Anyone can golf in one form or another
People with disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairments, paralysis and amputations, can take up golf or continue to play at the onset of disability, said Gary Robb, executive director of the National Center on Accessibility at IU Bloomington and president of the NCA-affiliated National Alliance for Accessible Golf.
Federal law and regulations require no physical barriers from the parking lot to the last hole. This includes clubhouses, restrooms and other facilities. Robb said the more challenging barriers involve the attitudes and stereotypes held by golf course staff. Golf course policies and procedures, such as whether to allow coaches for blind golfers, special telephone equipment so someone who is hearing impaired can reserve an early tee time, or other adaptive equipment, seem to be the issues golf course operators can have difficulty resolving and are areas where staff can find themselves looking to golfers for direction -- which is why golfers with disabilities need to be informed.
"I play golf a lot with a golfer who is paraplegic," Robb said. "It's an educational experience every time we play. Usually, it's a very positive experience for golf course personnel and for other golfers."
People with disabilities in the United States have a collective disposable income estimated at more than $214 billion, Robb said, and they often bring two or three people with them to the golf course who normally would not be golfing. The main economic hurdle appears to be whether golf courses should provide adaptive golf carts, which can cost twice as much as regular golf carts. This question should be resolved in the next year, Robb said.
While much has changed, golfers with disabilities still are "pioneers." Robb said golf course owners and operators interested in doing the right thing and growing the game should be proactive. "I'm hoping in a few years it will be a non-issue, so golfers with disabilities can go out and golf at whatever course they want and not feel like they're breaking new ground every time," Robb said. He suggested the following tips and resources for golfers and potential golfers:
- New golfers need to make a significant effort to understand the game and play fast so they are good consumers. This can involve using practice facilities, taking lessons, attending clinics, watching golf on television to see how it's played, and reading golf magazines.
- Check out available adaptive equipment, such as special clubs and gripping equipment, which can make the game easier and more competitive.
- Check out organizations geared toward helping golfers with disabilities. The National Alliance for Accessible Golf, http://www.accessgolf.org/, and its Project GAIN, http://www.accessgolf.org/projectgain/index.shtml, are good places to begin.
- Golfers and golf course operators also should visit the USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities at http://www.resourcecenter.usga.org/.
The National Center on Accessibility is part of the Department of Recreation and Park Administration in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.