A key ambition is to further enhance the current classification of players with different impairments into ‘sports classes’ that will ultimately help the golf industry to understand and attract more of the 15% of people worldwide who have a disability.
EDGA believes that it will not only be the players who benefit from the research findings, as tournament organisers, national governing bodies, PGA coaches, professionals working in sports medicine, and equipment manufacturers will also find the results of this study valuable in helping support the growing market of G4D (golf for the disabled).
The research began during back-to-back EDGA Tour events at the Amendoeira Golf Resort in Portugal in January. The EDGA development and eligibility team used a Trackman launch monitor to record an initial 1,100 golf shots from 25 EDGA golfers with a range of impairments, including paraplegia, limb amputation, limited mobility and neurological weakness. Metrics included capturing ‘smash factor’, spin rate and clubhead speed.
The plan is to analyse at least 200 golfers over the next year, including players with visual impairments. Research will continue at key EDGA Tour events in Scotland, Ireland and England, including at the inaugural The G4D Open, staged by The R&A with support from the DP World Tour, at Woburn in May. Video will also be used as the project grows, and it is hoped this initiative will continue far beyond the initial 200 players.
EDGA has extensive knowledge accrued over 22 years in the classification of golfers with a disability and their eligibility for different forms of competition. The not-for-profit organisation created many of the medical protocols used in player assessment worldwide, set up the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (now run by The R&A and the USGA), and stages, or is associated with, more than 100 international G4D tournaments in a calendar year.
Professor Eric Wallace from Ulster University helped develop the protocols of the new research, and gave ethics approval. The first results are expected to be published in 2023.
Leading the project, Dr Roger Hawkes, EDGA Executive Director of Eligibility, said: “To examine in detail the swing characteristics of a large cohort of players with a disability should give the golf industry far better understanding of how different impairments influence a golf swing, thus unlocking a door to the needs of more golfers.
“This research will help golf’s governing bodies in the important areas of classification, and sports classes, around different player impairments for events. Meanwhile, we can all help to include more new players with a disability to start in golf. This project can help more people with different health conditions to enjoy all the great things that the sport offers.”
PGA coach Mark Taylor, Head of Development for EDGA, led the first player session at Amendoeira. Mark said: “The ball flight and impact data collected from the cohort of players with various impairments will form a starting point for the ongoing research. Analysis of the data, specifically impact data and subsequent ball flight patterns, will help collate – as the research progresses and the cohort of players analysed increases – valuable information in categorising the sports classes.”
Evidence based research
Mark added: “The recognition of impact commonalities across the various impairments will also hugely assist in providing evidence based research to support our coach education programmes, subsequently better positioning coaches to provide improved coaching to golfers with limitations.”
Mark Taylor wanted to give special thanks to The R&A, and leading audit, tax and consulting firm RSM UK, for their continued support in EDGA’s research, and also to Srixon for providing golf balls throughout this intensive testing programme. All are strong supporters of EDGA as it seeks to change the lives of people with disability through the power of golf. The objective is to help 500,000 people with disability to try the game.
William Wynter Bee is a Sports and Exercise Medicine doctor based at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH) at University College London Hospitals (UCLH), and is the Medical Lead for the Legends Tour. Will is helping EDGA for the year to maximise the health benefits for the golfers taking part in the research.
Will said: “The opening of this research has already put us together with some competitive and talented golfers who love the game. Looking ahead, through the data and also the insights of 200 or more golfers, this will provide some fantastic learning for us. We hope we can support the players by way of strong findings from a health perspective, including advancing the cause of fitness and avoiding injury. It will be great if this leads to the golf industry being able to welcome more people with chronic health conditions to play, where regular exercise can make a major difference in their lives.”
The Ukraine Golf Federation is working with EDGA in a new project to introduce people with a disability, including specifically those affected by the ongoing war, to the rehabilitation and health benefits provided by golf.
Doctors, physiotherapists and PGA coaches from Ukraine are being trained by EDGA, with funding from The R&A, to offer golf to the nation’s citizens who have a medical impairment/condition. It is called the ‘FREEPEOPLE EDEM Project’, named after the Edem Resort Medical and Spa in Lviv.