As many managers will know, England Golf is currently considering a scheme, to be implemented in 2021, that will allow independent golfers to obtain a CONGU handicap without being a member of a club. The scheme is based on a New Zealand initiative that was introduced there on 1st October 2018 and is an ‘online virtual club designed to provide casual golfers the flexibility to pay for play at a variety of courses and a credible way to obtain an official New Zealand Golf handicap’. See: - https://www.lovegolf.co.nz/flexiclub The New Zealand scheme is designed specifically for golfers who do not want to join a golf club, and some have used it as a stepping-stone towards club membership. In the six ‘summer’ months to 31st March, 890 members joined with 30 going on to club membership. The average age of these Flexiclub members is 45 and 21% of them had been members of a golf club in the past. To ensure club membership is ‘protected’ there is a stand-down period to ensure that no golfer that has been a member in the last 12 months can join Flexiclub and further, there is a limit of 2,000 golfers that can join which is less than 1% of registered golfers. This would equate to around 6,500 members should England Golf impose this stipulation. In New Zealand, a golfer can join Flexiclub for around £8 per month and a shared revenue model is designed to ensure subscription revenues will be reinvested to support and grow the game. This is presented as an opportunity to reduce the union levy, as casual golfers will contribute towards the administration of the game. The model sees 30% of the subscription revenue shared with participating golf clubs through a levy rebate and 20% a contribution towards regional funds to grow participation, The remaining 50% is presumably funding the website and NZ Golf’s administration. Golf clubs can also use the website platform to connect, communicate and promote their offerings, whether it be membership, green fees, coaching, events or stay and play packages to the nomadic golfers. Flexiclub is currently for New Zealand residents and is not being promoted as an option for short term international visitors. A paper proposing the scheme will be presented to the England Golf Voting Members at the September 2019 General Meeting. If the general consensus at the September General Meeting is to move forward with a formal proposal, this will be presented to the Board at the end of November and endorsed by the Voting Members at the General Meeting in December 2019. The question for clubs in England (the other home unions are also monitoring the proposal) will be: is this a way to engage with the independent golfer and encourage them into club membership or is it a low-cost way of allowing independent golfers to avoid membership and gain all the advantages of a CONGU handicap.
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