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Scottish Golfers to Acquire Handicaps Without Club Membership

Scottish Golfers to Acquire Handicaps Without Club Membership 

Scottish Golf has introduced a scheme called ‘OpenPlay’ that will permit golfers who are not members of a golf club to acquire a handicap. OpenPlay will allow 500,000 ‘independent golfers’ to secure and maintain a handicap for the first time.  

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. 

“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.’’ 

OpenPlay will cost £5.99 per month through a subscription with no long-term commitment. Golfers will be required to register scores from 54 holes of golf, which can be made up of any combination of 18 and nine hole rounds, after that they can receive their handicap. 

Scottish Golf is the first governing body in the UK and Ireland to launch this kind of scheme. England Golf announced they will be introducing a similar scheme next month. 

The launch of non-member handicaps in England is a controversial topic as some members of the golf industry are concerned that it will deter golfers from having a golf club membership. Scottish Golf states that in New Zealand, where a similar scheme was brought into effect in 2018, 20 percent of those who signed up went on to create golf club memberships.  

Karen continues: “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.” 

The new scheme follows the integration of the World Handicap System, which began operating in Scotland in November 2020. 

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 a full understanding of how they can communicate with OpenPlay members to help grow this new pathway to membership.” 

OpenPlay is available now by downloading the Scottish Golf App.