In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, designed to allow individuals in the United States with disabilities (now up to 61 million) to have access to buildings, transportation, and recreational programs, including golf. Five years later, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was adopted in the United Kingdom, making it unlawful for organizations to discriminate in goods, facilities, services and education. The DDA was later replaced with the Equality Act in 2010. In other countries around the world there is similar legislation, but to varying degrees, or unfortunately, in some cases, none.
In the U.S., while many of the commonplace elements of ADA are structural, standards for recreational facilities, such as golf courses, are still evolving. However, the ADA’s ‘Accessibility Guidelines’ address how golf courses can make the game more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a golf industry alliance dedicated to not only ensuring that individuals with disabilities have access and are included in golf, but we also work to educate those in the golf industry on how they can make facilities and programs more welcoming, accessible and inclusive. To that end, the National Alliance conducts educational conferences and programs at various golf industry conferences and shows, as well as having toolkits on our website and other resources. One such resource is our search engine that individuals with disabilities can use to locate facilities, programs and instruction that are welcoming, accessible and inclusive.
To cater to those with mobility disabilities and who may be in a wheelchair or adaptive golf cart, golf facilities should consider implementing the following:
• pathways on the course and around the clubhouse that are at least 48 inches wide and connect all areas of the course
• entrances to fairways at 75-yard intervals
• access to at least one tee per hole
• access to at least five percent of the practice green
• pathways for those using mobility equipment to access greens.
The 61 million individuals with disabilities in the U.S. are a potential market for the golf industry. Yes, not all will gravitate to golf, but keep in mind that this population has over $21 billion in discretionary income (that’s over and above the essentials of life such as mortgages, rent, food and health care). They are consumers, many of whom are looking for recreational activities. So, welcome them, make golf facilities accessible and most importantly, include them in the game of golf and life.