Amateur Golf In Scotland Seeks Unity

For golf fans who reside in the United States, the idea of the "amateur golf circuit" is pretty cut-and-dry: players seeking amateur status must adhere to the policies and guidelines laid out by the United States Golf Association (USGA).  While the details of these policies can go much deeper, all-in-all the USGA is the one unified organization that covers all amateur golf in the country.  Pretty simple, right? When comparing it to the amatuer circuit in Scotland, it seems downright elementary.  For those of us who were not aware of how this circuit worked in the birthplace of golf (because I certainly had no idea), one must first understand that there is no single, unified organization like the USGA in Scotland.  Instead, there is a whopping 18 different unions established for amateur golfers... and that does not include the additional 20 unions specifically for female players.

That makes 38 unique, individual organizations spanning the entire country of Scotland.  Furthermore, these organizations fall under the ultimate control of either the Scottish Golf Union (men only) or the Scottish Ladies Golf Association.  Luckily, things are about to change.  Well... maybe.

According to sportswriter Martin Dempster of the Scotsman, the proposal to create a unified body to run all amateur golf in Scotland is on the agenda for an upcoming annual meeting of all current organizations over the next two weekends:

[The proposal] will get its first airing tomorrow morning, when the Scottish Ladies Golf Association, which has been in existence since 1904, gathers in Perth, before coming under scrutiny again next Sunday, when the Scottish Golf Union, which is 16 years younger than its female equivalent, meets at Tulliallan. (Dempster, 2011).

This ongoing "discussion" is now months into consideration between the two main governing bodies, which has eventually included input from the numerous Area and County associations that have a say in how these organizations are ran.  Donald Turner was named chairman of the group responsible for drafting an ultimate proposal for unification, which is subject to a vote in May.

The proposal is not without its supporters, that is for sure.  For example, current Chief Executive of the SGU Harnish Grey is strongly in favor of the unification, calling it a "no-brainer" and a necessary step towards aligning Scottish amateur golf with that of other countries.  However, he also acknowledges that this has been a trying, lengthy process that has spanned numerous months and meetings.

"We're still in the consultation stage. Because of the weather at the end of last year, we didn't get to meet with every Area and we have meetings this week to conclude those," said Grey. "We then have the [amalgamation meeting] at the end of the month where we'll talk about that feedback.  As with any change, not everyone is 100 per cent agreed with how to do it. But everyone is unanimous that amalgamation is something we should be doing. We'll take that feedback and revise the proposal, have ten seminars with Areas and clubs, then take stock and put the final proposal to the membership."

The benefits of a unified association to cover all amateur golf in Scotland are obvious, however so are the difficulties in making sure everyone is content with the final product.  One major challenge that has been brought to light during preliminary talks is how membership dues and other fees will be allocated should a unification take place.  This monetary piece of the puzzle will undoubtedly be discussed in further meetings between the two governing bodies prior to making a final amalgamation decision.