Golfing for the Disabled
Golf is about as adaptable a sport as you can get. 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. You can learn to play the best golf of your life. 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.
It's my belief that it's one of the best sports for people with disabilities, specifically amputees, but anyone with a disability. All amputees can pick it up, especially those with leg prostheses, where a torsion absorber and rotator allow you to pivot to finish your swing. If you choose to play with just one arm, you can do that. If you play with one arm and a prosthesis, there are a number of pieces of adaptive hardware that allow you to attach your prosthetic arm to your club, allowing you to swing with both hands. If you're unable to walk, you can play golf from a seated position from a single rider golf cart.
There are very few people who can't learn to golf. Even those who may have been dragged to the clinic by their spouses try to hit a golf ball and are surprised by the results. They end up feeling pretty good about themselves.
Those who played before their disability might be more discouraged than those who haven't, because they can't hit it as far. But I actually got better; I was a 23 handicap, then moved down as far as a 13. A lot of players play as well as they did before. For those just starting to play after their disability, if the ball goes forward and up in the air, they're happy. They don't have memories of playing before and no bad habits to unlearn. That makes it easy for them not to be discouraged. Whether you played before or not, you start your new game when you become disabled and you just go from there. You just play against par. That's the key to your success. You just keep asking yourself, 'How do I improve each day?'
That's not unique to disabled golfers. Disabled and able-bodied golfers will range in their scores and abilities. That's what makes golf so great. It's a handicap system. If I'm playing against a guy who has all his limbs and he plays to a 20 handicap, I have to give him seven strokes. Golf is such an equal game because of the handicap system. That's what makes it fun for people everywhere to play.
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 they have been used in tournaments. Leg amputees, who play out of a cart can play anywhere. Although, if you're playing in a USGA event, in many cases they won't let you play out of a cart. But most of our players are happy just to be out there playing.
There is no reason why the sport shouldn't be enjoyed by all, including those with disabilities. There are many organizations for disabled golfers throughout the world offering opportunities for disabled athletes to learn the game, to play and to compete.
In order to overcome certain unique problems that some disabled golfers encounter when playing golf, The R&A and the USGA have produced A Modification of the Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities. This publication contains advice and permissible modifications to the Rules and they provide a means by which disabled golfers may play equitably with able-bodied golfers or golfers with other types of disabilities.
From a practical standpoint, it is useful to subdivide disabled golfers into groups, each of which has a need for somewhat different Rules modifications. Five such groups have been identified for the purposes of modifications to the Rules: blind golfers, amputee golfers, golfers requiring canes or crutches, golfers requiring wheelchairs, golfers with learning disabilities.
One of the best things about golf is that there is no one way to play. There are multiple swing styles, from the Stack and Tilt to Natural golf and all in between. With whatever disability someone might have, it can be worked through by figuring out which swing style works best for them. I, personally, use the Stack and Tilt to alleviate the weight transfer and pressure on my trail leg.
The active living movement has encouraged all of us to be more physically active in our daily lives and to maintain or improve our health. People with disabilities or mobility issues can achieve important health benefits by being as physically active as possible.
Although every individual is different, it's true that some people with disabilities or mobility issues are not as active as others. If you have a disability or limited mobility, and are leading a sedentary lifestyle, you may be at greater risk of being obese, or experiencing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or coronary heart disease. For anyone with a disability or mobility issue, it's vital to be as physically active as possible. Equally, it's important to find ways to overcome any barriers you may face as you try to become physically active. These barriers may include affordability and/or a lack of access, transportation and information.
Whether you have a short-term or long-term disability, or are experiencing mobility issues for any reason, physical activity can give you an enhanced sense of control, allow you to focus on your physical abilities, not your disability or mobility issue and give you more energy and strength to do things on your own, whether at home or at work, or for tasks such as grocery shopping or golfing.
Exercising in a social setting also increases your motivation to participate in physical activities. As you participate more, you'll be inspired keep at it.
Physical activity can also improve mental health, by improving your sense of physical fitness and by providing opportunities for social interaction. Did you know that depression rates are higher among people with disabilities? Physical activity can be a practical tool to help you fight depression, improve your mood and reduce anxiety and stress.
If an activity doesn't work for all abilities, it can usually be adapted so everyone can participate. Sports that you can play in a wheelchair include rugby, tennis, golf, basketball and track. People with disabilities can also dance (in wheelchairs), ride horses, go canoeing or kayaking, swim, row and take yoga or tai chi classes. Winter activities might include sledge hockey, and adapted versions of cross-country and downhill skiing. There are many other possibilities for creative adaptations of this kind.
People with disabilities benefit from physical activity, and the barriers to being active are starting to come down. A wide variety of activities have been adapted so people of all abilities can participate. So go out and get active!
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