How Many Disabled Golfers are out There and Where do They Play?

In recent times 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.


Pierre-Massard-disabled golfer Switzerland

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.

Disabled Golf Society founder Chris Smith, stated in an interview with Mobility Lifestyle Magazine that he estimated that there are 30,000 disabled people in the UK who wanted to play golf alone. This estimate is based on how many people have shown interest in his Disabled Golf Society site and the competitions and open days that the society successfully host across the UK at a number of venues.

Bunker-shot-Lausanne-golf-club-switzerland

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.

Golf-course-view-Switzerland

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.

Walking-on-a-golf-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.

barriers for disabled-golfers

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 great 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.

Disabled-golfers-allowed

The good news is, that many golf clubs are fully behind promoting golf for the disabled golfers 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 info[at]gorillagolfblog.com !

Images by Gorilla Golf Blog, warrenski

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Comments

If you enjoyed this post please leave us your comment below

Sue Robertson February 21, 2012

Great shout out for The Disabled Golf Society, thanks golfgorilla. We are building relationship with wonderful, friendly courses throughout the country. We also know some great Pros who have put time and effort into working alongside disabled people eg Wayne Owers @Downshire, Tom Hide @Frinton, Canford Magna, the list goes on and on, but still not long enough for my liking, we want more!
You should definitely talk with Brian Mudge Senior Master who coaches Eastenders star David Proud, and Carl Weininger who has polio – both of whom are @NewMalton and to Bird Hills who have a weekly group attending the driving range and coffee from @SportsAble (formerly WAMDSAD), and where there has been a great partnership with the Seniors, The Nifty Fifties – partnership with Seniors and Juniors supporting events is a great ice breaker for integration.
Then there are the spectacularly kind courses where they go the extra mile,such as Martin, Jackie, Andy and the team @Billingbear and Peter @RydeIOW. This is just to name a few to whet your appetite; contact the Society direct for info in your area.
If anyone wants to contribute info about other great courses please complete the details on http://www.disabledgolfsociety.com a not for profit organisation, did Imention it’s free to join!

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Golfguy February 28, 2012

Very cool and much respect to all of you disabled golfers out there!

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Tommy Priest March 2, 2012

Dear Sue, Thank you for you excellent message. I will contact you by e-mail directly to discuss. Great work.

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Tommy Priest March 2, 2012

Thank you for your kind words.

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