up again,” said the Liberton member. “I also hope it goes through, but I think there will have to be give and take as there are a few hurdles to get over.

“It may not be the format I personally want to see, but so what?”

Flaherty admitted the proposed amalgamation had weighed heavily on his mind when he was first asked to put himself in line for the Lothians presidency. And, within a few months of taking over the chain of office, the LGA was among the ten associations that voted the bid down.

“It always seemed likely that amalgamation was going to be the major issue in 2011 and that proved to be the case,” he added. “I wouldn’t say that was the most enjoyable spell of my presidency but, supported by the likes of Ken Wood, Peter Lowe and Alistair Bisset, I 
always felt we had the best interests of both the Lothians and Scottish golf in mind.”

Compared to the first one, Flaherty’s second year in office was “normal”, also being helped by the fact the fortunes of his beloved Hibs started to pick up.

“It was exceptionally enjoyable and over the last two years I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of extremely enjoyable people at events like Bruntsfield Links’ 250th dinner as well as centenary dinners for Ravelston and Port Seton,” he said.

“I’ve also enjoyed seeing Lothians taste success, notably Grant Forrest winning the Scottish Amateur up at Royal Dornoch and Lothians lifting the Scottish Boys’ Area Team title for the fourth time in five years.

“The main disappointment has been the men’s Area Team Championship. I’ve got great memories of winning that four years out of five as well, but we’ve not managed to make our mark yet under the new format.”

Flaherty’s successor, Prestonfield member Bisset, has vowed to do everything in his power to bring success to Lothians clubs, on and off the course.

“I want to try and help Lothians golfers progress; get more juniors into the game and also get as many clubs as possible holding on to members,” said the new president.

His right-hand man for the next two years will be Turnhouse member Allan Shaw, who has served as the LGA’s secretary for the past 12 years. That position will be advertised in the New Year while Swanston New’s Duncan Thompson has already succeeded Bobby Robertson as tournament secretary.