Are You an Includer?

Recently, a YouTube video came across my LinkedIn feed of a keynote speech being delivered at the July 2022 Show Up for Teachers Conference in Utah by Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics since 1996. Due to generous support from the USGA and the range of golf industry supporters, we have been fortunate to support several Special Olympics grassroots programs and national events in 2022.

Mr. Shriver was delivering the keynote to educators as part of Utah First Lady Abby Fox’s “Show Up” initiative.  As First Lady Fox relays on showuputah.org. “Show Up is a rallying cry. Through this initiative, we encourage Utahns everywhere to reach out wherever they are and however they can to lift others, serve, show support and be willing to learn about and appreciate different points of view. We Show Up with empathy and understanding instead of prejudice and animosity. We Show Up with open hearts and willing minds.”

You may view the video HERE.

Show Up focuses on four key areas including, mental wellness and life skills, partnering with local foster care organizations, expansion of the Special Olympics Unified Sports program, and partnering with local businesses, organizations, and communities to do service throughout the state.

Here are the cliff notes and I encourage you to watch the video.

Mr. Shriver emphasizes and expands upon what First Lady Fox suggested is “THE question” to ask yourself when you walk into a room of students, or into the gym, lunchroom, or a birthday party. Let’s take that a step further to the golf course, the driving range, at a club event, or at a golf tournament.

The question?

Who’s missing?

If that is a question you ask when walking around your golf course, then you have what Mr. Shriver refers to as an “inclusive mindset” and you are very likely above the curve in that area compared to your peers. Keep on keeping on!

I can honestly say during my time operating golf courses, I failed at this more than I succeeded. I might not have known I was failing at the time, but I know now, and it is never too late to start. It is definitely never too early to start!

Sure, I did some positive things operationally, ran some solid junior programs back in the day, have done and still do some teaching with golfers with disabilities. But, did I ever make a more dedicated and broader effort to seek and develop an inclusive environment at clubs where I wielded a modest level of influence? Did I do as well as I could as a property leader to set an example that an inclusive environment and culture can build and thrive upon? I don’t need my reading glasses to look back and think, I could have done better.

So, here is my challenge to you.

Look forward while you have the chance to influence.

Creating access is all about the “physical.” Can an individual with a disability get from point A to B, to C or to D and beyond with ease and without hindrance; in the buildings and on the golf course.

Creating inclusive environments is “social.” Do you provide a welcoming environment? Do you seek to “invite” individuals with disabilities to participate?

I think my days of working at a golf course on a daily basis may be behind me, but the Alliance and the amazing organizations around the country delivering programs for golfers with disabilities are here and ready to help you and your facility create and develop “includers.”

As Mr. Shriver has said in the past, “Choose to Include.”

Quite bluntly, is there really another option to consider?

Dave Barton, PGA – Executive Director

Pinehurst Was Poppin’!

I’ve been to Pinehurst a few times and never have I headed home disappointed … especially this time.
In past experiences, I have gone to play golf. This time, I went to watch golf; more specifically, the inaugural USGA U.S. Adaptive Open. This, however, does not mean I did not sneak into town a day or so early to remind myself how badly I need to practice. I was swiftly reminded.

For those of you who occasionally catch my ramblings, I am approaching six months with the National Alliance for Accessible Golf. In Navy terms, we’d be on our way home after a deployment, likely approaching Hawaii from the west, thinking about seeing our families again, thinking about what we had accomplished from a mission standpoint and, quite honestly, looking for some serious R&R. This has been a different kind of six months and the last thing I am seeking right now is R&R! Let’s go!


Notwithstanding the small, yet efficient firehose (aka an influential board comprised of representatives from the leading associations in golf) pointed at me to ramp me up and kick me out of the nest, I have been amazed at the sheer volume, passion, and sincerity of effort surrounding access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities in the game of golf.


Golfers with disabilities, better known as “golfers” …


Industry associations that have the ability to lead and truly create positive change …


Manufacturers whose creativity and ability to deliver solutions that allow individuals with a range of disabilities to swing a golf club and maneuver around the course is simply inspiring …


And now, a National Championship that, in a 3-day competitive experience with a significant level of media coverage, seems to have opened a lot more eyes and interest beyond those who have been putting in the work for many years and helped make this event not only possible, but highly successful. So, what’s next?


Well, there is going to be another U.S. Adaptive Open championship in 2023 in Pinehurst, that’s for sure. I’m making reservations now! There’s going to be serious multi-organizational involvement with the USGA to create a qualification process as the Adaptive Open evolves and golf is potentially on the horizon for the Paralympics. These are big things.


