The governing body's new CEO has acted swiftly in offering financial support to clubs affected by the coronavirus pandemic

Scottish golf clubs cash strapped by coronavirus are being offered affiliation fee refunds as the governing body announced funding commitments totalling more than £575,000.

In her first communication since taking over from Andrew McKinlay, new Scottish Golf chief, Karin Sharp, wrote of new plans to assist clubs over the remaining six months of this financial year and into the next.

“We are making an immediate commitment to our clubs that offers in excess of £575,000 of support by way of refund or rebate on affiliation fees,” she explained in a newsletter.

“This equates to a 50 per cent reduction of the remaining six months of the financial year. We are also committing to interest free payment plans for any clubs that need it for the 2019/20 financial year and the 2020/21 financial year.”

That, Sharp said, would allow:

  • All clubs to apply for a 25% refund on their total 2019/2020 affiliation fee invoice. Clubs that had already paid could apply for a refund or carry over credit to the 2020/21 invoice year
  • All clubs to apply for an interest free payment plan for those two financial years
  • Clubs that decided not to take the refund/discount to see Scottish Golf commit that value to “a club support fund which will be used for clubs under considerable financial strain”.

Clubs will find out more about the application process over the next two weeks. Scottish Golf’s financial year runs from October 1 to September 30. Affiliation fees were due by the end of March but Sharp noted that almost 40 per cent remain unpaid.

She also moved to explain some of the decisions that had been taken in recent weeks. On the cancellation of the entire competition programme for 2020, she said it was “not made lightly”.

“We had to take into consideration the full requirements to run a National Championship and the impact it would have, like:

  • When would courses be open for Championship play?
  • Would it be fair to close a member’s course for up to a week and deny that membership their facility when they have been starved of golf for many weeks/months at a key time of the year?
  • Would it be safe for our staff and volunteers to run events?
  • Where would the participants stay (would hotels, guest houses be open)? Once at the event, would clubhouses and restaurants be open for them to eat at?
  • When will normal playing conditions be achieved? We could be playing with upturned cups, no rakes for bunkers etc for some time post restrictions being lifted and we question whether National Championships should be contested under potentially restricted playing conditions?

“We have been in touch with all of the 2020 Host Venue Clubs and given them first refusal to host the same event in the 2021 season.

“We continue to work through the logistics of this with the current and subsequent year venues but with staff furloughed both in clubs and at Scottish Golf, this process is going to take some time and we will provide further updates on the 2021 calendar in the coming months.”

Sharp also addressed the likelihood of clubs and courses eventually being able to reopen and said there had been “positive discussion in the last few days with government”.

“We are also collaborating with key industry partners to ensure that across GB&I we are developing a consistent approach that can be adopted when the time is right,” she added.

“It is highly likely that any return will be in phases, with single golfers or household groups in the first instance to ensure that the golf industry continues to adhere to government guidelines – within our clubs, we will have a mix of front line & key workers, along with vulnerable groups who have been shielding or self-isolating for lengthy periods and we must continue to ensure we can keep everyone safe.

“To be clear, we are very much in the planning phase to ensure that when the time is right, we are well placed and have the support of key partners to be able to move quickly to update clubs with detailed information as to what a phased return to golf will look like.

“In the meantime, whilst we remain in lockdown with the restrictions in place we must continue to stay home and save lives.”

NB: Scottish Golf and England Golf affiliation fees are gathered differently. In Scotland, the club pays the affiliation fee to the governing body. In England, it is the individual.

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