Considerations for an Inclusive Golf Program
Adapted from Introduction to Inclusive Recreation by the National Recreation and Park Association
I. Consider goal modifications
Golf instructional programs include creating individualized goals since each participant has different expectations and skills. The only difference in an inclusive golf program may be that the goals vary more widely because of diverse ability levels of participants. It is important to realize, however, that we should not automatically assume that someone who has a disability would achieve less than someone without a disability.
The following are just a few examples where goals may be modified because of disability:
- The ultimate instructional goal for an individual without a disability may be to develop the skill to play on an 18-hole golf course. For an individual with a serious heart or respiratory condition, the goal might instead be to play 9 holes or to play the 18 holes in more than one outing.
- While the goal for one individual might be to "shoot a score below 100", the goal for another might be to "shoot a score below 120". The golf handicap index (USGA) and the Modified Rules of Golf, have been specifically developed to account for varying skill levels and these will be valuable to employ for golfers with disabilities. See the USGA Modified Rules of golf at: http://www.usga.org/rules/disabilities/Rules-for-golfers-with-disabilities/.
- Some participants with disabilities may never be able to play on a regulation 18 or 9-hole golf course. Rather than exclude them, consider modifying the goals for those individuals to include playing shorter courses, playing fewer holes or playing a miniature golf course or putting green.
- If the program has goal achievement standards, such as scoring goals, or participation goals, be sure to incorporate similar goal levels that can be achieved by those with disabilities.
It is important to assess the current skill levels and potential of all participants, including those with disabilities. It is also important to use this objective information in setting goals and being careful not to "dumb down" goals simply because someone has a disability.
II. Consider providing additional support where needed
A successful inclusive golf program will require that some individuals receive additional support in order to be successful in the program. The inclusion of volunteers and/or mentors that can assist with physical and psychological support of participants is a critical factor. A volunteer and/or mentorship development program can be established and successfully implemented using students, seniors, therapists, community service organization members, family members and others. A particularly effective way to implement such a program is to include volunteer/mentors in the instructional program. Provide them with the opportunity to take advantage of golf lessons and other activities associated with the program. In addition, the creation of a buddy system, pairing participants with and without disabilities together, can be an effective method. This can not only achieve the desired results of inclusion, but also provide individuals with disabilities with the necessary assistance such as moving assistive devices, picking up balls and clubs, and providing encouragement.
The National Alliance for Accessible Golf has developed a comprehensive volunteer/mentor program that can be used as a model to develop such a program. Contact the Alliance at www.accessgolf.org for more information.
It is also important that the program be held in an accessible location in order to minimize the barriers for individuals with physical disabilities to get to the program. If the program location is not physically accessible, consider moving it to another location. If that is not possible, insure that those with disabilities can get to the location as independently as possible.
III. Consider rule and other playing modifications
Because of a specific type of disability, it may be that an individual may not have the capability to "keep up the pace" with some participants without disabilities. There are many options that might be available to insure that all participants continue to play together rather than separating them due to the apparent limitation of a disability. Some suggestions may include insuring that all players are ready to play even before it is their turn; beginning the hole at a different (i.e. closer) point on the course for those with lesser skill or ability; and using the USGA Modified Rules of Golf as described earlier.
For new players with a more severe disability, try enlarging the hole on the putting green; using snag equipment; using larger or smaller balls (such as tennis or whiffle balls); and having adaptive golf equipment available (see NCHPAD Golf Resources at http://www.ncpad.org/212/equipment/Golf , http://www.ncpad.org/867/4957/Golf~~~Instructional~Resources~and~Equipment).