Two clubs provide an example of dedication to disability golf through their inclusive golf programmes.
Here, we learn more about the work and opportunities they both offer.
Inclusive Golf Academy
When the Inclusive Golf Academy, based at Leamington and County Golf Club, invited teachers from special schools to attend an open day, four schools signed up to take part in inclusive coaching.
There’s no cost to the special schools, as the club has raised money to support the coaching and provide adapted equipment that’s suitable for children with different needs. A ramp was built to allow free movement for children in wheelchairs, and an upgraded indoor academy means that sessions can run year round.
Paul Aitken, PGA coach, now teaches around 70 children with disabilities or limitations each week. Paul was the first British Sign Language (BSL) qualified golf coach in the country and incorporates deaf and hard of hearing children within main group coaching sessions.
A head teacher from a local SEN school described Paul as:
“One of the best [coaches] I have come across. A real natural with special needs, showing a great understanding of how to introduce children to golf in a fun, informative way, accepting their different learning styles whether on a one-to-one basis or as part of a group.”
Paul Mitchell Golf Academy
In 2013, the Paul Mitchell Golf Academy, operating at Bristol and Clifton Golf Club, embarked on the specific task of improving its disability provision. The club has since become truly inclusive – it accepts any type of impairment (with carer assistance).
To begin with, the academy staff was sent on inclusion courses, in order to increase awareness and understanding of the participants’ considerations. Local special schools were subsequently invited to attend free sessions at the golf club; 10 youngsters from Kingsweston Special School were the first to take part in the programme.
So far, over 300 disabled people have been given the opportunity to play golf since the programme started. The Saturday-morning inclusive golf sessions are regularly attended by 24 disabled children.
Growing interest and generous donations from clubs and individuals have enabled the academy to purchase equipment (such as for the Golf Xtreme and Tri-Golf programmes) and offer free coaching to more schools.
The golf club supports the inclusive provision by allowing disability sessions to have exclusive use of the driving range. There are plans to further improve facilities by adapting a practice ground area into a 6-hole academy course suitable for disabled attendees.
Sally Hare, parent of an inclusive golf coaching participant, said:
"My son loved his sessions at the golf academy. The staff were patient and sensitive to his needs, which really helped his self-confidence. He loves the opportunity to try all the different activities and the friendly, fun atmosphere.”