Inclusion in Action: Create an Accessible Golf Program Using Community Networks Associated With Special Populations

Special to the Alliance, Donna H. White, LPGA/ PGA

2016 winter session 2

Donna with two participants (Bob and Dave) at the winter progressive clinic session.

As a concessionaire for three municipal facilities in Palm Beach County, Florida for over 20 years, making golf accessible to all populations is a focal point of my company and career.   We host Special Olympics Golf for the intellectually challenged, the HOPE Patriot program for our veterans and “Progressive Clinics” for persons with a physical challenge. Instructors from our staff also participate in our local PGA section’s partnership with a local Children’s Hospital introducing golf to in-patient kids, a distraction away from their pain and suffering. These programs are examples how the game of golf can be used to connect to those many might consider uninterested in the sport. Participation not only enriches the lives of the students, but their families, friends, and instructors. The intent of this blog is to give you some steps how to start a program targeting golfers who may require special accommodations or needs. I will use our “Progressive Clinics for the Physically Challenged” as an example.

The most essential denominator in developing any program directed for persons with an intellectual or physical challenge is building a relationship with a third or fourth party within your community already associated with these populations. Our “Progressive Clinics” for the physically challenged are 4- week programs conducted two times a year. They consist of student-centered, one-hour sessions introducing the golfer to swing fundamentals, the golf course, and conclude with an application of skills in a competitive 4 – 5 person scramble event. The program is promoted through our local Parks and Recreation Therapeutic Department with support from a local hospital or stand-alone physical therapy center. Steps to success include:

Step 1: Contact the therapeutic recreation department (TR) within your parks system.  Parks and Recreation departments are always looking for ways to provide and enhance opportunities for persons with special needs within their community.  For me, this was a relationship I had developed even before becoming a concessionaire with the County, as a result of my work with Special Olympics.

Step 2:  When developing programs like this, always remember you are the golf professional or the volunteer coach, not a recreation or physical therapist; therefore, develop relationships with a local physical therapy (PT) group or hospital. For our program, I was able network with a Director of Physical Therapy at one of our local hospitals whose sister was an LPGA member…homerun!

Step 3:  Educate yourself in adaptive sport training. You will find teaching persons requiring any accommodation is really no different than teaching a capable student.  Effective teaching requires an individual approach, creativity, adaptation, realistic goal setting, and patience; however, these settings may require a bit more time and repetition for the student to learn. Sound familiar? You do all these things on the lesson tee each and every day regardless of the student or skill level.

Step 4: Curriculum:  no panic! Use the same progressive education curriculum you might have developed for your new golfer or junior program.  If you haven’t created your own program, research curriculums or certified instructors familiar with Get Golf Ready, First Swing, First Tee, or US Kids programs. Another great resource for education and curriculum development is

Step 5: Once you have established relations with those third and fourth party therapists, consult and include them in the curriculum adaptation and instruction. For example, during our Progressive clinics we have a representative from the Therapeutic Recreation Department on hand to assist, as well as a physical therapist from the hospital or another PT agency. Having their professional expertise not only adds credibility to the program buts enables you to stay focused on the golf instruction goals. As team, you work to adapt the golf instruction on an individual basis.

Step 6: Seek, recruit, and train volunteers or interns. Take advantage of the Parks and Recreation volunteer/intern database. Determine how you might work with the volunteer/intern coordinators to recruit volunteers/interns. Train them, and use them!

Step 7: Pricing:  Programs like this can be profitable; however, costs depend on the mission of the club or facility you work. My situation is unique. I am a contracted vendor for Palm Beach County and contractually obligated to provide such programs. It is a team effort. I volunteer my time to teach and the TR Department  promotes, handles the registration, recruitment of PT’s and interns, provides instruction support, charging a nominal  student  fee to cover a goodie bag and rules books. Range balls and any on-course fees are complimentary as well. Not only do these types of programs build a stronger alliance with the County and community, but supports our mission to provide instructional and competitive opportunities for persons of all ages and ability.

To offset costs and make your programs more profitable, seek grants and sponsorships.  Palm Beach County did use grant dollars to purchase adaptive golf cars for three of their facilities. These golf cars are not only available for our programs, but for the public to rent when playing on their own. Currently, the National Alliance for Accessible Golf offers grant opportunities for inclusive programs! Go for it!

Step 8: Student Recruitment:  Piggyback off of all those third/fourth parties you networked with. Ask if they will promote your program through their databases to recruit students. Of course, use your own database or referral list as well. The TR and PT communities are tightly linked. They work closely with extended support groups and associations dedicated to helping those recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, amputation, vision impaired, rehabilitation centers, and even other local physical therapy centers.

Step 9: Once you have determined an interest. Set dates, train staff, and conduct the program.

Step 10: Feedback.  Feedback from students, instructors, RTs and PTs is important. Learn from others to make the next program session even better.

Step 11:  After reading this blog, it’s now time to Get Started. Pick up your phone and begin networking to create your program TODAY! Feel free to contact me at


Donna H. White, LPGA/ PGA, is the Owner Director of Golf Professional Services, Inc., for Okeeheelee Golf Course, Park Ridge Golf Course and the John Prince Golf Learning Center in Palm Beach, FL. She is the Co-founder, Junior Golf Foundation of America and a Professor, Keiser University College of Golf. Donna is the winner of 3 LPGA Tour Titles and has been named one of the Top 50 best women Instructors by Golf Digest and is a Top 50 LPGA T and CP Instructor.She has been honored an LPGA Teaching and Club Professional, Hall of Fame Member. She is involved with the Special Olympics International as Golf Manager and Golf Committee Member. 






About National Alliance for Accessible Golf
Dave Barton, PGA is the Executive Director for the 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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