A Sport for All
“Golf is about as adaptable a sport as you can get,” said Bob Buck, Executive Director of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association.
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.
Or, like Buck, whose handicap went as low as four after his leg amputation, 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 our belief,” Buck said, “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.”
Buck, who helped found the First Swing golf clinics to teach golf to people with disabilities, said 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, Buck said. They end up feeling pretty good about themselves.
“Those who played before their amputations might be more discouraged than those who haven’t because they can’t hit it as far,” Buck said.
“But I actually got better. I was a 12 handicap, then moved down as far as a four, and now I’m a seven. A lot of our players play as well as they did before.”
“For those just starting to play after their amputation – 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.”Joe Babbino.
Whether you played before or not, Buck said, “You start your new game when you become an amputee 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, Buck said. “That’s what makes golf so great. It’s a handicap system. If I’m playing against a guy who’s got all his limbs and he’s got a 14 handicap, I’ve got 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.”
If you cannot find a chapter near you, there are numerous organizations throughout the country that offer adaptive golf programs. Check them out in the “To Learn More” section. You can also search the Paralympic Club Directory.
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, Buck said. 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.”
Buck said he and others are working to get the single-rider golf cart accessible on all public courses. The carts are designed to be safe on greens. In fact, the amount of pressure put on the green by a single-rider cart is about 7 lbs. p.s.i.; whereas, a 215-lb. man exerts about 12 lbs. p.s.i.
Baltimore has a single-rider cart on each of its city courses. After an ADA lawsuit, Indianapolis now has two carts on each of its city courses. According to Buck, all of the PGA tournament play clubs have single-rider golf carts available for use.
“The way I see it,” Buck said, “it’s not going to be any more expensive to buy one or two single-rider carts. If golfers are not using them, they’re perfect for rangers. If a course has 40 carts, a single-rider cart should be part of the lease.”
Single-rider carts vary in their features; many have power-assist seats to bring the golfer to more of a standing position, as well as other features to make the game more enjoyable.
Numerous other devices exist to help a golfer tee-up and retrieve his ball, better grip the club , and aid his game.
National Adaptive Golf Organization- National Alliance on Accessible Golf
National Adaptive Golf Association- US Adaptive Golf Alliance
National Adaptive Golf Organization- United States Blind Golf Association
National Adaptive Golf Organization- Adaptive Golf Association
National Adaptive Golf Organization- North American One Arm Golfer Association
National Adaptive Golf Organization- US Disabled Golf Association
National Adaptive Golf Organization for Military Members- Salute Military Golf Association
Regional Adaptive Golf Organization- Middle Atlantic Blind Golfers Association
Regional Adaptive Golf Organization- Midwest Amputee Golf Association
Regional Adaptive Golf Organization- Western Amputee Golf Association
Regional Adaptive Golf Organization- Eastern Amputee Golf Association
Regional Adaptive Golf Organization- Southern Amputee Golf Association