Friday, July 17, 2015

Golfers With Disabilities Enjoy the Outdoors

This week I thoroughly enjoyed visiting a golf program offered by Spaulding Adaptive Sports at the Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course in Weston, Massachusetts. Five golfers with disabilities were engaged in playing out on the course when I arrived. Three were stroke survivors, one had Parkinson's disease and one had mild CP. They all appreciated the relatively flat course as an accessible feature. Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course also has brand new accessible bathrooms and will soon feature more accessible parking spaces.

Four players were experienced golfers and one brand new to the sport. The newest golfer said to me, "I always joked about golfers. I was a tennis player and swimmer before my stroke. At Spaulding Rehab Hospital they suggested I might try golf. You know what? It's been a life changer! I spend 4-5 hours a day on my recovery exercises - alone. To be able to come out here and play with others just makes my day." He also said he loves the cerebral aspect of golf, social time, and time outdoors in that order.

All the golfers were making good use of regular golf carts to move from hole to hole. This was the third and final session of the "Back in the Swing" series offered by Spaulding, according to Rick Johnson, a golfer who facilitates the activity. "First day was on the driving range, second week on the putting green, and today we are playing 3 holes of golf, " he offered. "We are just getting everyone comfortable being out on the course. Playing golf is therapeutic, along with time to connect with others and enjoy being outside."

Comfortable indeed - one player told me she would be coming back soon to golf with her family. "This program has brought a lot of joy back into my life," she affirmed. I learned it had been 6 years since she played golf and in just 3 short sessions she was ready to return the sport.
"I can golf almost as well as before, with the help provided in this program", she said. The help included the advice and gentle, often humorous encouragement of Rick Johnson, with cart driving, ball pickup and setup by two Spaulding staff who accompanied the group and also coached. After some unsuccesful swings, I observed one staff offering a "lucky ball" to one golfer and sure enough, that ball was hit squarely down the green. One participant's wife served as caddy, driving his cart. Other participants drove as they were able. A few were planning to return at the end of this month for a nine hole game.

Though never a golfer, walking just three holes with golfers with disabilities gave me a whole new appreciation for the game. Especially with all the smiles I saw!

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