Having forged a glory-laden, money-spinning playing career, while enjoying a variety of lucrative sidelines as one of Scottish golf’s great ambassadors, most folk assume that Paul Lawrie has the kind of golden touch that would make Midas look like a pauper.
In this business, though, not everything is an overflowing cash cow. At yesterday’s Scottish Golf national conference in Edinburgh, the 1999 Open champion unveiled the challenges his own golf centre in Aberdeen faces. He also gave a ringing endorsement of the governing body’s plan to roll out a new and free digital platform and App to help clubs fully exploit income from pay-as-you-go golfers in an age when only 21 per cent of those playing the game in its birthplace are actual members of clubs.
“The golf industry has not gone through the best of times and hasn’t done for a long, long time and our facility currently runs at a slight loss every year,” he said. “If people who are not members of a club are able to have a handicap, and that then meant a club like ours was able to lay on a competition that would see 40 or 50 new golfers paying a green fee every week, then that could be the difference. That would be a lot of money for a golf club like our one that loses money.
“I had a wee look at the App and it is just phenomenal. For a golf centre like us it will be great to have this free App. Who’s not wanting to want that as a golf club? We will certainly be using it and we will be embracing it to try and turn a corner for us. I think it will.”
The company behind the technology, OCS, have an impressive, global pedigree and its representatives confidently declared that “we guarantee revenue.”
The nomadic golfing market is huge and the main aim of the App is to get that group to book their rounds directly with the clubs rather than an outside Website. Those clubs will retain every penny of the green fee.
“I’d hope that people like that might play a course a few times and say ‘you know what, I might want to be a member here?’,” said Scottish Golf chief executive, Andrew McKinlay. “It will give clubs an opportunity to get them in as members. But even if they don’t, it’s still a great revenue generator.”
Yesterday’s gathering, which was attended by around 450 folk of various golfing walks of life, was a largely upbeat and wide-ranging forum which promoted innovation and fresh thinking while attempting to address long-standing issues which continue to make for grim reading. The well-documented statistic, for instance, that only 13 per cent of Scotland’s membership is female remains something of a plook on the game’s complexion. “It’s not good enough,” said McKinlay bluntly.
In addition, around 83 per cent of clubs still have their main men’s competition reserved for a Saturday which alienates the working woman. “Women don’t have equal opportunities,” added Ross Duncan, Scottish Golf’s development director. “Change requires a significant shift in attitude.”
Source : HeraldScotland