Now, what about the smaller things that have led to this – the grassroots programs. As is the case with any sport, adaptive or not, there are those who aspire to compete at a high level, and there are those who want to play for other reasons.


Regardless of whether golfers go down the path of competition, most golfers find their first experiences near their homes, at a club, in a park, as part of therapy, or more.

As all in the world of golf rightfully applaud, the downstream energy, exposure and momentum generated by the USGA U.S. Adaptive Open, let us work with renewed vigor on expanding and developing programs around the country with dedicated golf professionals, local and regional support, therapeutic organizations and others who wake up every morning committed to making a difference.

Dave Barton, PGA with Alliance Advisory Board Member Gianna Rojas and Board Member, Dana Dempsey


A certain byproduct of inclusive golf programming is golfers who will aspire to play at highly competitive levels and that is fantastic! However, the biggest winners will always be the individuals who thought they themselves could not play golf at all, or families who thought it was impossible for their spouses, sons, or daughters to play.


The larger the body of water, the more and bigger the fish and that results in competitors.


I like competition, and I can’t wait to see it grow even more in this space, but I’d also think in terms of, “What can we do next to stock the ocean with more fish?”

Dave Barton, PGA – Executive Director

On a Path to Better Access

The rains in Charleston have been a steady, very steady reminder of how much I like being on the grass with my feet during a round of golf versus being in a golf cart going from point A to point B. The realities of golf are that sometimes, whether maintenance or weather related, golf courses must minimize access to the course from all who would like to venture out “off the paths”. Having managed properties, I get it. Golf courses absolutely have the right to protect their product. This is not in dispute.

For some however, even on the best of days in the best of weather, access to an enjoyable round of golf is challenged by “cart path only” because of the range of physical or intellectual disabilities an individual may possess. Additionally, at many locations around the country, these challenges or restrictions also continue to exist in the clubhouse, on-course facilities, or other buildings that support activities around the club because of design, not rain or maintenance. Why?

Take the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), now in its 32nd year of existence. As with most legislation, it can often seem cumbersome, and difficult to understand, better yet apply. Along with the financial requirements to update existing facilities, or plan appropriately for new construction, operators often struggle with “what am I required to do” versus “what should I consider doing.” This is but one example of where the Alliance can step in and advise and guide.

With our launch of Golf Inclusion Monthly on July 15th, the National Alliance presents another means by which we look forward to communicating with and helping educate owners, operators, golfers and industry influencers; all of whom can contribute to our mission of access and inclusion to golf for people with disabilities.

Whether sharing information and education related to the ADA, or helping programs get started on a road to sustainability through grants, the National Alliance serves as a resource to help lead the game of golf on a path to better access and has done so since 2001, distributing over $1m in grants since 2010 with generous support from the USGA and other golf industry and therapeutic associations and organizations.

In Golf Inclusion Monthly, we’ll share information on resources, programs of interest, stories of success and more as we seek to increase participation of golfers who, in many cases, may not have a personal choice or option to walk or ride on any given day, or have disabilities that require a different type of customer service than a staff may be trained to provide.

So many facilities around the country do a tremendous job of providing a welcoming environment, yet there are plenty who would benefit from taking a few initial steps towards providing a more accessible and inclusive culture.

All we ask is that you give us the opportunity to help you on your own paths to access at your facility.

It’s what we do.

Dave Barton, PGA – Executive Director

I’m a Lucky Person

Please pardon the intro bio, albeit brief, to tee up my point. After a 22-year career in the Navy as a Naval Aviator – Helicopter Pilot and a Search and Rescue Swimmer for a few years on the front end (which, by the way, was the last time I was likely in really, really good shape…lots of running and swimming), I sought out the golf profession. There was a thought process there, but that’s the boring part of the story.

I was extremely fortunate for the majority of my post Navy career to have worked for Steve Clark, PGA and Pat McGuire with Raspberry Golf Management up in the Northern VA area, where I was exposed to all aspects of the golf operations and management business up until 2018. A highlight of that time was the opportunity to instruct Wounded Warriors under Jim Estes, PGA who along with Jamie Winslow, helped found the SMGA – the Salute Military Golf Association, a national nonprofit providing rehabilitative golf instruction and experiences for veterans and their families.

From early 2018 through 2021, Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association provided an opportunity for me in a range of areas including Sr. Director of Membership & Education and Editor, Golf Business Magazine and Golf Business Weekly. To say the least, these were challenging times for everyone on the planet with the pandemic. Let’s hope 2020 to the present day remains a predominantly historic conversation related to COVID’s previous global effect.

