Independent golfer proposals: ‘Consideration’ will be given to start date

In an letter to affiliated clubs, England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson revealed the latest on the controversial scheme to give non-members a handicap England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson has said the governing body will give consideration to the timing of plans to create a national platform for independent golfers. Having being pressed for clarification by the GCMA at last month's webinar, Tomlinson has subsequently revealed in a letter to affiliated clubs: “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.” GCMA CEO Tom Brooke had asked at the webinar, given the shutdown of courses in England and the continuing restrictions as a result of coronavirus, whether it was the right time to be considering a scheme that would offer official handicaps to non members. In his letter, Tomlinson reiterated the R&A's core strategy of promoting "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". And he revealed a working group, made up of six women's and four men's regional representatives, along with two further men's co-opted officials and England Golf board members and key staff, had met several times in the last couple of weeks to progress ideas. Tomlinson said that in those meetings, feedback from the GCMA - "with whom myself and chief operating officer Richard Flint had a positive meeting" - had been openly discussed. One of the big concerns from critcs is that a scheme offering the benefits of an official handicap, without being tied to a club membership, could prove attractive to golfers who might not renew. Tomlinson said facilities should "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." Setting out the key principles that would "define the planning process", he added: "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." Tomlinson maintained England Golf's role was to "encourage, guide and support clubs" in how they chose to interact with independent golfers. "The idea is to provide opportunities for clubs so that they may select the best option/options that suit their own set of circumstances". He continued "another huge consideration" for the platform was it would not burden clubs with either administration or costs - "our team at England Golf will...
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