Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sunday Golf Ban Could Cost Course Funding

The headline "Sunday golf ban could cost island course £75,000 grant" has caught the eye, relating to The Isle of Harris golf course's application for public money. Apparently, the application may be rejected because the club is closed every Sunday on religious grounds in line with other public facilities on the island and neighbouring Lewis.

It appears that the national sports agency, SportScotland, says giving taxpayers' money to the organisation could contravene equality legislation because of its refusal to open on the Sabbath. According to The Scotsman, Louise Martin - who chairs the body - said: "SportScotland is mindful of the views and traditions held by many in parts of the Western Isles regarding the opening of sports facilities on Sundays. However, SportScotland also has responsibilities under the 2006 equality legislation to ensure that anything it funds is accessible to all, wherever possible, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, religion or belief …"

The Rev Ruairidh Maclean, minister of the Free Church of Scotland at Leverburgh, Harris, said: "I would not be terribly happy with this and I would imagine a significant proportion of the community would not be happy. I would be very surprised if there were not some people who were keen for it to open, but I would say there is probably still a pretty large proportion of the population who would be very happy to see it continue as it is."

Now this may or may not be a real issue, but we have not heard any major threats being applied to a rather more famous golf course that closes on Sundays for other traditional reasons. Surely all the golf club need to do is suggest that it needs to close on Sundays in order to rest the course?

The money sought from SportScotland represents half the £155,000 cost of improvements to drainage, storage and the clubhouse. Highland and Islands Enterprise and Western Isles Council, the other funders, are not insisting on seven-day opening. All the council-owned sports facilities on Lewis and Harris remain closed on a Sunday, but those in the predominantly Catholic Southern Isles remain open.

Nick Faldo, the former Open champion, played the Harris course in the early 1990s before heading for the US Masters, and described it as "one of the most beautiful settings" for golf. He left a signed £5 note in the honesty box as his green fee, which has been framed and is competed for annually by members.

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