There are many golfers who have physical limitations that may result in some degree of disability and that may have a significant impact on their ability to play the game. Examples include partially sighted golfers and golfers who cannot grip a club because of severe arthritis or missing digits. The foregoing Rules modifications do not specifically apply to these individuals. However, in cases where an artificial device, such as a brace or a gripping aid, will allow an individual to play, the individual may approach the Committee in charge of the competition for permission to use the device under the Exception to Rule 14-3. Alternatively, the USGA will review and issue a preliminary decision, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether or not the use of such a device constitutes a breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment). The USGA will then pass that preliminary decision to the Committee for it to decide whether the device gives the player any undue advantage over other players and therefore whether to permit it or not. Any player may request a ruling on an assistive device that they wish to use by submitting a written request to the USGA. See also the entry under List of Equipment Permitted Conditionally for Medical Reasons below.
In addition, the USGA publishes a List of Equipment Permitted Conditionally for Medical Reasons on its website, www.usga.org. This is a list of mass produced, commercial products targeted at specific conditions. A player is not considered to be in breach of the Rules for using a device on the List if:
a. he establishes with the Committee in charge of the competition, that he currently has a medical condition identified with a particular device on the list, and;
b. the Committee determines that the player would not gain an undue advantage over other players in that competition by using the device.
This section in “The Rules of Golf” states:
Players should play at a good pace. The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines that all players should follow. It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.
Both able-bodied and disabled golfers should make their best effort to maintain their pace of play and their position on the course. No one deserves special consideration with regard to this point.
Through the green, the player should repair any damage caused by spikes, tires and any other type of assistive device. On the putting green, such damage should be repaired after all players in the group have completed the hole. Due to certain weather or turfgrass conditions, disabled golfers may be precluded, most often temporarily, from using certain types of assistive devices.
It is hoped that current research will result in the development of assistive devices that have minimal effect on agronomic conditions. It may also be necessary to re-educate the public regarding the true, rather than the perceived, impact of these devices on turfgrass.
The interpretation and application of this particular Rule provides more than enough difficulty in dealing with able-bodied golfers by themselves. To suggest a mechanism by which this Rule should be applied to disabled golfers is equally as difficult. Clearly, there is enough subjectivity in determining what constitutes undue delay that considerable Committee discretion is required. In that regard, a slightly liberal interpretation of what constitutes undue delay is suggested when dealing with golfers with disabilities. Ultimately, each Committee must establish what it considers to be reasonable parameters in defining undue delay, taking into account the difficulty of the golf course, weather conditions and the quality of the field. To offer more specific guidance to the Committee is probably not realistic.