Scottish Golf has announced that it is to launch the country’s first ever centralised handicap system. The project is one of the most significant developments in club golf and will greatly enhance Scotland’s national game.
Using the latest technology, golf clubs will now be able to manage and process the handicaps of the country’s 250,000 members faster and more effectively.
Individual golfers will also reap the benefits. As part of the scheme, members will be issued with their own personalised Scottish Golf ‘smartcard’ enabling them to update their handicap at the touch of a button.
Scottish Golf – a partnership between the Scottish Golf Union, the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association and Scotland on Line – will provide every golf club in the country with free computer hardware and other equipment to pave the way for the introduction of the new system. There will be no cost to golf clubs or their members in this scheme.
Bill Anderson, Chairman of Scottish Golf, said at the launch at the New Golf Club in St Andrews: “With the strong partnerships we have developed with the golfing bodies, we are confident that Scottish Golf will enhance the game in Scotland. The new centralised handicap system will bring benefits to everyone involved in golf, whether players, administrators or clubs and will ultimately contribute to the long term success of the game in Scotland.”
The concept of a centralised system was first conceived three years ago by the Scottish Golf Union and trials using the new technology were carried out earlier this year at six golf clubs in the west of Scotland.
Hamish Grey, Chief Executive and Secretary of the Scottish Golf Union, explained: “We are very excited by the announcement and believe the implementation of the scheme will markedly improve the integrity and operation of the handicap system for individual golfers as well as club and national administrators.”
A loyalty scheme will be attached to the Scottish Golf ‘smartcards’ with members collecting “Golf Yards” which can be exchanged for discounts on golf products, travel and hotels, in addition to providing a compelling benefits package.
Hamish Grey continued: “We see these developments as combining the best of the game’s commercial and lifestyle interests, which will add value both for Scotland’s club golfers and for our partners. Also significant is that in doing so, we can reinvest into the future development of the game.”
Significant investment in the initiative has already taken place to the tune of £2 million and a further £1 million will also be spent providing equipment and training to golf clubs free of charge in the first year.
The new technology will also be used to create the country’s first fully integrated on-line tee booking system, as well as further developing the Scottish Golf web site, www.scottishgolf.com, providing up to the minute golf news and competition results, hotel and travel information and on-line shopping.
The new system has been developed in conjunction with the governing bodies in Scotland with a very keen eye on the Scottish Golf Tourism Strategy soon to be launched by the Scottish Tourism Minister, Henry McLeish.
“This is the culmination of something we have been working on with the governing bodies for some considerable time and I am delighted it is now coming to fruition,” added Bill Anderson. “The partnership between Scotland on Line, the SGU and the SLGA will mean that no one can have any doubts about the long term ambitions of Scottish Golf and the qualities of the services we will be providing for golfers in Scotland and beyond.
“We believe the whole concept will make it much easier for people wishing to come to Scotland for a golfing holiday to find out just what is available. To whet their appetite, we’re now transmitting pictures of the Old Course around the clock and we’re very grateful to the members and Committee of Management of the New Golf Club here in St Andrews for giving us the facility to do that. As well as the pictures, the Scottish Golf site will carry a detailed entry about every golf club in the country, together with information about hotel and travel facilities throughout Scotland. The ability for a global audience to access such a fully comprehensive site should bring benefit to Scotland’s golfers, golf clubs and service providers such as hoteliers.”
Gillian Kirkwood, Chairman of the SLGA, said: “The SLGA is delighted to be involved. We already use our website www.scottishgolf.com/slga extensively for entry forms, news and results and are looking forward to the centralised handicap system removing the headache of away scores from our hard-working handicapping secretaries. The long-term benefits that this scheme will return to the game far outweigh the efforts needed to get it started.”
To deliver the initiative a range of partners around will be announced over the next twelve months. The first of these partnerships sees BTCellnet, the UK’s leading mobile phone web service provider allowing Scottish Golf to offer golfers the ability to access the web on the move. The phones will have the capability to read the Scottish Golf ‘smartcards’ allowing golfers to check their handicaps and book tee-times as well as access e-mails, the Internet and all the other elements of the scheme.
Peter Richardson, BTCellnet’s Marketing and Sales Director, said: “We are delighted to be associated with Scottish Golf in this ground-breaking initiative. Scotland is the home of golf and BTCellnet are market leaders in mobile internet services. By working together we are able to deliver real value to both Scottish golfers and tourists wishing to visit the many wonderful courses in Scotland.”
Scottish Golf’s General Manager, Nigel Ironside, welcomed the new project and added: “This is a tremendous opportunity to provide every golfer in Scotland with a means to enhance his or her playing enjoyment and benefit not only themselves but the future of the game in Scotland. We are harnessing 21st century technology to embrace the traditions of one of the oldest and finest games in the world.”