Global Edition

Scottish Golf to launch online handicap scheme for non-club members

1.44pm 3rd June 2021 - Innovation Centre

Scottish Golf has unveiled a new online scheme, OpenPlay, which, for the first time ever, will allow golfers throughout Scotland to maintain a handicap without being a member of a golf club.

The launch of OpenPlay, one of the biggest changes to the sport in a generation, will open up handicaps to an estimated 500,000 golfers in Scotland who do not currently hold a golf club membership. OpenPlay’s introduction follows on from the successful integration of the World Handicap System which came into effect in Scotland in November 2020.

On registering for a handicap through OpenPlay these ‘independent golfers’ will be able to play against other players on a level playing field, both for fun and in competitive play. OpenPlay has been designed to make golf more inclusive and accessible for new and returning players.

OpenPlay, which is accessed via the Scottish Golf App, will cost golfers £5.99 per month through a flexible subscription with no long-term commitment. They will be required to register scores from 54 holes of golf, which can be made up from any combination of 18 and nine-hole rounds, before receiving their OpenPlay handicap.

Scottish Golf becomes the first of the governing bodies in Great Britain & Ireland to introduce such a scheme, with England and Wales set to follow suit. 

Karin Sharp, Chief Operating Officer at Scottish Golf, said: “This is an incredibly exciting development for Scottish Golf and today’s launch represents three years of work developing an integrated software platform for clubs to engage with these golfers. Using our venue management system (VMS), clubs will be able to control exactly how they communicate with OpenPlay members, from the marketing of their club and Open events, to booking tees and controlling green fees.

OpenPlay members will maintain their handicap through the Scottish Golf App

“The way people consume golf has changed a great deal in recent years, as golfers look for a more flexible approach to the sport that suits their lifestyle and fits around their other commitments. For many modern golfers, the traditional club membership offering doesn’t suit their lifestyle or simply doesn’t represent value for money. OpenPlay provides a modern, flexible approach for golfers that will make the sport more accessible and inclusive.

“Whilst we’ve seen a really encouraging increase in golfer numbers across the last year, the longer term trend before the pandemic saw a consistent reduction of around 5,000 members a year over the previous 10 years. In order to reverse this trend it is vital that we explore alternative approaches to make sure the game remains relevant and accessible to the modern golfer and more people try the sport for the first time.

“It is estimated that there are half a million golfers in Scotland who are not members of a club. OpenPlay will provide clubs with the opportunity to market directly to those that sign up for the App, providing a channel of communication that does not currently exist.”

OpenPlay also offers great potential for golf clubs to grow as it allows them to take advantage of the innovative platform to generate additional revenue opportunities. These include cultivating a pathway to membership for golfers with whom they previously had no way of communicating.

In New Zealand, where a similar initiative was launched in 2018, 20% of those who joined the independent golfer scheme went on to become members of a club. Significantly, the average age of those new members was approximately 20 years younger than the average golf club member.

Karin added: “OpenPlay is a great opportunity for golf clubs across Scotland as it enables them to market themselves to a whole new group of golfers that they previously had no way of connecting with. We’ll be working closely with golf clubs in the coming weeks and months to help them maximise the potential of OpenPlay and ensure there is full understanding of how they can communicate with OpenPlay members to help grow this new pathway to membership.”

Scottish Golf will also be running a six-week social media campaign with VisitScotland, who will be promoting the Scottish Golf App across Facebook, Instagram and publishers including Reuters & Sports Illustrated.

Alan Grant, Senior Golf Manager, EventScotland said: “Golf tourism is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy and with golf tourists, on average, spending a further £5 elsewhere in the visitor economy for every £1 spent on a green fee it can have a big impact on our economic recovery from the pandemic. While Scotland is renowned around the world as the Home of Golf, the pandemic has also encouraged those closer to home to rediscover the world-class golf tourism offering available on their own doorstep.

“As well as providing income for golf-related businesses and sustaining jobs, there are many social benefits as well. Golf is a fun way to improve health and well-being by spending time with others in open green spaces. By utilising new digital channels we can remove more perceived barriers to playing golf, allowing more people to enjoy the game and support our golf tourism businesses, not only increasing visitor rounds but providing additional pathways to membership.”

OpenPlay is available now by downloading the Scottish Golf App to sign up for an official handicap, as well as getting a free GPS and the ability to book tee times at courses throughout Scotland.

To watch a video of Martin Gilbert (Scottish Golf), Martin Slumbers (R&A) and Open Champions Paul Lawrie and Catriona Matthew discussing the OpenPlay scheme, click here.

 /  /  /  / 

In related news... (GBN) is for the many thousands of people who work in the golf business all around the world.

We cover the full range of topics both on and off the course. We aim to supply essential information both quickly and accurately in a format which is easy to use. We are independent of all special interest groups.


Click here to sign up for our free twice weekly golf industry news summary

View the latest newsletter here