We have run several articles about disabled golf, but to put those articles into context, what kind of numbers are we talking about when it comes to disabled golfers? Where do they play and who does the typical disabled golfer play with?
To answer the question of how many disabled people play golf isn’t a particularly easy task and this is because of the number of different sources each reporting a different figure and this is because the term “disability” means something different all over the world and finding a universal definition of what constitutes a disability isn’t easy.
In America, for example, some disabled organisations have stated that around one in four American’s are disabled. In the UK, the number has been cited at anywhere between one in three, to one in ten depending on which source you choose to believe.
The problem is that these figures don’t bear any resemblance to the number of disabled people that people may encounter on a golf course, most able-bodied golfers tend not to encounter an awful lot of disabled golfers during their round. As such, exact figures to corroborate any statement are exceedingly difficult to find.
The truth is, finding an exact number is very difficult, but what is without doubt is that the number of disabled people who want to play golf and who would like to try the game, is probably far more than many realise.
This would explain the extraordinary popularity of groups like the Disabled Golf Society and the Scottish Disabled Golf Partnership in attracting members to their cause, but is there also a bit more to it than that.
From my personal experiences, I can count on one hand the times I have noticed a disabled player playing on the golf course. Of course, there may be people playing whose disability is not immediately apparent, but what is certainly true of my experience, is that the number of disabled people I see playing golf alongside able-bodied golfers, is relatively small.
And it is much smaller as a ratio than the ratio of disabled people in society in general. So why is that?
There are several possible reasons why this discrepancy could be evident. Perhaps disabled people feel uncomfortable playing alongside able-bodied players, or vice versa. Certainly, I have read the inspiring blog of a disabled golfer who encountered some disgraceful, prejudicial attitudes towards him from one particular clubs members in the UK, who refused to play with him because he was disabled (despite the fact he is now an England International).
The flip side of that is that this person joined another club who have actively encouraged and supported his play through its membership and as a result, he now gets to enjoy golf as it should be played. Fairly and equally, with the only handicap of note decided by your last three scorecards, not how you hold a club or travel around the course.
Another issue is confidence. Golfers are an impatient lot, I am as culpable as the next, and the perception many hold is that disabled golfers will slow down those playing behind them. There is absolutely NO evidence for this whatsoever. Indeed, it can be argued that disabled golfers who use specially adapted carts to get around a course actually play considerably more quickly than an able golfer dragging a trolley or carrying their clubs.
The issue isn’t based on any evidence however, it is all due with perception. Rightly or wrongly, the commonly held view is that disabled golfers are slower and somehow an inconvenience. So much so, that even disabled golfers may be so concerned about this view that they only feel comfortable playing on a golf course, within the safe confines of a disabled group or society.
That, if true, is a sad state of affairs and it is a prejudicial attitude that has to change. Indeed, in other forms of life, such views would be held as discriminatory and it is hard to justify them.
In short, there are lots of disabled people out there who want to play golf, but they are not represented out on course in any great number as yet. The fantastic work by societies like the SDGP and DGS are helping break down barriers to this fantastic sport for the disabled, yet they may be doing an even greater service by challenging perceptions that disabled golfers ‘can’t play’, by clearly proving they can, on any course, at any time, provided that they are given a fair and equal chance to do so by golf clubs and their members.
The good news is, that many golf clubs are fully behind promoting golf for the disabled golfer and at Gorilla Golf, we want to champion these courses, societies and events that do so.
If you own a course that promotes golf for the disabled, or has many disabled members, we’d love to hear from you and tell your story and give you some positive coverage, so please get in touch!
Images by GorillaGolfBlog, warrenski