Scottish Golf Chair Eleanor Cannon has today (Saturday 10 March) expressed her “deep disappointment” after the membership voted against a proposal to increase the annual affiliation fee paid by members for the first time in five years.
At the governing body’s Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh, members voted narrowly to reject the investment proposals, leaving Scottish Golf to reduce its spending accordingly.
Eleanor Cannon said: “We are deeply disappointed that we will be making more cuts at a time when we should be growing the game not just to make clubs more sustainable, but to hand the game over to our children and their children in a much better state than we found it after 10 to 15 years of decline.
“Following the optimism that emerged from the first ever ‘Future of Golf Conference’ in early December, we were hopeful of continuing our momentum so today is a real setback for all associated with the game in this country.
“The Board will now look again at the budget and our focus will remain on the future of the game in Scotland and the legacy we leave future generations.
“The culture of decision making in Scottish golf must change and there are tough choices ahead. This has been a bruising experience for many of us, but our resolve to strengthen golf in Scotland remains unwavering.”
With growing membership, revenue and participation outlined as key objectives to make positive change as part of the governing body’s revised strategy, Cannon and her Board of Directors were left disappointed when a vote taken to increase the annual affiliation fee per playing member was rejected by Clubs, Counties and Areas at Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club.
Increasing the annual affiliation fee by £3.75 from £11.25 to £15 was outlined to help cover Scottish Golf’s shortfall in sportscotland investment of £350,000, with remaining income from the increase to be invested in front line services to help clubs become stronger and retain and grow their membership during these challenging times.
However, with a majority of over 50% required, the proposed affiliation fee increase was voted against by 270 votes to 235 (with 10 abstentions). Scottish Golf’s current voting structure is one vote per registered club. Each County and Area is allocated 10 votes each, thus carrying 44% of the overall voting share.
It means Scottish Golf continues to face significant investment challenges going forward to run the organisation, support clubs and grow participation.
Overheads have already been reduced by £700,000 since amalgamation in October 2015 – overseeing a staff headcount reduction from 48 to 32 – with more overall cuts now expected.
New chief executive Andrew McKinlay starts his position in May and Cannon added: “It is clear golf needs to adapt to the changing demands of modern lifestyles, embrace families and dramatically change cultures and behaviours to attract new audiences, particularly the female non-golfers and the younger generation.
“Under the leadership of Andrew, we will look to make this game better and stronger, but there is no doubt that today is a disappointment for the many Clubs, Counties and Areas who supported the change, as well as Scottish Golf’s Board and the staff.”
The AGM also saw the appointment of June McEwan as Scottish Golf’s new President, the first female to hold the role following amalgamation in 2015 and a fitting reward for her work as a volunteer across various levels of the game. Malcolm Mitchell was appointed as Senior Vice President and David Fleming as Junior Vice President.
With Malcolm Robertson, Roz Cuschieri, Stephen Docherty and Neil MacDonald all coming off the Board following the end of their terms, four new individuals were successfully nominated.
Brendan Dick, currently Chair of BT Scotland and Chair of The Scottish Council for Development and Industry, joins the Board, along with Sean Duffy, the newly-appointed CEO of The Wise Group. Bill Woodley, a senior executive with Deutsche Bank who sits on the Board and Audit Committee of the Tiger Woods Foundation, also takes up a Board position, joined by Lorna Brown, a procurement and supplier management professional, most recently with Sainsbury’s and The Student Loans Company.