PGA Professionals have played a key role in helping the Golf Union of Wales (GUW) become one of the first sports governing bodies in Wales to earn an InSport Silver Award for their work in making the sport more inclusive for disabled people.
Numbers of club members with a disability have doubled this year with 22 hubs round Wales now working with around a third more people with disabilities.
John Morgan, executive director of Disability Sport Wales, which made the award to GUW, said: “There is some really innovative work being done with disabled golfers and to support disabled people into coaching and other roles, and it's clear golf is putting inclusion at the heart of the sport.”
The award has been welcomed by Welsh club pros involved in the scheme including Parc’s Joe Vickery who rated his inclusive sessions as one of his favourites of the week.
"After taking part in the inclusive golf coaching courses, it has given me great confidence in coaching people with disabilities. I have a much better understanding how different disabilities influence the way people learn.
“For example one of the gentleman I teach with autism needs really structured coaching sessions with six or seven different tasks to keep his mind occupied otherwise I will lose his attention to other things.
“Another gentleman must have the balls lined up in 5’s on the golf range to get his mind settled to hit the next shot.
“The sessions are all structured and enable the players to work together, show respect, work on their counting skills and everyone encourages each other no matter what the result of the shot is!
“The Inclusive Golf Level 2 course really hammered home that we must treat everyone with a disability the same as someone without a disability and not exclude them in any way.”
Rhyl Golf Club PGA Professional Anthony Middleton added: “The experience of coaching people with disabilities has brought a tremendous amount of satisfaction to my coaching.
“By showing them basic golf fundamentals, watching their ability to hit the ball improve, watching them laughing and having fun gives myself a good sense of job satisfaction and pride.”
Middleton attended his first Inclusive Golf Coaching Workshop in February 2013 to reach out to a wider range of people regardless of physical and mental disability.
In 2015 he delivered golf to the Hafal Community Day - Hafal is a leading charity for adults to help them recover from serious mental health issues while in April of that year ran a Special Education Needs Golf Festival.
The inclusivity drive in Wales has been welcomed by course tutor and PGA Fellow Professional Craig Thomas, head professional at Oxley Park and lead coach at the ISPS HANDA Academy.
“The workshop feels at home in Wales as it was initially launched at Celtic Manor Resort in conjunction with the ISPS HANDA Wales Open,” said Thomas.
“Since then Golf Development Wales and Golf Union of Wales have embraced the opportunity to host a number of the Inclusive Golf Coaching 1 workshops.
“The PGA recently launched its Inclusive Golf Coaching 2 Workshop and with no surprise Wales was one of the first to have a course booked.
“Wales have made some fantastic developments around disabled golf and how it is included and accepted in the golf club environment and the up-skilling of the PGA Professionals has helped introduce more disabled people to golf.”
Golf Union of Wales’s development director Hannah McAllister said, “Inclusion is not just something that should happen, it needs to happen for the survival of our sport. Naturally the aim is to become the first sports governing body in Wales to earn the Gold Award and to show golf can be fully inclusive as a sport.
“The role played by our PGA club professionals in this process is absolutely key to what we can achieve.”
The first equality golf audit in Wales showed only eight per cent of club members with a disability, while this year's audit showed 16 per cent. The numbers in disability hubs around Wales have gone up from 306 in 2014 to 411 in 2015. These are facilities with specific inclusive equipment, an inclusive trained PGA professional who provides inclusive, pan disability, or impairment specific coaching.
One example is the New2Golf beginner scheme for blind or visually impaired people run by PGA Professional Nicola Stroud at Pennard.
The club ran taster sessions, adapted the rules to introduce people to the sport, including guide dogs, equipment and guides. The success of the scheme was shown by around half the participants in the taster sessions joining Pennard, while the other half joined other clubs.
There are just short of 50 club professionals throughout Wales who have achieved Disability Inclusive Training Level 1.
Dan Farmer, GUW’s club services & coach education manager, added: “It is fantastic to see our approach to inclusivity supported so closely by our network of PGA Professionals in Wales. “