The R&A - Working for Golf

Golf for the Disabled Develops with EDGA

EDGA’s development programme is continuing to help the advancement of golf for the disabled in emerging golf nations and more established areas despite the challenges of COVID-19 in 2020.

EDGA (formerly known as the European Disabled Golf Association) affiliated to The R&A in 2018 and is the leading organisation in this area, regularly promoting golf for players with disabilities at every level and actively involved in various campaigns.

Aided by support from The R&A – continued funding of £50,000 per annum to EDGA from 2021-2023 was recently agreed – its work has continued apace in 2020, notably in Poland, Ukraine and Ireland. Despite travel restrictions and national and regional measures, EDGA has helped the federations move along its eight step development programme – both in person and remotely.

Implementing programmes

Tony Bennett, President of EDGA, said, “Our eight step programme came into being when we started to have conversations with member federations, as each seemed to be at a different stage in the development of golf for the disabled. 

“We streamlined our findings into eight steps, each with tried and tested tactics to achieve success. Each step then became a module in its own right. We approached The R&A, who fully supported our strategy and indeed financially supported us to implement the programme in three countries.”

The Polish Golf Union (PGU) joined EDGA towards the end of 2019, with the PGU and PGA of Poland demonstrating a collaborative approach to opening the sport up for more people with disabilities. Based on EDGA’s projections, golf in Poland is potentially missing out 400 golfers with disabilities in club membership, who would have a combined annual economic impact of €750,000.

EDGA’s Head of Development, Mark Taylor, visited in September to deliver training to professionals and volunteers from the PGU and PGA so they can educate health, medical and other skilled volunteers, known as ‘activators’, to perform training in seven identified community hubs and centres.

Pathway for golfers in Poland

Poland has 55 disability sports clubs located across the country and there is the potential for each one to be connected to a golf hub, linked in turn to regional golf clubs to create a pathway for golfers with a disability. Immediately following the two-day training session, attendees were able to sign up 22 wheelchair users and 20 visually impaired people for coaching in the near future. 

The Polish federation intends to work hard to further develop its training and links to sports clubs as part of the next steps, with newly appointed Disability Lead, Jacek Uchanski, central to their efforts. He said, “I would like to thank everyone who participated in the training and to Mark for devoting his time, knowledge and patience in providing our direction to help more people with disabilities enjoy golf.”

In Ukraine, there is also a commitment to developing the sport in an inclusive fashion. Indeed, according to the International Paralympic Committee, the pace of development of the Paralympic movement in Ukraine is now the highest in Europe.

Ukraine development

In February 2020, the Ukraine Golf Federation (UGF) was accepted onto the EDGA eight step development programme, with the UGF’s new President, Vitaliy Khomutynnik, and Board of Directors developing a new strategic plan for golfers with disabilities.

Ahead of a five-day visit in September, Taylor prepared professional coaches and volunteers via six virtual training sessions so that he, together with David Kearney, an experienced development coach for the region, could maximise training time for 20 new disability ‘activators’. As in Poland, they work from nine outreach community rehabilitation centres; venues which will be linked directly to the participation and club model of the new programme.

Crucially, the EDGA model means that golf can be first tried in communities, even hundreds of kilometres away from existing golf courses, before then providing the opportunity to play at golf facilities as new players develop their interest in the sport. 

The Superior Golf Resort in Kharkiv was recently selected as Ukraine’s National Disability Centre, serving three regional disability hubs (golf facilities) in the cities of Lviv, Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Commitment to inclusivity

Looking ahead, the Ukraine golf bodies intend to: acquire further short golf equipment resources to enable activator delivery in each of the nine outreach venues; create a golf tournament for golfers with hearing impairment; and apply to stage an EDGA WR4GD (World Ranking for Golfers with Disability) tournament in 2022.

Veronika Rastvortseva, PGA of Ukraine Deputy General Secretary, said, “Mark left us feeling energised and inspired and Lyudmyla Pavelenko (a Paralympic cross-country skier and biathlete, with cerebral palsy, who won a gold and bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Paralympics) has already begun her ambassadorial duties promoting golf to disabled people. We believe more than ever that Ukraine will be increasingly recognised on the world golf map and the flag we fly will signify our commitment to inclusivity.”

Elsewhere, in more developed golf nations such as Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Confederation of Golf In Ireland (CGI) have been working hard in the disability sphere, with this area part of their future strategic plan moving forward into Golf Ireland in 2021. 

Key focuses include: increasing the participation offer for more golfers with a disability at community and club level; and increased opportunities at a competitive level to ultimately represent Ireland internationally, in line with the player pathway leading to the WR4GD.

Lawlor influence

Brendan Lawlor, who recently turned professional and has played in European Tour events, has assisted in growing awareness of golf for the disabled, both locally within Ireland and internationally.

In February 2020, the CGI were accepted onto the EDGA eight step development programme, with progress again achieved using online tools. Initial virtual meetings established the main priority to schedule a proposed WR4GD tournament in Ireland in 2021.

To ensure accessibility and assist in identifying a suitable tournament venue, EDGA provided the CGI with an ‘accessibility audit’ to present to clubs and facilities to help identify any underlying accessibility issues or barriers which clubs may need to address moving forward. The CGI is in communication with EDGA for further planning and organisational assistance. 

In June 2020, Taylor also delivered training to CGI staff, volunteers and existing disabled golfers. 

Anne McCormack, Club Support and Participation Manage at CGI said, “This programme came at the right time for us, as we were feeling very overwhelmed with the number of disability societies and associations and the varying needs and requests of each. 

“The eight step development programme helped us to look at things in smaller and more manageable chunks and we are very hopeful that as we transition into Golf Ireland that more opportunities will exist for people with a disability from grassroots to elite. We look forward to continuing our work with EDGA.”