The brand new iGolf platform launched earlier this month

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England Golf recently announced a first-of-its-kind non-member handicap platform, named iGolf, that allows golfers in England not attached to clubs the chance to gain an official handicap index for the first time.

The platform has taken months of planning and development and was finally launched this month with a price of £40 per annum.

England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson describes the scheme as “historic” and hopes that 125,000 nomadic golfers will sign up over the next five years.

We recently caught up with Jeremy to discuss the new iGolf project:

How does it feel to finally launch iGolf?

Amazingly pleased to be honest and to come from where we were in November/December when working with all the counties across England, you know we made the decision that we wanted to move forward with the platform to reach out to independent golfers, the last six months have just been incredible really.

We’ve worked in collaboration with those counties and their representatives and of course I’ve had an incredible head of department project management in Claire Hodgson, who has put it all together.

I could conservatively say in excess of 1,250 hours of work have gone into producing a platform that we’ve named and launched as iGolf, as our digital community and just amazingly proud with regards of where we are because it is historic.

It’s a real move forward for our game and certainly a real move forward for England Golf with regards to trying to take more care of our sport and certainly looking to the future and trying to inspire as many people as possible to stay connected with it.

And for those who don’t know, what exactly does iGolf offer?

What iGolf does is give any golfer the opportunity to obtain a WHS handicap index.

Handicaps are renowned for those who like to play the game, it is your measurement of your ability.

So iGolf is basically app that allows you to subscribe and then attain a measurement of your ability, which is your WHS index.

As well as personal liability insurance to make sure that anybody else is protected should there be an accident on the golf course, certainly financially anyway. 

How is iGolf different to other apps on the market that offer handicaps?

This is the first time that you’ll be able to get an official handicap that’s worked out it the proper way, if you like the ‘official’ way.

There are other offerings that are out there and I’m certainly not going to talk down about those commercial offerings but they’re just not an official handicap, they’re not worked out.

There is only one calculation hub in England and that is our calculation hub and what iGolf enables independent golfers to do now is something that was only ever open to members.

So that gives them the opportunity to have an official handicap that works hand in hand with obviously the course ratings and gives you that index to then give you a playing handicap for when you go to play any golf course that you wish.

Related: Is iGolf good for the game?

Who is the target market?

We’re targeting this at a fairly large demographic, certainly not just at beginners or people returning to the game or part-time golfers.

We’re targeting avid golfers here who, through their own set of circumstances either can’t become a member of golf club, don’t want to become a member of a golf club or can’t afford to become a member of a golf club, we’re targeting anybody of any age, certainly any gender or any ethnicity.

We’re really happy this is open to anybody who just loves playing golf.

And we believe that this is going to provide them with a great opportunity to garner an ability to measure how good they are and ultimately with that comes the desire to obviously want to get better once you’ve worked out how to utilise the app.

How many independent golfers are there in England and how many do you hope to sign up?

Obviously trying to get those exact numbers is always difficult but through our surveys and research, we believe there to be somewhere between 2-2.3 million independent golfers out there.

What we’re trying to do is, we’re acting with prudency because this is the first time that we’ve done this in our history so we’re conservatively looking to grow our subscription base by in excess of 25,000 independent golfers per annum for the next five years.

So for a success for us we’d like there to be in excess of 125,000 golfers who would be utilising our independent golfer iGolf platform in five years time.

Will iGolf increase golf club membership?

That is the desire.

When you work out why people become, and again through our own research, people don’t become members of golf clubs just to get a handicap.

There are many more reasons, whether it be from a competitive nature, from a social basis from wanting a feeling of belonging and a pride of being part of a club.

There are many reasons why people would choose to be a member of a golf club, but obviously what we’re trying to do here is to create the succession line for new members.

We want to encourage independent golfers to not only get out there and play more but the more they play the more competitive they get and we know the more competitive people get the more likelihood there is of becoming a member.

So to start with, once they’ve got their handicap there will be many clubs I know that are going to want to welcome those independent golfers to come and play in their open events and there will even be some clubs that will invite independent golfers to come and play in their monthly medals and their club competitions.

Related: Podcast – England CEO on iGolf and how the game handled the pandemic