The Rise of Accessible Golf

If you've played at Shackamaxon Country Club in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, or at any other course that specifically welcomes people with disabilities, you may be more aware than most Americans that golf can be adapted for people with a variety of physical or mental challenges.

The State of Play: Golf and Accessibility

As of 2002, researchers estimated that ten percent of people with disabilities played golf, but that 35 percent of people with disabilities who were not playing wanted to play. Given that an estimated 54 million people with disabilities live in the US, this means that 5,400,000 disabled Americans currently play golf and an additional seventeen million disabled Americans want to play.

The National Alliance for Accessible Golf works continually to increase the participation of those with disabilities in the sport. Accessibility guidelines put into place in the last ten years have increased the accessibility of golf courses, and the PGA has an online identification system that allows golfers seeking a course to find those that are adapted for disabled players.

Dennis Walters is one of those who paved the way for golfers with disabilities to enjoy the game. Walters is an inspiration to others and has the admiration of Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and other golf greats.

Walters wanted to become a professional golfer and play on the PGA Tour, but he suffered an accident that resulted in his being paralyzed from the waist down. Rather than give up his dream, he invented a device that allowed him to continue playing. He now works as a golf ambassador for people with disabilities and young people interested in golf.

What About the Rules?

Even competitive golf opportunities are open to people with disabilities. The USGA recognizes the importance of making the game fair and, to that end, has published a collection of modifications to the Rules of Golf that are permissible depending on the disability of the player.

Separate sections are included for golfers who have an amputated limb, blind golfers, golfers who depend on canes or crutches, golfers who depend on wheelchairs, and golfers with "mental handicaps." The USGA recognizes that other disabilities exist and reviews the issue and the proposed solution for tournament play on a case-by-case basis.

As a general rule, the USGA instructs committees that "a slightly liberal interpretation of what constitutes undue delay" should be applied when a golfer with a disability is involved.

In addition, the USGA reviews devices that are manufactured en masse for people with disabilities and maintains a database so that players can find out before a purchase whether a device is acceptable in competitive play. The USGA reviews custom made devices on a case-by-case basis. Since new putter and new driver designs are constantly being invented, the review process is ongoing.

Active logoSee more golf tips or find golf camps near you

PGA Play Golf America. (n.d.) Play golf. Retrieved from Skulski, J. K. (2009, February 11). Golf: An update on the movement toward full inclusion of people with disabilities. Retrieved from USGA. (n.d.) Rules for Golfers with Disabilities. Retrieved on April 19, 2011, from Walters, D. (n.d.) Welcome to the Individuals with Disabilities Page. Retrieved on April 19, 2011, from

Discuss This Article