We Cannot Forget To Include Those With Physical, Mental, or Emotional Challenges


By Rich O'Brien, Operations Manager, PGA HOPE Charleston 

The concept of diversity and inclusion typically focuses almost exclusively on race and gender. However, the CDC recently published a new report suggesting that 26% of adult Americans live with physical, mental, or emotional challenges. 

As an individual that has experienced disability first-hand and is now a member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance For Accessible Golf, I do my best to be a strong advocate and voice for individuals who are battling injuries, illnesses, or challenges. 

One of the initiatives that the Research Committee for the Alliance is currently working on is identifying all golf facilities in the United States that are accessible to individuals with physical, mental, or emotional challenges. These facilities might be equipped with an accessible cart so that individuals with a wide variety of mobility challenges can have access to the golf facility. 

We'd also like to know if your teaching staff has received certification in teaching adaptive golf so that they are prepared to help lapsed golfers with health challenges such as a stroke, paralysis, amputations, or PTSD return to the game. Imagine being able to give the gift of golf back to a former avid golfer who thought they would never be able to play again after a health challenge.

Finally, we'd especially like to hear from golf facilities that currently host, or who are interested in hosting, an adaptive golf clinic at your facility. We'd love for new facilities to start offering "golf therapy" programs, as I call it.  

Knowledge is power and the Alliance would like to make this information available on its website to make the process of finding an instructor, an adaptive golf program, or accessible cart as easy as possible.

Another goal of the research committee is to create a system that will allow for the collection of participation numbers on an annual basis as this data will guide decisions and help us create strategies to truly be welcoming to 26% of the population with these challenges. In many cases, we will be welcoming avid golfers who love the game back to the game, while in other cases, we are welcoming new players with open arms. 

If we truly want our game to look like our communities, inviting golfers with physical, mental, or emotional challenges to the game is something ALL communities and golf facilities should strive to do. The South Carolina Lowcountry has become the model community for adaptive golf therapy and is a shining example of what can be done if everyone gets in the boat and rows in the same direction.  Personally, I can't think of a better way to contribute my time, talent, and treasure. I hope many of you join us on this important mission.  



Rich O'Brien is the Operations Manager for PGA HOPE (Charleston). The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a charitable organization working to ensure the opportunity for all individuals to play the game of golf. The Alliance is represented by major golf organizations in the United States, organizations that provide services for people with disabilities, and other advocates. Through GAIN™ (Golf: Accessible and Inclusive Networks) and other programs, the Alliance promotes inclusion and awareness to the golf industry, golf instructors, and the public. For more information about Alliance programs and resources including Best Practices for Courses and Programs and the Toolkit for Golf Course Owners & Operators, please visit accessgolf.org.
** The views and opinions featured in Golf Business WEEKLY are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NGCOA.**