Golf: The Perfect Adaptive Sport for the Disabled

golf bag with umbrella

Introduction

In the world of adapted/adaptive sports, golf is one of the best options available. According to Achievement Centers for Children, “adapted sports are competitive sports for individuals with disabilities. While the adapted sports often parallel existing sports played by able-bodied athletes, there may be some modifications in the equipment and rules to meet the needs of the participants.” Interestingly, the equipment, degree of player involvement, and exertion level required by athletes makes golf the perfect adaptive sport for the disabled.

Achievement Centers for Children has been serving children with disabilities since 1940. Learn more here and @achievementctrs on Twitter.

Organizations for the Disabled

The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) at St. Andrews Golf Club, Scotland are the rule making bodies in golf. The R&A’s website explains that “golf is a sport for everyone…regardless of age, gender, physical condition, or physical challenge, it is a great way to build friendships and to exercise, while providing an opportunity for personal challenge and growth. There is no reason why the sport shouldn’t be enjoyed by all, including those with disabilities. The R&A wants to encourage all golfers to play the game, regardless of any disability they may have. There are many organizations for disabled golfers throughout the world offering opportunities for disabled athletes to learn the game, to play, and to compete.”

The R&A subdivides “disabled golfers into groups, each of which has a need for somewhat different Rules modifications.” These groups are blind golfers, amputee golfers, golfers requiring canes or crutches, golfers requiring wheelchairs, and golfers with learning disabilities. If players require “equipment and devices that do not conform to the Rules of Golf, the R&A can review, on a case-by-case basis, such equipment and devices to determine whether they should be permitted as an exception under the Rules.”

The R&A Clubhouse at St. Andrews Golf Club
Image source: www.rulesacademy.randa.org

An exceptional program for disabled golfers is Golf4TheDisabled, which is dedicated to “improv[ing] the lives of people with disabilities through the game of golf.” They “offer group lessons by PGA professionals to [those] with physical disabilities [and] provide recreational therapy [for the] disabled community, including our returning disabled veterans.” Golf4TheDisabled serves individuals with “spinal cord injuries, amputations, stroke residuals, visual impairments, head traumas, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and various other birth anomalies and neuromuscular diseases.”

The Fore Hope program is another outstanding organization that seeks to use “golf as an instrument to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, illness, injury, inactive lifestyle, and other life challenges.” Fore Hope was founded in 1989 and “was one of the first of its kind to provide a therapeutic approach to golf by creating a program for persons of all ages, disabilities, and economic backgrounds, while assisting them with their cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development.” Fore Hope asserts that “golf is the viable means by which an individual can rejoin life to its fullest [as] medical professionals [become] more aware of the therapeutic benefits of golf.” Fore Hope has been endorsed by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus and his wife Barbara, both of whom are involved in a number of charitable organizations. Any and all of the organizations mentioned in the previous paragraphs are both legitimate and worthy, and the AtTheTee.com team urges you to consider donating to their efforts.

The R&A was founded in 2004 and seeks to engage in and support activities that are undertaken for the benefit of the game of golf. Visit the following site and @RandA on Twitter.

 

Golf4TheDisabled is focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities through the game of golf. Learn more here.

 

Fore Hope is an organization that uses golf as an instrument to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, illness, injury, inactive lifestyle, and other life challenges. Visit the following site to learn more.

 

Amputees

Disabled Sports USA explains that “just about anyone, regardless of ability level, can grab a set of golf clubs, head outside, and in no time be hitting golf balls where no one will ever find them again.” Executive Director of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association Bob Buck puts it best: “You can learn to play the best golf of your life [when living with a disability]. It seems to be less a question of one’s disability than of one’s will. Whether you play for enjoyment, exercise, or to feed your competitive spirit, golf is open to just about anyone.”

Mr. Buck with a group of disabled golfers
Image source: www.readingeagle.com

Mr. Buck believes that golf is “one of the best sports for people with disabilities–specifically amputees, but anyone with a disability.” All amputees (regardless of their specific disability) can excel at golf by playing “against par. [Mr. Buck says] that’s the key to your success. You just keep asking yourself, ‘How to I improve each day?’” There are a number of adaptive devices available for golfers with disabilities; there are even a few out there that were designed by Mr. Buck.

Disabled Sports USA provides adaptive sports opportunities for people with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, and fitness through sports. Visit this link and @DisabledSportsUS on Twitter to learn more.

 

Bob Buck is the Executive Director of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association. Learn more here.

 

Adaptive Devices

When Mr. Buck himself became an amputee, he was inspired to work with the Eastern Amputee Golf Association and design adaptive devices for golfers with disabilities. According to Disabled Sports USA, “numerous devices exist to help make golf more accessible to those with disabilities. The usage of appropriate devices by arm amputees has been approved by the USGA [and] used in tournaments; [also,] leg amputees who play out of a cart can play anywhere.” Mr. Buck and his associates are also “working to get the single-rider golf cart accessible on all public courses.” These carts are perfect for leg amputees, and their features include “power-assist seats to bring the golfer to more of a standing position.” There are also adaptive clubs, shafts, gloves, and grip aids available to assist golfers with disabilities.

A disabled golfer uses a single-rider, adaptive golf cart
Image source: www.media.jrn.com

The National Amputee Golf Association’s (the Eastern Amputee Golf Association’s parent organization) website offers a fascinating history of amputees and golf. “An original group of 12 men with amputations was the nucleus of today’s national organization. [A] veteran of World War II…looked up comrades with similar injuries and encouraged them to try golf–as a means of recreation and to reinforce pride…by 1954, the group was incorporated as the National Amputee Golf Association (NAGA), supported by the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and the United States Golf Association (USGA). NAGA currently has over 2,000 members in the United States and some 200 players from 17 other countries.”

The National Amputee Golf Association’s founded the very successful First Swing Program, “which teaches adaptive golf to people with physical disabilities. Currently, over 30 clinics are held across the U.S. every year. The Golf for the Physically Challenged program has enabled many to realize that they can play the game and have fun in an outdoor sport.” The First Swing Program is a staple at many hospitals and rehabilitation centers; many “physical, occupational, and recreational therapists [have also] realized the adaptability of golf as a rehabilitation medium.”

Players participate in the 65th National Amputee Golf Association tournament in 2013
Image source: www.journalstar.com

The National Amputee Golf Association was founded in 1954 and is dedicated to helping amputee golfers get back in the game. To learn more, visit this link.

 

Cormac McAdam

Whether you are a disabled or able-bodied golfer, the AtTheTee.com team would like to share Cormac McAdam’s story with you. Mr. McAdam broke his back in a fall at work, and since then, has been confined to a wheelchair. According to the Fermanagh Herald (Northern Ireland), Mr. McAdam “was determined to find a way to enjoy one of his favorite hobbies–playing golf. So, the plucky Skea man acquired a specially adapted recreational buggy that enables him to stand up and strike the ball, and which also carries him around the course.” He has since won several tournaments, and placed “tenth out of 24 in the 2013 Wheelchair Users European Golf championships in Barcelona.” To learn more, visit this link.

Image source: www.fermanaghherald.com

The Fermanagh Herald is a weekly newspaper published and sold mainly in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Learn more here and @Ferm_Herald on Twitter.

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