Golf can bring people joy, regardless of how good they are at it, and this was underlined at Royal Liverpool.
EDGA is The R&A’s partner in all matters related to G4D (golf for the disabled), and at the Swingzone based in the spectator village during the week of The Open, EDGA staff and volunteers were able to welcome new players (samplers) with a disability to enjoy a high quality first experience in golf.
EDGA’s Head of Instruction and Education Mark Taylor led each session, welcoming the groups from the LimbBo Foundation, the Eastham Day Centre, Wirral MENCAP and Autism Together Wirral.
The sampler golfers had a range of impairments, including physical, sensory and intellectual, and were introduced to EDGA’s ‘first-touch’ format using safe, light, colourful, adapted GolfWay chippers and putters with soft balls, that can be used in non-golf venues, from schools and hospitals to faith and cultural centres.
All four groups were also able to experience the atmosphere of The Open, as they were donated course access tickets courtesy of The R&A: the visits being part of The R&A-led ‘The Road to The Open’ legacy project in Merseyside, the Wirral and Lancashire, which reached out to 40 schools, and local golf clubs and community groups, supported by EDGA, the Golf Foundation, England Golf and The PGA.
Mark Taylor was able to coach 24 individuals with a disability and offer training to 17 support workers/family. In each tailored 90-minute session, focused play, fun games for learning, and more than a little laughter were key features.
“Each of these groups had different needs and starting points, but as we at EDGA coach the professional coaches, volunteers and care-givers in many different countries, we have built up our understanding, which leads to empathy, for each individual within every group,” said Mark.
“Everyone we offer this ‘first-touch’ of golf to is unique and will have a different perspective of what they can do, and want to do, and how they see golf presented to them. What we can do then, of course, is help them to exceed their own expectations and this can provide a wonderful result.”
High quality first experience
For this reason, the quality of the participant experience as they tried golf for the first time was key. The approach is very much games-led, and depending on the group on that day, coach Mark would use humour, encouragement, asking questions and testing knowledge, then challenging the players to beat his shots, putt or chip against each other, or work together in teams. Mark’s ‘coaching the coach’ game was particularly popular, whereby he would deliberately get one aspect of addressing the ball wrong to provoke an often very vocal response.
The group from Autism Together Wirral – supporting people with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) – clearly enjoyed this game and even gently teased Mark as they got him to make changes to hit his shot, before following up with shots of their own and learning the basics.
Feedback from participants
Awards Coordinator Mike Stormes said later: “We had a great time. The session was brilliant and we were really grateful to receive an hour-and-a-half session. We thought that it was easy to follow the instructions and the competition element was great. As a staff team, we thought the standard of teaching you gave them was amazing.”
Groups were able to take advantage of different areas in the Swingzone: a shared putting green, a chipping area with big numbered targets to instill confidence for new players and the Golf Foundation’s GolfWay area for fuller shots and team games. The youngsters from the LimbBo Foundation (children with limb difference) enjoyed playing in each area, being competitive while supporting each other.
“It was an amazing opportunity for the LimbBo children. Every child couldn't stop talking about what a fantastic day they had,” said charity founder Katie Dengel, who was full of praise for the coaching.
An added bonus for all was that UK children’s charity the Golf Foundation, in sharing their space with EDGA, was able to take part in the second half of the LimbBo session and its team will be able to build further on their understanding of working with youngsters with a disability as a result.
EDGA is an association with expertise in G4D, with members from 39 national governing bodies worldwide, and is seeking to spread its highly adaptable start in golf to help people with a disability to thrive through exploring golf. EDGA member England Golf was present in the Swingzone supporting The R&A throughout the week, providing staff and also young volunteers to assist the public as they enjoyed the golfing fun.
Eastham Day Centre (local authority supporting people with physical and intellectual disabilities) had been hoping for an inclusive session and a warm welcome, and they received both at the Swingzone.
Service Coordinator Mike Edmond-Lorne said he liked the way Mark adapted his approach depending on the needs of the people he supports to ensure the session was inclusive for everyone.
Mike added: “It was a nice touch at the end of the session to give everyone their own golf ball as a souvenir, they were all made up with them, showing all their friends. The session was very upbeat, full of energy and motivated the people we support. Lovely photos were taken by Sue [EDGA photographer] who was also very good with all our attendees.”
Voices from the Eastham group participants included John, who said, “I had a marvellous time, it was a brilliant day”; and Stephen said, “It was amazing, I want to do it again. I liked Mark, he was great”.
After Mark’s recent training, the volunteers and staff from these charities can now deliver D3 sampler sessions in their community and EDGA will provide further support and education refreshers in the future.
Creating a legacy around The Open
Mark Taylor said: “Again, we at EDGA were able to demonstrate the flexibility of our outreach support resources. It was fantastic to see so many individuals who never thought golf was an option for them, engaging and having a fabulous time. Everybody really enjoyed the sessions, with many sampling golf for the first time. With the simplicity of our D3 model we are confident that all of the attending organisations will be able to continue with localised opportunities, and develop the participants into more frequent golfers at club level in and around the Wirral, demonstrating a significant and valuable impact on The Road to The Open legacy.”
The group from Wirral MENCAP (supporting people with learning disabilities), clearly relished their adventure of a unique, long day at the golf. In the Swingzone, the group may have been made-up of different ages of participant but once again the focus on a new sport was continuous for the 90-minute session which explored the full range of shots. The chipping challenge through the round targets was very popular and a number of the participants were very accurate, much to coach Mark’s delight.
Support worker Ben Duggan asked for feedback from his group and reported, “It was so much fun and really interesting. The group said that they would like to try golf more often. This has made me realise that to teach golf you don't need to have expensive equipment, just the right ideas, and it can be a whole lot of fun for the people we support. Most of all, it just made me happy to see the people we support here at Wirral MENCAP getting the same opportunities, to be part of The Open, and to say to their friends they have played golf at the venue for The Open. That is pretty special.”
Article by Ben Evans, email@example.com, August 2023
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