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Modified rules for golfers with disabilities

When we talk about the game of golf, it’s truly a sport for everyone — a game for life. Whether we’re talking about age, gender, or physical conditions, any interested enthusiast should have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits and challenges our game presents.

As the National Sport Federation of golf, Golf Canada is continually looking for ways to encourage more people to play this great game. We work to eliminate barriers and engage people from all walks of life.

That holds especially true this year as we are piloting a training camp and nine-hole competition for Special Olympics Canada athletes, in conjunction with our CN Future Links Pacific and Quebec Championships. Special Olympics Canada approached us last year to see how Golf Canada could provide more opportunities for their athletes and we are excited about the opportunity to partner on this initiative. In 2015, Special Olympics Canada had more than 1,600 athletes registered and five of their athletes competed in the World Games in Los Angeles.

This relationship has given us a chance to look at golf through a new lens and open our eyes to the full scope of what our sport is like for golfers with disabilities.

In addition to this newly formed partnership with Special Olympics Canada, Golf Canada has recently adopted the R&A and USGA’s publication, A Modification of the Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities. This modification to the Rules of Golf contains advice and permissible rules that a committee can adopt to provide equitable playing conditions. It allows golfers with disabilities to overcome certain unique or problematic circumstances that they would encounter on the course.

Five groups have been identified — blind golfers, amputee golfers, golfers requiring canes or crutches, golfers requiring wheelchairs and golfers with intellectual disabilities — in order to best apply specific rules modifications.

BLIND GOLFERS are allowed to have a coach (also referred to as a guide) who can assist in addressing the ball and with alignment prior to the stroke. Under the Rules of Golf, a coach would have the same status as a caddie. That said, if the coach cannot perform the duties of a caddie, it is permissible for a blind golfer to have both a coach and a caddie.

AMPUTEE GOLFERS (which, for this purpose, includes golfers with limb deficiencies) have restrictions of varying degrees. With this in mind, the committee can operate under Exception 1 to Rule 14-3 for certain devices (i.e. artificial limbs) that are used to alleviate a medical condition. If the committee is satisfied that the artificial devices do not give the player an undue advantage over other players, such devices would be permitted.

GOLFERS REQUIRING CANES, CRUTCHES OR WHEELCHAIRS use these devices as a necessity to play and it does not constitute “building a stance” within the meaning of the term in Rule 13-3. In addition to this point, the term “fairly taking your stance” is still relevant with respect to Rule 13-2. Players would still be limited to the intent of this rule, which prohibits a player from deliberately improving the lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play.

ANCHORING has recently been added to these modified Rules of Golf with the recent addition of Rule 14-1b. Regarding the application of this rule, where a committee has determined that a golfer who uses an assistive device is unable to hold and swing his clubs without anchoring because of his use of the assistive device, the golfer is permitted to make a stroke while anchoring the club.

It’s important to note these rules modifications only apply to a competition if they have been introduced by the committee in charge of the competition. These modifications do not apply automatically to a competition involving golfers with disabilities.

Secondly, outside of these exceptions for specific physical limitations outlined in A Modification of the Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities, Golf Canada can review and approve the use of equipment or devices that don’t necessarily conform to the Rules of Golf on a case-by-case basis.

The ultimate goal of this modification is inclusion, and to provide fair and equitable playing conditions for every golfer.

For complete information pertaining to the Rules of Golf for golfers with disabilities, please visit golfcanada.ca/rules-of-golf.


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Modified rules for golfers with disabilities

This article was originally published in the May 2016 edition of Golf Canada Magazine. To view the full magazine, click the image to the left.

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