Scottish Golf chief hopes new app can boost sport’s fortunes

Andrew McKinlay will lead the second Scottish Golf national conference in Edinburgh tomorrow
Andrew McKinlay will lead the second Scottish Golf national conference in Edinburgh tomorrow
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Chief executive Andrew McKinlay is looking forward to steering Scottish Golf to an App-ier future in tandem with Eleanor Cannon.

It was recently announced that Cannon, the inaugural chair of the unified governing body, is to stand for a new three-year term at the annual general meeting next March.

Speaking as he prepared to lead the second Scottish Golf national conference in Edinburgh tomorrow, McKinlay said that he had warmly welcomed that development.

“We’ve been through such a turbulent time, it’s important we have a bit of continuity and stability,” he commented. “From that perspective, it’s good she will stay on to see us through this period. She has been a great support to me and I’m looking forward to working with her.”

Still working for the Scottish Football Association, McKinlay attended the inaugural conference 12 months ago as a club member and, along with the other delegates, was painted a picture of doom and gloom as golf clubs battle a decline in membership.

The Carrick Knowe club shutting its doors earlier this month shows that is ongoing but McKinlay says this weekend’s conference will hopefully galvanise clubs around the country.

“I’m going in with genuine positivity,” he said. “Last year was, I wouldn’t say a reality check, as we probably all knew the situation, but it was good to have it all set out, this is where we are, we have a problem here, we need to do some radical stuff to fix some of this.

“This time it will be much more about looking forward. It’s vital we move forward. The big takeaway for me from last year was the criticism that only six per cent of our income was commercial income.

“One of the targets we have set is to effectively double our turnover in the next four-year cycle. We don’t do that by picking up the odd commercial deal here and there. You have to do something quite radical.”

How to tackle the so-called golfing nomads has been one of McKinlay’s main objectives since he took up the post seven months ago and he’s aiming to do that through a new Scottish Golf App.

It will be part of a new computer system that is being offered free to member clubs, with the aim for clubs to get 100 per cent of the green fee from pay-to-play golfers.

“This new system will connect all those who play the game in Scotland,” added McKinlay. “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, so I think Saturday should be a much more positive experience than last year.

“That was a moment in time. We brought it together to say ‘this is it, we need to stop talking and turn the corner’. Membership is still declining, we know that. Traditional membership will continue to decline.

“We need to redefine what that looks like because participation is not declining. We have to get that pay-per-play golfer part right.

“We have 600 clubs. Maybe 100 are doing okay, have good visitor numbers, maybe a waiting list. I might be overegging that number. There are probably 100 at the bottom who are in a really difficult position and that leaves a massive amount in the middle who may be bobbing along but need encouragement to be more open, more welcoming, change their culture and encourage more women and juniors to play golf. We don’t have a stick to beat them with.”