What is the current state of the game in Scotland?

That’s a good question. Alas I no longer live in Scotland but out in the wilds of East Anglia, so it’s difficult to say. Having said that, I have kept in touch with many clubs over the last few years and between general complaints regards The R&A, it’s clear that they are having a tough time of things, albeit not as bad as many feared.  Scotland more so than England, has a sensible approach to club fees. By that I mean they are more than reasonable when you consider the quality of the courses. To prove my point let’s compare a few clubs from Scotland with some of the English courses in East Anglia (excluding Joining Fees).

Crail                               £336.00                   Colchester         £875.00
Cullen                            £340.00                   Royal Cromer  £570.00
Askernish                     £150.00                    Halesworth      £565.00
Strathpeffer Spa        £345.00                    Sheringham     £395.00

I believe that Clubs in Scotland have a far more even approach to its members, thus allowing all comers to join. In other words, one’s financial state does not come into question. In England it seems that the money tends to travel to clubs that offer that little bit of status. Yet I am hard pressed to understand because many a Scottish club (pro-rata) has by far a superior course to many in England – that is in my humble opinion – with of course the odd exception. To illustrate my point, the Colchester Golf Club is, in truth, an honest, English club originally a 9 Hole Braid design in 1907. Membership fees are an expensive £875 with a Joining Fee of £1125. Now is that what you call encouraging the local community to join and participate in the game? No! I fear not. So one has to wonder, are the English clubs faring better than the Scottish, but, again, I believe not. The Scottish psyche is far more akin to Golf than, perhaps, anywhere else in the world. Courses may close, and boy have we seen many closing circa WW1, never to reopen.

However, others have been more resilient. Certainly where communities flourish, the game is healthy in the Scottish manner. You see many of us believe that a golf course is not just for a Christmas gift, it’s here for the life of the community, something I wish Course Owners/Club Committees and Architects would understand when looking to build a course, not just in Scotland but around the world. The game is not all about money, something the modern world finds hard to understand, well, those in the modern world that look for short term solutions – that can never equate to golf or golf courses.

So the game north of the border is there to stay. Although we have just around the 600 courses, many have suffered the test of time but are still being supported by the local community and holiday makers alike. So my response would be, healthy but still on our diet, keeping everything in trim, looking forward to a more prosperous New Year.

Do you think the game has lost its mojo in recent years?

A big Yes, and much of its direction too. It’s not the game that my father knew. I believe, like myself, he would put the complete blame at the door of The R&A.  As Governing Body for the Royal and Ancient Game of Golf they have a duty of care, nay a duty to protect the Game. In that, I believe, they have failed to the point that I would accuse them of bringing the Great Game of Golf into disrepute by allowing any course to ban walking. How can any Governing Body allow the main part of a Game it is supposed to protect to be banned? How can it tolerate the use of carts and then distance aids when they are clearly aids that minimise the golfer’s physical and mental commitment to himself and the game?

Are they not by their own description outside aids that may assist the player in reducing his score and thus his/her handicap? Surely that is gross cheating with the total compliance of the Governing Body. Due to the weakness and what must be put down to the R&A’s seemingly lack of knowledge, not to mention understanding of the game they are meant to preserve. Carts are acceptable and in fact a good idea for those with mobility issues. But for able bodied golfers to even consider using one shows a lack of commitment to the game, course and him/herself. The quality and understanding acquired by walking can never be transferred to a cart. The energy/fatigue equation will always be, in my opinion, the Achilles heel to that argument.
Yet, worst still, the golfer is willing to waste his time, money and, again, his commitment to the game by using outside distance aids. This I suppose is the most shocking for me, as I cannot understand using a cart; clearly it must equate that the lack of perseverance with a big mix of laziness results in the need for a cart, otherwise why ruin a great experience? But to fool oneself that the information from a distance aid actually translates into a code that the body understand is just beyond me. As I mentioned previously, the information gained from outside sources is dead in the water when the mind and body take over the final second or two prior to committing to the shot. Once the eyes look to the target, then ball, your brain goes into automatic mode recalculating the whole scenario it sees forming before itself. Distance is obtained then re checked by the look to the target. The brain then sends the signal to the body and the swing starts, all calculated not from some outside aid, but afresh from your own mind. Distance aids and the so called knowledge of distance, is just a giant ‘Red Herring’.

