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  • Alistair Tait

Is golf still part of Scotland's fabric?


Golf seems to be fighting for its life in its spiritual home.


The news that Ayrshire council is considering closing five municipal golf courses – Maybole, Dalmilling, Girvan, Seafield and Belleisle – to try to save £9 million is not good for those trying to grow the game in Scotland.


As Michael McEwan notes on the Bunkered website, Belleisle has a great name in Scottish golf, Girvan is part links with brilliant views of Ailsa Craig, while the 9-hole Maybole track has been around since 1905.

Belleisle, Seafield and Girvan are all James Braid designs. Sad to think creations by the five-time Open champion are going to be consigned to the dustbin of golf history.


This news comes on the back of Glasgow City Council preparing to close five of the six courses it runs – Littlehill, Lethamhill, Linn Park, Alexandra Park, and Ruchill – to try to save money.


Last year saw the closure of such courses as Dollar near Stirling, Mount Ellen in Glasgow and Letham Grange, the course not far from Carnoustie once described as “the Augusta of the North.”


I was fortunate to play Letham Grange (pictured) shortly after it opened. (BTW, it was no Augusta.) There was a buzz about the club in those days. I returned about 10 years ago and it was obvious then the facility had not blossomed the way original investors had hoped. The curling rink had long since closed and looked in a sorry state. It seemed to foreshadow what was in store for the golf courses, which sadly came to pass last year.


Courses closures aren’t mutual to Scotland. England saw a handful of closures last year too. It’s just that we don’t expect Scottish golf courses to close.


For many years, we’ve been sold this notion as golf being part of the fabric of Scottish society. The village or town golf course has long been painted as the hub of the community. Maybe once upon a time but, seemingly, not anymore.


That’s not to say golf isn’t still important in some Scottish towns. The game is still central to St Andrews and North Berwick, while Dornoch thrives from the visitors its eponymous Royal course attracts.

However, golf clubs are obviously no longer as important to local communities as they once were, especially for cash-strapped local councils.


As I reported last week, golf club membership has fallen over the last five years in Great Britain. Scotland experienced a 14.07% drop. There were 209,812 golf club members in the Home of Golf in 2014. There are 180,281 according to the latest figures.


What we don’t know is how many of those 29,531 former members have quit the game entirely, and how many are still playing but don’t want to be tied to one club.


There are multiple reasons for this exodus from club life. Existing clubs need to take note to arrest the slide or they too might be hanging CLOSED notices on their entrances.

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2 commentaires


moly
22 févr. 2020

There are of course many micro reasons for the decline; more choice of activity, slow play, clubs not appealing to youth, declining public spending, etc. But overarching is the macro econmic in Scotland's case. As part of my interest in Scottish golf, I looked at global participation levels based on GDP per head versus golf provision. The basic conclusion I made was that Scotland probably has an economy to sustain perhaps between 300 - 350 courses, without increased public investment. You can ignore the hot spots of St Andrews, North Berwick, etc, from that, which are hugley boosted by tourists. What we are witnessing, in my opinion, is the ecomomic right sizing of golf in Scotland. Moly McMillan (blog.scotlandgolfbible.com)

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george
21 févr. 2020

Ali, Is it the demographic, or the cost, or both, that is keeping people away from Scottish golf courses? My father-in-law, who turns 90 in June has been an avid and lifelong golfer. Even today he will go out in the buggy to play 9 holes, weather permitting. But his home course, Scraptoft Golf Club, is being sold and relocated about 10 miles further east of Leicester. All well and good you might say. Leicester needs the land for housing, which should mean a bigger population and more potential future golfers. My father-in-law takes a different view. Many people who take up the game for the first time are approaching retirement. But they are faced with large upf…

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