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Accommodating Golfers With Disabilities August 17, 2018 By Jim Skorulski, agronomist, Northeast Region

Providing an accessible forward tee is a relatively inexpensive way to accommodate disabled golfers while also making the game more enjoyable for shorter hitters.  

It can be easy to overlook the daily challenges facing people impacted by a disability. The National Center on Accessibility (NCA) estimated in 2010 that more than 56.7 million people in the United States, or 19 percent of the population, are disabled in some way. That is a large group of people who, like those without disabilities, desire to live active and fulfilling lives.  

Golf offers an opportunity for people with disabilities to do just that. The NCA believes that there are probably at least 8 million people with disabilities who would consider playing golf or returning to the game if given the opportunity. Think of the positive implications for the game if that estimate is even close to accurate.    

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1992. The law was made to guarantee access for people with disabilities to all facilities that cater to the public. More specific guidelines for golf courses were developed in 1992. The details of the law and its impacts on golf facilities can be reviewed in the article, “Fear and Loathing and the ADA.”

Single-rider mobility carts equipped with pneumatic tires have a similar impact as a triplex mower. With proper instruction, they can be safely operated even on putting greens. 

Today, most golf facilities open to the public are probably in compliance, or striving to be in compliance, with most of the ADA requirements. Initially, the ADA requirements were met with trepidation. Over time, those feelings have eased with the realization that the compliance requirements for golf courses are not overly burdensome. The following suggestions are provided to make your facility more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities:     

  • Develop a written plan of how your facility will accommodate golfers with disabilities.
  • Work towards developing a training program for staff members who will assist disabled golfers.
  • Evaluate the facility for accessibility, identifying potential barriers to access and creating a continuous pathway throughout the golf course.   
  • Produce a map of the accessible routes provided through the golf course.
  • Prioritize work to remove existing barriers and to provide access to all putting greens, the practice facility and at least one teeing surface on each hole.   
  • Develop a written policy regarding the use of single-rider assisted mobility vehicles and golf carts during inclement weather.
  • Make available a mobility-assisted cart.    

 

Most of these suggestions can be implemented with minimal cost or disruption. The USGA article, “Golf Course Maintenance and the ADA,” provides additional information for golf courses that are trying to become more accessible. Those that have made strides in accommodating golfers with disabilities have found that golfers have been cooperative and very supportive. Ultimately, golfers with disabilities just want to share in the enjoyment that a day with friends on a golf course can bring.   

 

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