The Eyes have it. The brain makes the final decision but not because of someone or thing saying 180 yards. It’s instinctive. It’s that which makes us golfers get up early, time after time to do it all over again.  I have heard the expression, ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time but….’, well how can intelligent individuals allow themselves to be fooled, nay conned into believing yardage is important as the “EYES” will always have it.

I suppose it’s that belief that there might be something in it, a potential edge (or in other words a loser looking for options to combat a poor round). Whatever, it’s just a real weakness within one’s self-belief and one’s game. Golf is a Walking and Thinking game, so why at a stroke have our governing body allowed non-walking courses, carts, and to top it, distance aids. Christ guys, you are missing some of the greatest parts of the game. Surely you must remember that part which utilises energy and fires those electrolytes (Man’s inner power plant) into action.

My other major worry relates to our heritage, and to a point where I believe this site represents golf course architecture. Golf is a two part game, well it is per Hole. It combines the Drive from the Tee to the Fairway or Green and the Green to the Pin – The Long and Short Game and/or the aerial and ground games (although others have used the term ground game for low trajectories utilising, running along the fairways). In the end it’s down to the individual to define it in his own way. For the sake of clarity, I will call it the aerial game which I believe is now verging on being out of synchronisation with not just the course but the game itself. The ultimate reason IMHO is down to the lack of control over technology.

Instead of using technology to maintain the consistency of the game we have over the last 50 years used it to enhance our scores. Well, its legal so it must be OK – yet the golfer in you knows that it is one step away from cheating. It’s not the result of your skill that has improved your score, it’s predominately the equipment you use and have done so for the last few decades. Surely a total contraindication of your own ideals of being a good Golfer?

Come on Guys, there is a fine line between right and wrong and this is so badly wrong that it stinks. What harm is it doing? Firstly, it’s undermining the very fabric of the game which I had always believed important, that of honour and self-trust. Through that it questions the golfers own abilities. Did he achieve that great shot through his own efforts or was it assisted through the technology of his club/ball?

The counter to that is, the modern golfer is fitter, but fitter than whom – the last couple of generations? Well possibly, but then we must use history and ask are they really fitter than the golfers from the 1860-1900? In my mind there is some serious doubt. The only way to prove it would be to utilise a Hickory/Gutty test over an old course to examine the strokes to Hole the ball over 18 Holes. Yet the modern course is by far superior thanks to improvements in Green Keeping techniques; but that aside, it would give us a general idea as to the form of current against past generations.

The Aerial Game is doing great deal of damage to our old great courses. Clearly, something is wrong when modern golfers can drive a Green, when in the past, certainly at the time the course was designed, that was not the intention.

I see no glory or achievement in having a brilliant score if it was mainly due to the constant improvement in equipment technology, yet the courses remain more or less unchanged, ignoring the odd extension in the position of the Tees every few years or so. It’s plainly wrong. It is very, very wrong. Courses cost serious money against, say, the price of a set of clubs. It is simple mathematics yet, worst still it’s our heritage that the R&A are playing around with by their inaction.

The Game has lost its MOJO certainly, but over many, many years. The game is suffering greatly. Our courses are in danger of becoming useless with the exception of the Greens; yet, while the game of golf suffers the R&A go from strength to strength and make more and more money out of our poor suffering game.

The mojo is in need of serious open heart surgery. The removing of The R&A, or at the very least, appointing a proper constituted Governing Body that listens, yes listens, to all including the local clubs.