Thursday, June 11, 2015

Adaptive Golf Carts and Opportunities

At DCR's annual Adaptive Recreation Fair last month in Boston, I investigated 3 different adaptive golf carts on display. Although I'm not a golfer, this was a unique opportunity to find out more about golf adaptations for people with mobility impairments. Learning more about adaptive golf carts lead me to discover that golf has been adapted for people with autism and visual impairments too! I also found out that adaptive golf, just like any other adaptive recreation activity, has profound power to transform people's lives.

The SoloRider on left and the ParaGolfer on right.
Since golf is especially popular among older adults, it follows that adaptations have long been part of the game. The golf cart is an adaptation for the original game of golf, allowing players to conserve energy as they move through the course. Naturally it is the "perfect vehicle" for further adaptations to allow even more people to play, including those who cannot stand on their own.

Swift Golf Cart demonstration
The three different styles of carts I checked out were the SoloRider and ParaGolfer at the Golf For All booth, and Swift Golf Cart at Northeast Passage's booth. Of the three, the Swift Golf Cart is the most affordable at around $8000. It features hand controls and a seat that swivels 360 degrees and locks in 4 positions. From the seat it is possible (with legs) to position oneself into an partial stance from which a golf club can be swung.

The SoloRider proclaims itself as the leading single rider adaptive golf cart in use. I was told it costs around $10,000. The seat on this cart tilts upwards assisting the golfer to a near standing position. Someone who is a double leg amputee can golf from the seat with plenty of clearance to swing the club. The golf bag is easily stowed and accessible atop the front of the SoloRider.

At a starting price of $21,000, the three-wheeled ParaGolfer not only functions well for golf but allows its user to enjoy the outdoors more fully in a variety of everyday and recreational activities.  It has a more compact and streamlined design than golf carts and appears to be an elegantly designed power wheelchair. A sophisticated hydraulic system brings the individual using the ParaGolfer up to a full standing position, with knee and (if necessary) chest cushioned braces, allowing one to bend or flex at the waist with support. This makes activities like fishing, or simply standing up to hug someone, easily achievable. You can stow a golf bag along one side, which keeps the overall profile of the vehicle low.

Adaptive golf has taken off around the country and many other adaptive devices exist for use of golf clubs, teeing the ball, putting, gripping, picking up the ball, and golfing with prosthetic limbs. Disabled Sports USA has organized these resources, including adaptive golf associations that have formed around the U.S for amputee, one-armed and blind golfers.

Locally near Boston, I am very impressed with Golf For All's adaptive programs at Braintree Municipal Golf Course in Braintree, MA, serving people with cognitive impairments (including autism) and veterans. You can find excellent videos of these programs on Golf For All's webpage. Two other recommendations: Northeast Passage runs adaptive golf clinics at the Windham Country Club in Windham, NH.  Spaulding Rehab Hospital's Adaptive Sports Center has developed an adaptive golf program called "Back In the Swing" using Granite Links in Quincy, MA and DCR's Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course in Weston, MA. Leo J.Martin Memorial Golf Course has had recent renovations to the green and indoor facility and it is now much improved for universal access.

I might just have to take a golf lesson to investigate further!

1 comment:

cyndy said...

Interesting. The adapted golf carts are quite pricey so it's unlikely that private country clubs will get them. Susan Teital used to offer some adaptive golf programs in East Longmeadow, through Disability Resource Services (Nancy Bazanchuk). I don't think she had an adaptive cart however. It would be nice if All out Adventures or another non-profit could get funding for a couple of these carts and offer adaptive golf here in western MA. I think it would be a hit! I wonder if any quads like myself would be able to utilize the adapted cart. Of course there is the additional issue of gripping the clubs. Maybe Northeast Passage can respond to this. Cyndy Chamberland, Easthampton, MA