How do Blind People Play Golf on a Golf Course?

Blind golf is a very popular sport, yet at first it seems almost impossible for a blind person to play the game. Yet despite their obvious disability, there are many outstanding blind golfers playing the game across the globe, the question is, how are they able to play golf, if they can’t see the ball they are hitting, or where they are hitting it to?

Categories

Of course, the first issue to note here is that there are different levels of blindness. Competitions are organised into three categories that are ranked from the most to least severe:

  • B1 – No light perception in either eye, or slight light perception but unable to recognise the shape of a hand at any distance, or in any direction.
  • B2 – Can recognise the shape of a hand but has visual acuity of 2/60 and a visual field of less than 5 degrees.
  • B3 – Visual acuity between 2/60 and 6/60 and/or visual field of between 5 degrees and 20 degrees

While blind golfers of all categories can play with each other, blind golf tournaments often have ‘category winners’ as well as, or in place of, an overall winner.

Now that we understand how tournaments are organised, let’s discover how blind people actually play the game on a typical round of golf.

golf swing in Lavaux golf club

Playing the game

Obviously a blind person needs extra help on a golf course to play and for this they can employ the assistance of a ‘coach’ or ‘guide’. While the terminology used may be different, the coach or guide essentially employs the same role. They act as the blind person’s ‘eyes’ out on course and they can assist the blind golfer in several ways.

  • They can help line the blind player up with their hole and help them place their club directly behind the ball, so the blind person knows where the ball is and which direction to hit it.
  • The coach can also describe the characteristics of the hole, where hazards lie, the slope of the fairway or green and where the golfer should try to avoid.
  • The coach can also stay behind the line of a putt while the blind golfer makes a putt on a green.

Jeremy Poincenot chips in from off the green to win the World Blind Golf Championship


The coach can be used as a caddy, or in addition to a caddy, but if a blind person opts to use a coach and a caddy, they must adhere to the Rules pertaining to each. A caddy cannot help line up a blind person with a shot by placing their clubhead behind the ball as a coach would (though they can offer the same verbal advice about shots, club selection and the layout of the course).

Once the coach has lined up the shot for the blind golfer and moves back, the actual execution of the shot is completely down to the blind person.

golf tips for golf player

Rule Changes

It is tempting to think that there must be a myriad of rule changes for playing blind golf, but in actual fact there is only one (other than rules regarding the coach). The only rule change for blind golfers from standard golfing rules is that a blind person is allowed to ground a club in a hazard, such as a bunker.

This is obviously because in order for the coach to line up the clubface for the blind golfer, they have to place the clubface on the ground behind the ball to do so, thus grounding the club.

Other than that, and a slightly modified handicap system that allows blind players to have handicaps up to 36, a blind golfer plays golf the exact same way as every other golfer.

How good are they?

It’s tempting to think that a round with a blind golfer may be a bit of a bind or a bit on the slow side. The truth is very different. Blind players and their coaches can play the game at the same speed as a fully able golfer and there are plenty of news stories that clearly indicate just how good some blind players are at this game.

Peter Osborne’s Hole-in-One

Jim Gales MBE, received his award from the Queen for his services to disabled golf in 2003

Jim also achieved a hole in one at Wellsgreen golf course

Images by Gorilla Golf Blog

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Comments

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Richie January 31, 2016

Inspiring! And great! .. But here also instead of blind people should not we use the word visually challenged? …
But this is great of you people! you have done a great thing and this article is really inspiring!

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