Adaptive Sports: Wheelchair Golf

Looking to try a new sport? Consider teeing up for a game of wheelchair golf. This adaptive sport, first recognized by the United States Golf Association (USGA) in 2022, has grown in popularity among people with disabilities. If you’re curious to learn more, keep reading to find out if wheelchair golf is right for you.

Can Disabled People Play Wheelchair Golf?

As the name suggests, wheelchair golf is an adapted version of golf played by people with disabilities. The sport is similar to traditional golf, with two key differences. First, players use specially designed golf carts to maneuver around the course, and second, athletes may rely on aides to assist in gameplay. Amputees and individuals with limb and stature–related disabilities can also participate in adaptive forms of golf.

Rules of Wheelchair Golf

The object of the game in both wheelchair golf and traditional golf is the same. The goal is for a player to get the golf ball into each hole in as few strokes as possible. While both wheelchair golf and traditional golf have similarities, there are a few rules which make wheelchair golf unique.

1. Golf Caddies and Aides for Disabled Golfers

In wheelchair golf, an aide has the same status as a traditional caddie, so a disabled golfer can utilize their aide in the same way a nondisabled golfer would utilize a caddie. This means aides can give disabled golfers advice or carry golf clubs. While aides cannot strike the golf ball for a player, they can accommodate for a player's limited mobility by assisting with certain maneuvers like dropping, placing, and replacing a golf ball. Aides can also help disabled golfers position their bodies or remove a mobility aid. Any assistance provided by aides must be provided before a player makes a stroke.

To ensure fair play amongst all athletes, the number of aides a golfer receives is determined by a golfer's ability. Some golfers may have one aide, while other golfers may have two.

2. Mobility Aids

Golfers can use canes, crutches, and other mobility devices to assist in standing or positioning prior to hitting a golf ball, however, disabled golfers typically will not use a mobility aid and a golf club at the same time. If a disabled golfer has a hard time standing, they can use an adapted golf cart so that both upper limbs are available to strike the ball.

3. Stance and Balance

If a disabled golfer has difficulty balancing while standing or walking, they may find sandy areas, like the bunkers on a golf course, pose a challenge to their mobility and their gameplay. In adaptive golf, when a ball lands in a bunker, the golfer is allowed to dig their feet into the sand for balance and stability.

Adaptive Golf for Amputees

Amputees and individuals with limb differences can also take part in adaptive golf. For amputees, one major rule that differs from wheelchair golf and traditional golf relates to anchoring the club. Traditionally, a player cannot anchor the club. Anchoring occurs when a player intentionally maintains contact between the club or a gripping hand and any part of their body, except for the hand or forearm. This makes it easier for a player to stroke the ball and is prohibited in traditional golf; however, in adaptive golf, players with upper limb differences or amputations can anchor the ball if they cannot swing the golf club with one hand. Players with lower limb differences or amputations may play golf similarly to a nondisabled athlete, or they may rely on an aide to place, drop, or replace a ball due to limited mobility

What is a Paramobile?

A Paramobile, sometimes called a paragolfer, is an adaptive golf cart. These carts function similarly to a single-rider golf cart; however, they also feature a seat that raises the golfer into a standing position. This allows golfers who may not be able to stand on their own to play golf standing up, as it is harder to play the game while seated in a wheelchair.

Getting Started with Wheelchair Golf

If you're interested in trying wheelchair golf,  you’ll want to find a golf course that offers paramobiles or paragolfers. Many golf courses have these golf carts available for rent for golfers with disabilities, so you can try one even if you don’t have a paramobile of your own. You'll also want to invest in some golf equipment, like golf clubs, tees, and golf balls. If  you’re looking to play golf recreationally, you can contact a local golf course or learn more about adaptive golf at the USGA website.

What Sport Can I Do in a Wheelchair?

If wheelchair golf doesn’t sound like it’s up to par, there are plenty of adaptive sports to choose from. For those who use power wheelchairs, consider power soccer. Other sports like wheelchair basketball and wheelchair pickleball can be played recreationally by those with and without disabilities. If you’re still looking for a sport to try, our article series on adaptive sports is a great place to start. You can find the full adaptive sport series in the Accessible Living section of our article library.

Related Articles