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Proposal to merge 'old-fashioned' governing bodies back in focus

SCOTTISH golf's journey towards the amalgamation of male and female governing bodies has not been smooth but, having gone "back to square one", a new proposal on the way forward for the Scottish Golf Union and Scottish Ladies Golfing Association is now doing the rounds among clubs, areas and counties.

It is almost three years since the initial merger plan was rejected by the SGU areas but a joint working group, formed in the wake of that decision and independently chaired by Sheriff Alastair Thornton, has circulated a consultation document that can be mulled over and commented on until July 31.

Scotland, Ireland and South Africa remain the only nations with separate amateur governing bodies. While the silver lining on the cloud of that original rejection was the open and frank discussions that have taken place since then, Tom Craig, the chairman of the SGU, is eager to keep the prolonged process moving in the right direction.

Failure to have achieved a happy union - Wales and England moved seamlessly to it in recent years and every other sporting body in Scotland works as one - has not helped the negative perceptions that golf in this country remains a dusty old relic from days of yore.

From promoting the game to attracting funding and maintaining important government support, the need for an amalgamation is, as Craig says, "patently obvious". At a time when golf clubs across the country are facing significant challenges brought on by declining membership, a strong united front must be shown.

"We're out of step with the rest of the world," said Craig. "I firmly believe that not being a single body is damaging for Scottish golf. It makes us look old fashioned and out of touch. We need to move forward. It's damaging in terms of our potential and we could do so much more together. Club membership is ultimately how we measure success.

"We are, on average, losing 3% of members each year. You only have to project those figures 10 or 20 years down the line - that's not a long time in golf - and that's an awful lot of people who won't be members in that period. I think that is a dreadful ­prospect. I believe that a key factor in addressing that is having a single voice across all of golf.

"It is a sport for everybody but how can we give that leadership without the governing bodies being joined up?

"We need to do this. We're not arrogant enough to think we'll get it perfect at the first pass, so we'll allow this time to the end of July to get the thoughts of those involved.

"Debate is healthy and my hope is that by the back end of the year we'll be in a position to have an agm and get it approved."

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