England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson has confirmed that plans are in place for independent golfers and nomad players (golfers that play at various clubs without being a member of any of them) to receive official handicaps.
In a letter sent to all affiliated golf clubs yesterday, Tomlinson provided an update on the connectivity platform being developed by England Golf for independent golfers.
One of the biggest updates to be made by England Golf is for "there to be scope in the future to stage competitions purely for independent golfers."
Read Tomlinson's full correspondence below:
"Just prior to Christmas I wrote to you about the subject of independent golfers," writes Tomlinson.
"After a busy – and once again challenging – start to the new year, I would now like to provide you with an update.
"In that original letter, you may recall I outlined the reasons why England Golf would be looking to strengthen our connection with this avid group of golfers in 2021.
"By way of a brief recap, it was agreed at our general meeting on 10 December that in early 2021 we would begin work on a plan to offer a handicap index and personal liability insurance to golfers who were not a member of a golf club.
"This followed on from conversations I had with Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A.
"In our discussions, Martin revealed that a core strategy of The R&A in 2021 would be to promote greater enjoyment for all that play the sport by enabling as many golfers as possible (members and independent golfers) to establish and maintain a handicap.
"This is, in fact, part of a global strategy which is developing rapidly in the world of golf. It involves not only The R&A, but also the USGA and many other national associations, including those in other parts of the UK, whose aim is to connect with and further inspire an already avid group of golfers.
"National associations are being offered the chance to take a lead. However, if they relinquish this opportunity, The R&A will either provide their own WHS index scheme directly, or partner with a commercial enterprise to offer such a platform.
"In order to retain our position as the single authority on handicapping in this country, our county stakeholders overwhelmingly agreed that England Golf should develop this platform.
"Acting for and on behalf of members, clubs and counties, they felt that England Golf is not only best placed to administer a new platform, but also, as a not-for-profit organisation, best placed to ensure all/any surplus monies would be reinvested for the benefit of affiliated clubs and counties.
"In the spirit of collaboration, I’d now like to bring you up to speed with where we are in the planning.
"A working group made up of six women’s and four men’s regional representatives, two further men’s co-opted officials, England Golf board members and key staff has now had a chance to meet several times in the last two weeks and progress ideas.
"During these meetings, feedback from clubs, counties and the GCMA – with whom myself and Chief Operating Officer Richard Flint had a positive meeting last week – has been openly discussed.
"Although the details of the platform are being worked on, I think it’s important for me to point out the key principles that define the planning process.
"The central aim of this working group remains clear – to create a national platform for independent golfers thus creating a connectivity pathway to golf clubs and membership.
"A simple goal… to signpost a clear route to golf club membership.
"For those independent golfers who wish to remain non-members, we will still educate and inspire them about the value proposition being offered by local clubs where they may develop their love of the game and choose to spend their money on green fees, merchandise and food and beverage.
"England Golf’s role will be to encourage, guide and support clubs in how they choose to interact with independent golfers and to what extent. The idea is to provide opportunities for clubs so that they may select the best option/options that suit their own set of circumstances.
"Another huge consideration for the platform is that it won’t lay a burden of administration or costs on clubs. Our team at England Golf will carry responsibility for the scheme roll out, administration, operational cost and its ongoing development.
"Please also rest assured that checks and balances will be factored in to allay the concerns of those clubs who feel that members may choose to leave to take advantage of a new proposal.
"A further counterbalance will be to ensure those signing up for the scheme do not have immediate access to county and national events, although there would be scope in the future to stage competitions purely for independent golfers.
"There will also be consideration given to the timing of a start date for the platform bearing in mind the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the immediate challenges faced by golf clubs issuing subscription renewals.
"Over the coming weeks, I will regularly add “meat to the bones” as we publish updates and agreed plans, all the way up to launch and “go live” stages with the platform.
"All feedback continues to be appreciated as we progress through this project.
"I firmly believe, by working together, we will develop a successful platform of which we will not only be proud, but truly come to regard as a great and positive step in the quest to make golf in this country more inclusive."