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Accessible golf

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Golf is a sport played by persons of varying age and skill level. The handicap system makes golf unique because it allows for equitable competition among players of different skill levels. The National Golf Foundation reported a growth in the number of golf participants from 3.5 million in 1950 to 28.7 million in 2007. Senior golfers (ages 50 and older) account for 1/4 to 1/3 of the golfer population.

In 1994, 54 million Americans were reported to have a disability, with 7.4 million permanently using an assistive [[Category:Personal Mobility|mobility device] such as a crutch, cane, walker, or wheelchair [1]. A survey of golfer’s with disabilities conducted by the National Center on Accessibility found that 10% of people with disabilities play golf, but 35% reported that they would like to play golf [2]. Since the passage of the ADA in 1990, there have been significant advancements that have made golf more accessible to all parts of the population including the elderly and disabled.


ADA and Golf

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability. Under Title II of the ADA, all public entities, including public golf courses, are required to be accessible to and usable by disabled persons. Title III of the ADA requires that disabled persons be provided goods and services on an equal basis with the general public at all public accommodations including golf courses. Section 15.4 of the ADA Recreational Areas Guidelines details the reasonable accommodations that golf courses are required to make. Some of these accommodations include making the teeing areas and greens accessible to a golf cart.

USGA Modified Rules for Golfers with Disabilities

The United States Golf Association (USGA) recognizes that certain accommodations must be made for golfers with disabilities. The official rules of golf have been modified to allow for a disabled golfer to play equitably with an able bodied golfer or another disabled golfer. Since different disabilities present unique limitations, rule modifications have been made for groups based on type of disability. Some rules for each group are given below. A complete list of the modified rules for golfers with disabilities can be found at:

Blind Golfers

Blind golfers are limited by an inability to see the golf ball or the layout of the golf course. For this reason, blind golfers are allowed to have a “coach”. The coach assists the blind golfer with alignment and in addressing the ball prior to the stroke. A blind golfer may have both a coach and a caddie; however, the coach must not perform the functions of the caddie, else the player is subject to disqualification for having two caddies. Blind golfers may also have trouble walking in hazards such as sand traps; therefore, there is no penalty for grounding the club in a hazard, as long as the golfer is not trying to test the condition of the hazard.

Amputee Golfers

Golfers with upper extremity amputation may have difficulty holding and gripping a golf club. A prosthetic terminal device that allows the golfer to hold on to the golf club is permitted under the USGA rules of golf.

Some golfers wearing a lower extremity prosthesis may feel uncomfortable climbing in and out of sand traps or on steep and uneven terrain. If the golfer wishes to move the ball to take the next stroke, a one stroke penalty under Rule 28 (Unplayable Ball) is assessed.

Golfers using Canes and Crutches

A golfer using canes or crutches has a modified stance that incorporates the assistive devices. A player is allowed relief from an immovable obstruction or ground under repair when any part of the stance, including the assistive device, is affected. The golfer cannot use assistive devices to gain an undue advantage such as moving tree branches for a clear swing or building a stance in the ground. As with golfers wearing a lower extremity prosthesis, a golfer using a cane or crutch who feels uncomfortable playing a stroke from a certain location on the golf course may move the ball under Rule 28 (Unplayable Ball) with a one stroke penalty.

Golfers with Wheelchairs

A golfer with a wheelchair has a similar definition for stance as a golfer using canes or crutches and is allowed the same relief for an immovable obstruction or ground under repair. A common practice of recreational golfers with wheelchairs is to “bump” (move) the ball in order to increase pace of play and reduce turf damage by avoiding having to precisely maneuver the wheelchair into position to make the next stroke. While this is acceptable for recreational golf it is not permitted for competitive play and the golfer must play the ball as it lies. As with amputee golfers and golfers using canes and crutches, the golfer using a wheelchair may move the ball under Rule 28 with a one stroke penalty if at any time the golfer does not feel comfortable making a stroke from a particular location on the golf course.

Adaptive Golf Devices

Personal Assistive Devices

Specially Designed Golf Clubs

While most upright golfers can use standard golf clubs, golfers who play from a seated position benefit from specially designed golf clubs. The angle of the club head is adjusted so that the club is parallel to and flat on the ground. Most golf professionals or golf stores can adjust the lie of a golf club to suit the individual golfer. The Professional Clubmaker’s Society published an informational booklet titled The Forgotten Foursome, PCS Task Force: Fitting the Physically Challenged Golferwhich details fitting suggestions for groups of disabled golfers and includes a number of case studies.

Gripping Aids

Gripping aids assist a golfer with holding the golf club and allow for a controlled swing. Velcro, loops, or straps can be added to golf gloves to assist persons with weak or poor grip as a result of stroke or partial hemiplegia. Examples include the Grip Wrap Strap, Grip Mate, and Power Glove.

Prosthetic terminal devices are available for golfers with upper extremity amputation. The Amputee Golf Grip and Golf Pro by TRS Inc. incorporate a flexible design that mimics “wrist” action and an attachment that securely clips onto the golf club.

Ball Teeing Devices

Automated ball teeing devices assist golfers who are unable to bend or stoop to the ground to tee their ball. Some devices clip onto the grip end of the golf club while others are separate units. These devices insert the tee into the ground and then hold the ball so it can be placed on the tee. Examples include Joe's Original Backtee, Upright Golf Stick, Kool Tee, and ADAptive golf stick.

Ball Retrieval Aids

Ball retrieval aids fit over most putter grips and allow for easy retrieval of the golf ball from the hole or ground. These devices eliminate the need for bending and stooping. An example is the Rubber Ball Picker.

Mobility Devices

Elderly and disabled golfers often have compromised mobility and experience difficulty walking or standing. Single rider golf cars have made golf even more accessible to the population who plays golf in a seated position. Single rider golf cars can be taken anywhere on the golf course, including the tee boxes and greens. Single rider golf car tires exert less pressure on the ground than the heel of an average man so it is a common misconception that these golf cars damage the turf [3]. Some golf cars have swivel seats with electric stand-up mechanisms to position the golfer to make the next stroke. Examples include the SoloRider, Golf XPress, Fairway, and EZ Go Eagle.

Currently, golf courses are not required to provide single rider golf cars, however, the Department of Justice is considering the issue. In 2002, the Department of Justice ruled that the City of Indianapolis violated the ADA by not providing the reasonable accommodation of an accessible single rider golf car to a disabled golfer [4]. To find a golf course with an accessible single rider golf car in your area, visit:

External Links

For more information about accessible golf and to find out how you can get involved, visit:

USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities:

National Alliance for Accessible Golf:

National Center on Accessibility:

National Amputee Golf Association:

United States Blind Golf Association:

To find an accessible golf course in your area, visit:

To learn more about instructional tips for golfers with disabilities, visit:


1. Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, 1994

2. “Survey of Golfers with Disabilities,” Proceedings of the Fifth National Forum on Accessible Golf, National Center on Accessibility, Indiana University and Clemson University, 1996

3. Gentilucci, G., and J. A. Murphy. 1997. "Putting green characteristics associated with surface depressions caused by selected forms of traffic (master’s thesis)." Rutgers University.