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NGCOA Web site area on ADA

General information | Laws and Regulations | Litigation Resources

Latest Update:

NGCOA's letter to the United States Department of Justice - May 24, 2005

Survey results and Department of Justice letter.

Toolkit for Golf Course Owners and Operators

The National Alliance for Accessible Golf has developed a toolkit to provide guidance to golf course owners and operators seeking ways to make their golf course more accessible to golfers with disabilities.


Reaching Out To Golfers With Disabilities

Join & Search the USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities Databases

Your registration will allow the golfers in your area to find you and will go a long way towards making the game of golf welcoming to all.

Colorado Springs, Colo. - Already regarded as the most informative and comprehensive Web site about golf for people with disabilities, the new USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities seeks to grow again. Launched during the summer of 2003, the Resource Center is actively recruiting instructors, therapists, instructional programs, golf courses, players with disability and their supporters to register with the site in order to add to its growing databases of critical information for golfers with disabilities. To register, just go to the Resource Center homepage, click on "Enter Databases," and enter your information in the appropriate database.



General information and resources on disabled golfers

“It is clear that if 12% of (individuals with disabilities) were to begin playing golf, we would welcome more than 5 million new golfers to the game. Accommodating their desire to play is another way to continue to grow this great game.” From Bag Drop to 19th Hole: Tips for Making Individuals with Disabilities Feel Welcome at your Golf Course or Golf Facilitiy (USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities).

Accessibility Answers:
Making renovations to meet new ADA guidelines shouldn't take away from the fundamental nature of the game.
by David L. Ginkel
Golf Course Management - March 1999

Model Policy for Golf Car Use by Individuals with Disabilities Covered by the ADA

The National Center on Accessibility is an organization committed to the full participation in parks, recreation and tourism by people with disabilities.

The Association of Disabled American Golfers (ADAG) was founded by Greg Jones to serve as the clearinghouse for information regarding golfers with disabilities and the golf community, while promoting the inclusionary nature of the game. From its founding in 1992 and dissolution in 2000, ADAG was the nation’s leading organization in promoting the inclusion of golfers with disabilities into the game and advising the major associations and individuals of the golf community of important issues..

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Laws and Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was adopted to remove the barriers that have prevented society from benefiting from the participation and contributions of individuals with disabilities. Many states have also adopted and enforce versions of the federal ADA.

Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations, including golf courses, to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis with the rest of the general public.

New golf course facilities must be accessible in accordance with the ADA. The ADA also requires removal of architectural barriers in existing facilities when "readily achievable," or when it can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense for that facility.

Legislation to address ADA lawsuit abuse has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, HR 914, would require that, as a precondition to commencing a civil action with respect to a place of public accommodation or a commercial facility, that an opportunity be provided to correct alleged violations.

ADA Accessibility Guidelines

The development of architectural guidelines on accessibility is the responsibility of the Federal Access Board. The Access Board is an independent federal agency comprised of public and government members appointed by the President.

In 1993, the Recreation Access Advisory Committee was convened to provide the Access Board with information and advice in the development of accessibility guidelines for recreation facilities and outdoor developed areas. The committee organized itself into subcommittees based on facility types, including a Golf Subcommittee. Representatives from the National Golf Course Owners Association and other golf and disabled golfer organizations served on the Golf Subcommittee.

In 1993 and 1994, the Golf Subcommittee met and developed recommended accessibility guidelines covering new golf course construction and alterations to existing golf courses. Their mission was "to define proposed architectural guidelines that would facilitate the integration of people with disabilities into golf while maintaining the tradition and integrity of the game."

The first draft of the guidelines was published for public comment along with other recreational facility guidelines in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) in the September 21, 1994, Federal Register.

The Access Board staff reviewed the comments and re-drafted a proposed rule which was published for comment in July 1999. In July 2000, a summary of a final guidelines was issued. A final rule is expected in 2001.

Until a final rule is issued, the 1999 draft guidelines and 2000 summary can serve as a guide for ADA compliance. It is expected that few, if any, changes will be made by the Access Board in the final regulations.

ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG): Rulemaking History

  • June 10, 1993: Board creates the Recreation Access Advisory Committee and a subcommittee on Golf
  • July 13, 1994: The Advisory Committee submits its recommendations to the Access Board
  • September 21, 1994: The Access Board publishes an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
  • July 9, 1999: Proposed rule published for public comment
  • August 26, 1999: The Access Board holds public hearing on the proposed rule in Dallas, Texas
  • November 17, 1999: The Access Board holds public hearing in Boston, Massachusetts
  • December 8, 1999: Close of public comment period
  • July 21, 2000: The Access Board publishes a summary of proposed changes to the guidelines for public comment and schedules information meetings
  • August 21 - 22, 2000: The Access Board holds informational meeting in Washington, D.C.
  • September 6 - 7, 2000: The Access Board holds information meeting in San Francisco, CA
  • September 19, 2000: Comment period closes on summary of proposed changes

DOJ Hotlines

Advice about specific ADA compliance issues is available from government experts by contacting the following hotlines:

  • DOJ Hotline (to speak to a specialist, dial touch-tone 7) 800/514-0301
  • Regional Disability & Business Technical Assistance Centers 800/949-4232
  • Internet address: www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm

Laws and Regulations Links

Foley/Shaw legislation on ADA lawsuit abuse

HR 914 - Bill Summary and Bill Text

NGCOA Letter to Representative Foley

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Litigation Resources

This page was developed to provide background and resource materials for legal counsel involved in defending golf courses in ADA litigation.

