When I was a child I grew fond of playing Golf. It stemmed from an end of year school trip to a local Driving Range, where I chose to accompany a select group of friends to see what it was like to hit some golf balls as far as I physically could. Before this trip, my only experience of playing Golf had centred on the form of Crazy Golf, which was something which enticed me and had a great element of fun to it – so I was naturally very keen to extend this interest and see if ‘Wheelchair Golf’ could indeed be a thing worth pursuing.
Whilst at the driving range we also got the opportunity to play a short round of Golf on the 18 hole golf course. The first major stumbling block I discovered was that it was extremely difficult to push a wheelchair over grass. Of course, I knew this before heading out on the trip, but for whatever reason it hadn’t occurred to me that I would be indeed faced with copious amounts of grass to contend with.
I also quickly discovered that Golf Clubs are very particular about who/what they allow on the putting green. Wheels are strictly prohibited at most courses. This can be quite an issue, because it’s hard to imagine chipping the ball directly into the hole from the fairway, every single time. You need some approach play, for heaven’s sake!
Whilst enjoying my first ever round of Golf, it also didn’t take me long to realise that due to swinging for the ball in a seated position, I relied heavily on my upper body strength and got nothing from my lower limbs, unlike able bodied Golfers, who can apply downwards force and therefore strike the golf ball many more hundreds of feet. This made for an interesting time when trying to complete a hole in the appropriate par score. I was more often than not, way over par. It did lead to one thing, however, and that way I was much more skilled at positioning the ball in the right places, as I wasn’t hitting the ball too far ahead and losing it in the rough terrain as a result.
One final point that I noticed when playing Golf for the first time on that day was that I required a much shorter golf club, and for the end of the club to be angled in such a way as to allow me to strike the ball freely from the comfort of my wheelchair. Oh, and another thing, when using the driving range in a wheelchair, you’ll quickly figure out that placing the ball onto the tee, is quite an arduous task. Although, it’s a pain for most people, whether you’re in a wheelchair or not!
Tips for adapting to Wheelchair Golf
- Tip number one would certainly relate to the problem faced by too much grass and struggling to get a wheelchair across. If you are able to transfer freely from your wheelchair to another seat, as I am, then I would recommend trying to get hold of a Golf Buggy, and someone finding a way to strap your chair to the back of it. Then you’ll be free to tear your way across miles and miles of green and luscious land!
- So what about overcoming those pesky gamekeepers who won’t let you take your wheelchair onto the putting green? Well, short of suing them and probably losing, there’s not a great deal you can do. My best advice, and what worked for me in the past would be to contact the Golf Course ahead of time and try to arrange some special permission to be allowed to take your wheelchair onto the green. It’s a long shot, but as with those tricky golf shots… everything is possible!
- To combat the issue of not being able to keep par, I would suggest coming to a mutual agreement with whomever you’re playing Golf with, that you will be allowed a higher par score, so that it levels the playing field – at least in the beginning until you’ve built up your strength to hit the ball further, despite having no use of your lower body in the sport.
- As far as shorter golf clubs are concerned, and also, making sure the head of the golf club is angled in a correct way for you, the best advice I can give from my experiences is just to shop around. I fell in love with Golf right throughout my teenage years, and because of this I was always finding excuses to make my way into sports shops and take a look around at the various Golf Clubs that were on offer. I’m fairly sure that if you were to do the same you would definitely find the right club to suit your every need. Much like able bodied players, there’s a club for everyone and not all clubs are going to work for you.
If you enjoyed learning about unusual sports that you wouldn’t necessarily expect a wheelchair user to be participating, then you might love to hear about Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing, and many others, on the Passionate People blog via Invacare!
Happy golfing, folks!
Author: Anthony Tipling-Bower