I was very much an “association novice”, and to a certain extent, I still am and I am still learning but, thankfully, Jay and his entire staff were always helpful and working towards clear goals to support the organization’s mission and the Members of the NGCOA they serve. Lots of great friends and memories remain from that experience, as does plenty of appreciation for the contributions others made towards the areas I was focused on.

OK. Bio over. I am a lucky person. Maybe “fortunate” is a better word. Regardless, the aforementioned journey has landed me somewhere I would have not predicted when transitioning from the Navy in 2005. As the Executive Director of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, I now get to contribute directly to our Alliance mission of increasing the participation of individuals with disabilities in the game of golf.

Admittedly, I kind of already believed that this work would be extremely gratifying before I was offered, or accepted the position, but it’s always nice to see positive outcomes of even modest efforts to help others when we can.

Recently, the National Alliance was able to participate with the World Golf Foundation (WGF) and numerous other associations and organizations by helping them communicate to our audience about the Phase III Grassroots Grants they were offering under the Make Golf Your Thing (MGYT) banner. $750,000 was up for grabs and programs around the country are now receiving news from the WGF that they were approved for grants.

Additionally, and during the recent PGA Championship, the WGF and American Golf Industry Coalition (AGIC – formerly We Are Golf), launched their National MGYT program directory. During the run up to launch the directory, the WGF was highly receptive of our inquiries and input regarding programs for individuals with disabilities and how the MGYT Directory could, and will, help individuals find programs that serve individuals with the range of impairments and/or disabilities as well as all types of other golf programs around the country. This effort epitomizes “inclusion”. For the opportunity to participate, we are very appreciative.

A few days ago I received a notification from a program who had reached out to us in late March for a small bit of guidance on these efforts relaying they had received a MGYT grant! Without getting into the who or how much, needless to say, the grant will be put to great use by this program as I can see the passion in what they have begun and what they have already accomplished.

What was our role in this? Why do I feel lucky? We simply helped communicate what was going on, how and where to apply, and the application deadline. No big deal, right?

Well, when I received a very cool text from the program leader who exemplifies leadership and service that they had received a very nice grant, my first thought and response was “That’s fantastic”! My next thoughts were simply satisfaction, joy and feeling very fortunate to have had the opportunity to simply communicate to someone about something that can truly help them and then seeing that come to fruition.

In our simplest form, the Alliance is here to serve as an educational resource in a range of areas, providing grants ourselves, or simply communicating, and then communicating again to those we have already helped, or those we could in the future, that there are numerous resources out there to help programs get started and move towards self-sustainability.

So “yes”, I feel pretty lucky that I and the Alliance can be even a small part of this overall effort. Can we use your help? You betcha!

Is the U.S. Adaptive Open a Major?

When it comes to an action packed golf week, this week may set a new standard of positive activity.  

The PGA Championship is in full swing at Southern Hills in Tulsa, OK, the field is set for the first U.S. Adaptive Open to be held at Pinehurst #6, July 18-20, 2022, and the Make Golf Your Thing Directory has officially launched.

Wow!  How can you not love golf!  If the U.S. Adaptive Open is not a Major in the world of golfers with disabilities, please feel free to let me know what the standard is!  What a great event it is going to be and hats off to the USGA for creating this event.  96 players from around the world ranging in age from 15-80 will compete across eight impairment categories:

  • Arm Impairment
  • Intellectual Impairment
  • Leg Impairment
  • Multiple Limb Amputee
  • Neurological Impairment
  • Seated Players
  • Short Stature
  • Vision Impairment 

Take a look at the field here HERE. It’s likely you will recognize some names but even better are some of the stories…and there are so many more beyond those that have qualified for the U.S. Adaptive Open. All around the country on a daily basis golf professionals, therapists, volunteers and more dedicate themselves to supporting access and inclusion for golfers with disabilities. The National Alliance prides itself on serving as a resource across a range of areas in this space, including the ADA – Americans With Disabilities Act, course and facility design, assistive devices to help golfers play, and coaching individuals with disabilities.  We’re easy to find at www.accessgolf.org and it makes our day if we can help in any way.

Also this week, the much anticipated Make Golf Your Thing Directory has launched at www.makegolfyourthing.org. Simply put in a zip code to search an area and you can refine your search from there for specific program types.  Having just launched, many programs are still completing their registration, but if you have a program that is helping golfers play the game, I’d recommend you get on board with Make Golf Your Thing and get registered.  Whomever your program is for, veteran or not, young or old, disabled or not, let’s make it easy for anyone looking to learn to play the game.

The National Alliance for Accessible Golf has been fortunate and appreciative to have been included with the WGF and AGIC Make Golf Your Thing Directory outreach effort and well, “inclusion” is what we are all about.  I can’t wait to see how the Directory can help grow the game for golfers of all abilities.  

