Coronavirus has forced us to re-evaluate everything we know about playing club competitions. But north of the border the tap of a phone will make everything a bit easier

It’s an awkward moment trying to bring machine and card together without impinging on each other’s air space. Two metres is only easily achieved with outstretched arms.

As my club’s competition season got under way last weekend, I worried about being rude when noticeably flinching as a scorecard was pitched in my direction.

For the first time ever in a qualifier, I didn’t put my own mark on that most sacrosanct of golfing objects.

To tell you the truth, I was aware that my Stableford points total at halfway and the finish were correct. But my partner could have put the numbers down in any order and I’d probably have been none the wiser.

Clearly we need to make compromises in a coronavirus world and playing competitions means making sacrifices to account for the ‘new normal’.

But in Scotland, clubs using the governing body’s new Venue Management System have been able to adapt seamlessly to competing during Covid-19.

While their smartphone app certainly wasn’t designed with a pandemic in mind, it’s proving its worth at clubs such as Gourock and Kilmacolm, who are early adopters of VMS.

Golfers there can use their phones to book a tee time, pay their entry fees and sign in on site without having to go near a touchscreen or pro shop.

They can enter their scores, verify them hole-by-hole with their playing partner and then virtually sign them before a digital copy is saved in the cloud as a PDF.

Those scores can’t be set until each partner has confirmed their numbers – giving an extra layer of security should a nefarious competitor be minded to try and shave off a stroke or two.

“We’ve been very fortunate because the way the app has been designed has fitted into some of the restrictions in place during Covid-19,” said Gordon Crae, match and handicap convenor at Gourock.

“The app affords you the opportunity to have an online booking system and it allows you to configure your facilities the way you want with custom tee times, competition scoring, and signatures.

“Essentially, you can go touchless as well as cashless through the features it provides. The design point of this app was in place well before Covid hit and it just fits in nicely.

“As a result of that, from Scottish Golf’s point of view, the demand from clubs has gone through the roof.

“There were a lot of clubs that were going to take a year just to learn and evolve and then switch over and they have now accelerated their deployment – certainly with the booking module and probably with the competition features and cashless.”

Scottish Golf have more than 260 clubs that have registered an interest in VMS, with about 130 configured and 100 of those either running online booking for competitions and handicaps or going through testing and training to do so. Around 30 have been in contact to express an interest in the software since the coronavirus crisis began.

So as unlikely as it might have sounded a couple of months ago, those utilising this new digital world are able to hold a varied schedule of events, while complying with all government regulations and CONGU rules of handicapping.

“You can enter remotely, you can register without having to enter a pro shop or anywhere else, and you can do your scoring,” added Rene Kleyweg, a committee member at Kilmacolm.

“You can pay your entry fee. You can have informal sweeps. We’ve got a fantastic practice facility and we’re able to manage social gathering and control of social flow to that driving range by having booking times for the range.

“We can get summer knockout match play competitions back up and running very easily – in terms of members being able to contact each other and updating results in the app.

“Our club championship can be run without a clubhouse. There should be a lot more interaction between the club and its members (through the app). And for a lot of them, competitive golf is a very significant part of the golfing experience.”

Is your club using Scottish Golf’s app for competitions? How is it working? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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