Golf Course Accessibility- Who Needs It?

Most of us in the golf business need our golf facilities to be accessible and inclusionary.

The golf standards apply to public and privately owned courses open to play by the general public and include driving ranges and short courses as well as courses of “regulation” length.

Standards created in 1991 defined the civil right of people with disabilities to have access to goods, services and/or employment equal to that of the rest of the general public.  In September 2010, the ADA Standards were up-dated from those issued in 1991 and are known as the “Department of Justice (DOJ) 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.”  The guidelines apply to newly designed, or newly constructed and renovated golf courses, driving ranges, practice teeing grounds and practice putting greens.  The guidelines are not meant to be burdensome, but to ensure that the “readily achievable” modifications are designed and constructed.

Many golf courses are already accessible because they have accessible routes to the golf car and bag drop areas, practice putting greens and teeing grounds as well as course restroom and weather shelters via golf car paths that are at least 48 inches wide. Defined paths are not necessary, only the “pathway where a motorized golf car can operate.”  The golf car, two-person or single-rider, must be able to negotiate the slopes.  At multiple course facilities, all courses must be accessible not just one.  Access to concessions, ball washers, and trash receptacles are also required.

The less familiar part of the accessibility standards for golf courses are the details.  The standards do not dictate the contours of greens, or access to bunkers or natural areas on the course.  Because bunkers are hazards and golfers are not meant to hit into them, no access is required.  However, if there is a practice bunker, it must allow a way in and a way out for a two-person or single-rider golf car so that the golfer can practice hitting out of sand

At practice teeing grounds, at least 5% of the teeing stations, but not less than one, is required to be designed and constructed so that a golf car can enter and exit the teeing ground.  This means enough room for the golfer to enter and exit the golf car and to maneuver within the teeing station(s).   On the golf course, where three or more teeing grounds are provided for general play, at least two of them must be accessible by golf car, including the forward tee. In short, the golfer can drive on to, hit, and drive off the tee.  The second accessible tee is at the discretion of the facility.    Existing golf courses are not required to provide golf car passage “where terrain makes such passage infeasible.”

Practice putting greens and greens on the golf course shall are required to be designed and constructed so that a golf car can enter and exit the putting green. If there are curbs or other constructed barriers that prevent golf cars from entering a fairway, openings sixty (60”) inches wide are required at intervals not to exceed 75 yards.

For details, see:



Policy and programming are part of compliance with the “Department of Justice (DOJ) 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.”

Single rider golf cars have been designed to spread the weight of the unit (plus player and clubs) to minimize compaction of the putting surface.  They are designed to be driven onto greens and not interfere with the putting line of fellow competitors or those playing afterward.

Common sense and reasonable criteria should be used for managing access when safety or potential damage to turf or equipment may occur, such as on days when there is a “Paths Only” Rule.


The Department of Justice Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (DOJ ANPRM) released July 26, 2010 asks how many, not whether, single rider golf cars  (SRGC) must be at each golf facility.   Currently, there is no standard for a Single Rider Golf Car (SRGC).   An American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committee will develop safety standards for SRGCs.

Currently there are no requirements for the number of SRGCs per facility or if a “pooling and sharing” program can be instituted.  It has been suggested that facilities get a single rider golf car and promote its availability to single players or to have staff or rangers use it.

For details, visit the ADA Homepage at

                      Written by Jan Beljan of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Women in the Golf Industry  association

About National Alliance for Accessible Golf
The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a coalition of recreational, therapeutic, and golf organizations committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities through the game of golf.

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