“Go Tiger? Jon? Jordan? Justin?” Sure.

But, how about, “Go, Amy, Dennis, Chad, and all of the other competitors at the U.S. Adaptive Open.” I can’t wait to see it.  

Let’s Influence Beyond Inclusion

As I publish this note for April 2022, program registration has opened for the much anticipated Make Golf Your Thing Directory HERE and MGYT is also receiving grant applications as we speak. Click HERE to apply for a grant, but ensure you review the Eligibility and Guidelines.  The clock is ticking for grassroots programs to apply for Phase III funding to be distributed in the early summer.  

Please note, per MGYT, “The American Development Model is a movement in sport to increase participation by delivering the right experience at the right stage of one’s sport journey. With the right experience, retention in our sport is more likely and our sport grows…If you would like to be included or have your program included in the ADM program directory – as a first step – a coach or candidate program must showcase a commitment to operating programs and services in alignment with the Principles of ADM.

The World Golf Foundation and American Golf Industry Coalition (formerly We Are Golf) have created a registration process that will require programs to be very clear in their program description with “keywords” that will facilitate better search engine results when individuals are seeking programs of interest.

The National Alliance for Accessible Golf recommends all programs offering inclusive opportunities for individuals to learn and participate in golf to register and use the following descriptors for your specific program.  

First, we recommend you use the words “disability and/or disabilities” in program descriptions and additionally use “impairment” as an added qualifier as applicable. 

Second, we suggest that you specifically describe/categorize your program with one, two, or all of the following (verbatim) as this will help lend to ease of search for individuals with disabilities and better identification of the types of programs that are available.  

  1. Physical Disability and/or Mobility Impairment, 
  2. Developmental/Cognitive Disability and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder, and 
  3. Vision and/or Hearing Impairment  

The MGYT Directory is a truly inclusive effort and the opportunity to register programs serving new and existing golfers with disabilities is definitely something those of you offering these types of programs should do! Given that approximately 14 million individuals with disabilities are interested in golf, 6 million report they had played in the past but no longer do, and more than 600,000 golfers with disabilities are currently engaged in golf (Source: NGF, 2018), it is safe to say the disabled golf community is positioned to influence the game of golf, not just be included.  

That begins with telling everyone where you are and who you serve.

Dave Barton, PGA – Executive Director

From the Executive Director – Spring is Here!

As the winds from the Player’s Championship die down, and the azaleas are about to be popping in Augusta, spring brings the new golf season upon us (for those that endure winter), and ushers in new opportunities to increase participation in the game of golf, aka “grow the game”. So what’s hot?

The Alliance has been working with the American Golf Industry Coalition (AGIC), a division of the World Golf Foundation (WGF), to ensure programs that offer inclusive golf opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and the golfers who can benefit from these programs are part of the national Make Golf Your Thing (MGYT) initiative. As the MGYT website states, “Make Golf Your Thing is a collaborative effort across the golf industry to ensure the future of golf is open to everyone. This multi-faceted, multi-year campaign will work to invite more people to the sport from all backgrounds to enjoy the game of a lifetime – their way.” The WGF and AGIC have simply been incredible with the Alliance in recognizing and understanding the contributions of the segment of programs and golfers we serve. Thank you.

In the very near future, MGYT will launch a comprehensive directory of player development programs, playing opportunities and coaches to enable individuals to access opportunities most aligned with their location, skill level, disability, age and gender.  The directory will be launched through the MGYT website and the Alliance strongly encourages disability inclusive programs and coaches to register as soon as the opportunity presents itself. 

Additionally, as the MGYT March Newsletter reports, they are launching Phase III of their Grassroots Grants Program and will award $750,000 in grants “.. to support groups dedicated to increasing participation among underrepresented populations in the sport.” The Alliance recommends you review program eligibility requirements from the MGYT newsletter and consider applying should your program meet the established criteria, as the application process will begin around April 1, 2022.

As to “big events” coming up, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will be held in Orlando, FL, June 5-12, 2022 with golf being played at the Orange County National Golf Center. The USGA will be conducting their inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open Championship July 18-20 at Pinehurst, NC, #6.

As I close my first note on behalf of the Alliance, a thank you to former Executive Director, Steve Jubb, PGA/LM. His efforts over the past seven years to position the Alliance as the industry leader in the inclusion of golfers with disabilities in the game of golf are beyond noteworthy, recently being recognized as the 2022 Champion Award recipient by the National Golf Course Owners Association. Steve, congratulations on a great run with the Alliance and a personal thanks for bringing me up to speed so that I may continue the initiatives you have established to advance our mission and contributions to the game.

