EDGA, formally the European Disabled Golf Association, was formed in the year 2000. At that time, it was necessary to find ways to assess how various disabilities impact on the players‘ ability to play the game. With the help of some brilliant people, EDGA created a set of definitions which listed the minimum level of many impairments. This helped golf for the disabled to make its way.
One in seven people is disabled. That equates to over a billion people in the world. Staggering numbers, and yet this is an untapped market which has a latent demand for health-enhancing physical activity. As I take you through the next five minutes, these figures will resonate for those who are keen to grow the game. More memberships, more casual golfers, more equipment, more burgers and beers, and more golf lessons.
Today EDGA has 29 National Federations, with 30% from outside of Europe. EDGA is active in the promotion to both participation and competition programmes. With more than 50 tournaments expected in 2019, EDGA is making its presence felt. EDGAs immediate goal is to introduce 500,000 people with disability to the game. As golfers are aware, a game that has the potential to be one of the most inclusive sports of all.
What does it take – Golf for the disabled?
A huge misconception is that people with disability need to be treated differently. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Would you applaud a single figure handicap golfer who hit the green with a mid-iron but left the ball 25 metres from the hole? I don’t think so. And, yet I have seen this frequently happen when a player using a single-arm does the same thing. Just because the ball flew high through the air doesn’t make it a good shot.
As a former coach to elite players, I can attest that some of the golfers with disability train at least as hard as those who are making their way on the amateur and professionals tours. Hours of short game practice, swing work, mental training and of course physical preparation. The forces of each impact place a demand on the body that leaves even the fittest of athletes tired at the end of a session. Yet for those with physical disabilities, such as an amputation, those forces must go through a single leg or arm. Some disabilities affect the nervous system, and so concentration can be difficult, controlling temperature and other regulatory body systems. These players work hard to minimise the effect of their impairment and maximise their ability to play the game competitively.
Coaches – part of the problem and most of the solution
Golfers with a disability often have to find their own way. Partly due to an unnecessary, but real, feeling from coaches who think they are ill-equipped to help. Golfers with disability challenge every coach to consider their approach, to analyse and reflect on what it is they promote, and question if there is another way. However, coaching golfers with a disability helps every coach to be better. Also, and of course, it helps more people with a disability to experience the game.
The golfer with a disability, who has a set of physical, functional, intellectual, neurological, or sensory constraints, and must develop their game despite these limitations and affordances. For example, an optimal backswing plane may look very different for a player using only one arm than it does for a two-handed player. Players can make structurally different movements to reach a similar or even the same functional action. As we know, there is more than one way to get speed at the end of the golf club. Competent coaches recognise this and use their skills, knowledge and experience to find a suitable path to improved performance.
To know about EDGA and read some compelling stories of people who refuse to be defined by their disability, go to The EDGA Website
By Tony Bennett – Head of Disability and Inclusion for the IGF / President EDGA / PGA Master Professional
Jeroen Meijerink, TTE®, editor