Some documents accessible from this page do not necessarily represent good law, but are nonetheless likely to emerge in litigation.

A network of lawyers is being formed to share information related to pending litigation. Contact Cynthia K. Smith, JD, ADA consultant for NCGOA, for more information.

Background - (updated 3/2001)

Golf courses in several states have found themselves in a the middle of a debate about accommodating disabled golfers that has raged on for years. Earlier this year, golf courses in Michigan, Ohio, and other states were deluged with threatening letters from Saunders Dorsey, a disabled golfer and attorney. Dorsey demanded courses make available specially-equipped golf cars and compensate him for damages he suffered by not being accommodated. He then took action in court against many of the courses that ignored his demands.

Golf courses that face the threat of lawsuit based on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should notify their lawyers, and encourage them to network to educate themselves on the status of the law in regard ADA and golf courses. The fact is, Dorsey’s demands were not based on any established legal precedent or interpretation of the law issued by the Department of Justice.

Compliance guidelines on ADA and golf courses are under development by the Access Board, but deal only with course design issues. When the latest summary of proposed ADA Accessibility Guidelines for golf courses was released in July 2000, the Access Board reiterated that, “while these issues are important to providing access for golfers with disability, they are not within the Board’s jurisdiction and will not be addressed in the final rule.”

While the Casey Martin case was being resolved in court in the late 1990’s, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division was also quietly beginning to look at how the law applies to recreational golfers with disabilities. They haven’t said what they interpret the law to require – at least not yet.

The litigation has, not surprisingly, resulted in increased interest in what the Department of Justice will have to say about the issue of special golf cars for the disabled. While not binding on the courts, the opinions of the Department of Justice carry important weight in legal rulings on ADA cases.

The NGCOA believed it would be preferable to work with the Department of Justice to negotiate a guideline on golf cars than to have the matter resolved through litigation. The NGCOA examined other ADA precedents and consulted with its chapters, member management companies which have been involved in ADA matters, and representatives of the disabled golfer community. A proposed guideline on specially adapted golf cars was developed.

The proposed guideline includes elements of notice and "best efforts" regarding golf course obligations to provide specially adapted golf cars to walking impaired golfers who are covered by the ADA. It does not let the golf courses off the hook entirely, but allows some flexibility and provides a "safe harbor" from litigation for golf courses who are not yet in position to have an adapted golf car available.

Representatives of NGCOA and disabled golfer organization met with officials of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In March 2001, a follow-up letter was sent to the Department of Justice asking for their written opinion on what is required by golf courses regarding providing specially adapted golf cars and formally suggesting the proposed guideline.

The Department of Justice moves slowly and deliberately on such matters. However, the National Park Service, which is delegated authority to enforce ADA at municipal courses, has not been so discerning. Widely circulated letters from NPS officials state the opinion that golf courses must have the same number of single-rider golf cars that it has disabled parking spaces in the parking lot. Regardless of the tone of the letter (and Dorsey’s claims), it does not create law or obligate golf courses. It is only their opinion, and will likely mean little once the Justice Department has spoken.

When the Department of Justice does weigh in on the issue of golf cars, it is possible some additional investment by golf courses into special equipment will be necessary. Nonetheless, the government has shown that it is sensitive to the limits of what accommodations can be managed financially by different courses with different resources: the Access Board is now saying that the number of tees on each hole that must be accessible will depend on the total number of tees that are offered. In other words, less is expected from smaller courses, which are presumed to have smaller budgets.

NGCOA is exploring several more options to help golf courses with the challenge of accommodating disabled golfers.

Litigation links

NGCOA Letter to Dept. of Justice Regarding Single Rider Cars

Notice letter to golf course from AbleToGolf

Legal Documents, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice This site includes a searchable collection of settlements, consent agreement, and technical assistance letters on ADA issues

National Park Service documents.

The National Park Service has been given enforcement authority over ADA Title II, applicable to government-owned golf courses. NPS officials have issued several documents interpreting the ADA as it applies to golf courses; these interpretations have been rejected by the Department of Justice and/or are legally refutable..

WHERE ARE ALL THE PLAYERS? A perspective by Gary Robb, National Center on Accessibility This report summarizes a study finding that there are fewer disabled golfers than expected.

Affidavit on golf car damage to overseeded turf

Organizations of Golfers With Disibilities

NGCOA ADA Laws and Regulations Page

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© 2000, National Golf Course Owners Association