It takes a village … and golf has a lot of villages doing some amazing things these days.

Dave Barton, PGA – Executive Director

From the Executive Director: A Fond Farewell

Hello again from the National Alliance. With 2021 over, it has been a challenging but still a wonderful year in our efforts to advance inclusion of individuals with disabilities through the game of golf. While the National Alliance does not conduct grassroots programs, we do support those efforts through the resources we provide such as education opportunities to ensure the game of golf is truly inclusive and at the same time accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Throughout the year, we have worked with more than one hundred golf facilities helping them become more accessible through an understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how to make their facilities welcoming to individuals with disabilities. The resources we have provided included our industry-based toolkit for facilities, education presentations at various industry events including the Golf Industry Show, and providing technical knowledge about ADA and what is required to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Since 2001 when the National Alliance was formed, we have continued to strive to be a leader in providing resources and being a clearinghouse for not only the golf industry but for individuals as well.

In addition, our Research Taskforce is continuing to work on collecting data and statistics about those with disabilities who are actively engaged in golf with a comparative against the total population of individuals with disabilities in the United States which stands at 61 million. For those who may not be aware, that population has a discretionary income (over and above the necessities of life) exceeding $21 billion. As we have said before, these are individuals who not only are potential golfers, but they are also potential customers.

As we move into 2022, we are looking forward to restarting our annual Inclusion Conference during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando on January 26. We will be offering a series of four, one-hour sessions on various topics and a networking opportunity. Registration details will be forthcoming on www.accessgolf.org.

As I close out this blog and 2021, I want to thank the National Alliance for Accessible Golf for allowing me to serve as their Executive Director for the last seven years. Not only has it been rewarding personally and professionally, more importantly, I hope that I have made a difference in ensuring that individuals with disabilities can not only enjoy the game of golf but also life. So, with that, I bid you all farewell, but I am sure our paths will cross at some point. As we all go forth, remember the words of Tim Shriver of Special Olympics International – “Choose to Include.”

Steve Jubb, PGA/LM – Executive Director

National Alliance Seeks New Executive Director

The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is seeking its next Executive Director to lead the organization and advance its mission to ensure the opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to play the game of golf.

Steve Jubb, PGA/LM, has been a valuable asset serving in this role and his passion and professionalism has carried this important group through challenging times. We are thankful for the countless hours he has given to the work of the National Alliance and recognize and appreciate the effort he has given over the past six years. We wish him all the best in retirement!

Access the complete position description and listing below or via Indeed:

Executive Director Position Description

This is a full-time, salaried, and remote work position. Applications for this position are due by January 15, 2022.

All applications should be directed through Indeed.

From the Executive Director: What Does Disability Look Like?

2021 is almost over – just another month to go. The last couple of years have been challenging for us all especially those with disabilities. But we are looking forward to 2022 as we strive to ensure that the game of golf and life is truly inclusive. But to do so, we need to be welcoming as a sport and industry. Not all disabilities are visible.

Language is also extremely important. How many times have you heard people refer to an individual with a disability as “a handicapped person”? Or used the “R” word to describe an individual with intellectual disability? Or refer to someone as a “dwarf or midget”? These are some of the descriptions we need to change. A disability description is just a medical diagnosis. In communications with people, we need to focus on the individual first. Use phrases such as a “Person with a disability,” a “Person with intellectual disability,” or a “Person short in stature.”  Always put the Person first in your communication. A Person with a disability is a Person just like those without disability. They just happen to have a medical diagnosis. Better yet just refer to them as a Person!! 

A great resource from the CDC concerning People First Language is:

Communicating With and About People with Disabilities | CDC

There are more than 61 million individuals with disabilities in the United States, and they are a potential market for the golf industry. Disability crosses all segments of society. Yes, not all will gravitate to golf, but keep in mind that this population has over $21 billion in discretionary income (that is over and above the essentials of life such as mortgages, rent, food and health care). They are consumers, many of whom are looking for recreational activities. Make your golf courses, community golf programs and instruction programs accessible, inclusive, and most importantly, welcoming them to the game of golf and life.

Since 2001, we have promoted, advocated, and provided education/training programs and resources to individuals with disabilities and the golf industry to ensure inclusion. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, and as we look forward to the next 20 years and beyond, we need your support.

With 2021 ending soon, we ask that you consider a donation to the National Alliance for Accessible Golf. It is easy to make a year-end donation to the National Alliance. Go to www.accessgolf.org/donate. Thank you in advance for considering the National Alliance for Accessible Golf in your year-end giving.

Finally, may you all have a safe and happy holiday season.

Steve Jubb, PGA/LM – Executive Director