skip to main content

Championship is Latest Milestone in USGA’s Support of Adaptive Golf July 15, 2022 | VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. By Danny Vohden, USGA

U.S. Adaptive Open Home

For each of the nearly 100 golfers set to compete in the U.S. Adaptive Open starting Monday on Course No. 6 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, the inaugural championship represents a culmination of perseverance and determination. For the broader game, the goal is to provide a catalyst that leads to deeper inclusion around the globe for the community of golfers with disabilities.

As for the USGA, the championship is the latest manifestation of an organizational commitment to accessibility that began in earnest more than 30 years ago.  

Here is a look at the steps that led to the debut of this, the association’s 15th national championship.

1991: USGA announces grant program for golfers with disabilities

In 1991, the USGA announced a new grant program to provide financial assistance to nonprofit organizations dedicated to assisting golfers with disabilities. Six years later, the USGA committed to invest $50 million over the ensuing decade into projects that promoted “the good of the game,” with a specific focus on broadening access and increasing participation and enjoyment for golfers with disabilities. By 2015, those programs had benefited an estimated 75,000 golfers with disabilities.

1997: USGA publishes “A Modification of The Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities”

First published in June 1997, the modified Rules cover circumstances that golfers with disabilities may encounter on the course, to allow all golfers to equitably play with and against all other competitors, including those who are not disabled. Endorsed by The R&A, these Modifications allow golfers with disabilities throughout the world to play and compete by the same set of Rules for the first time.

1999: USGA partners with Dennis Walters

To promote opportunities for golfers with disabilities, the USGA partnered with Dennis Walters in 1999, sponsoring his golf exhibitions and elevating the message that having a disability should not keep people from achieving their golf dreams.

Walters was paralyzed below the waist in an accident on the golf course in 1974. During his rehabilitation, Walters adapted a swivel chair into a golf cart, allowing him to play from a seated position. Since 1977, Walters has spread his inspirational message via his traveling golf show, and he received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor, in 2018.

1999: USGA launches “Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities” website

Furthering the USGA’s aims to serve as an advocate for a more accessible game, the USGA launched a website to provide information for beginners and experienced golfers with disabilities, as well as those in the golf and medical industries, such as instructors, therapists, golf course owners and operators, and equipment manufacturers.

The site’s databases connected users with accessible courses, teachers, therapists, events and other programs in their area.

2016: Revisions to USGA Handicap System allow portability of player’s handicap

In tandem with the 2016 updates to the Rules of Golf, the USGA announced revisions to the USGA Handicap System™, including a revision that addresses a player whose Handicap Index® is no longer reflective of his/her current potential ability due to a temporary or permanent disability. The change in issuing a modified Handicap Index rather than a local handicap supports the portability of a player’s handicap, so that it can be used outside the home club of a player with disabilities.

2017: USGA pledges to establish championship for the adaptive golf community

Sending a strong message of inclusion and reiterating the purpose of USGA championships, the USGA announced its intent to create a championship for the adaptive golf community, so that the world’s best adaptive golfers could showcase their skills and compete for a national championship.

2019: USGA and The R&A jointly administer a global ranking for golfers with disabilities

Launched in Feb. 2019, the World Ranking for Golfers with Disabilities (WR4GD) was established and administered in tandem with the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) by the USGA and The R&A – a major step in building global awareness and inclusivity in golf. With events being played in more than 20 countries and growing, the official ranking elevates the community of golfers with disabilities and enables competitive opportunities around the world.

Men and women, as well as professionals and amateurs, are included in the same WR4GD ranking. The model was originally developed as R4GD in 2014 by EDGA, a European organization formed in 2000 and active in seven countries.

2022: USGA inaugurates U.S. Adaptive Open

The U.S. Adaptive Open serves as the USGA’s 15th national championship, showcasing the world’s best golfers with disabilities. The championship, details of which were announced in December 2021, is open to males and females, professionals and amateurs, with either physical impairment, sensory impairment (vision), or intellectual impairment, who have a WR4GD Pass as well as a Handicap Index through the World Handicap System™.