Taking swings with your eyes closed and other drills designed to mimic playing golf with a disability were part of the instruction provided at Augusta CC in Manchester, Maine. The club will begin an eight-week program for veterans in June, using adaptive golf techniques and equipment.
Professional Golf Association instructor Scott Mann said he often teaches his students to take swings with their eyes closed, but never actually tried it himself. But on May 5th, the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine reported,
Mann and six other PGA instructors from clubs throughout the state took part in an adaptive golf seminar at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester, Maine.
The seminar, the Journal reported, was to help the pros prepare for an new eight-week adaptive golf program that Augusta CC plans to sponsor starting in June, in partnership with the VA Maine Healthcare System in Togus, Maine, to help disabled veterans help to learn, or re-learn, to play the game.
“It was so different,” Mann said of swinging the club with his eyes closed and covered. “I had to use my other senses and get a feel, and sound and feel was all I could rely on.”
The seminar was led by Dave Windsor, an Atlanta-based instructor from the Adaptive Golf Association, the Journal reported. Throughout the hourlong session on the driving range, the PGA pros, wearing pullovers and hats because of the unseasonably chilly weather, took part in drills designed to mimic playing golf with a disability.
Bob Mathews, the assistant pro at Rockland (Maine) Golf Club, was the first to try out the adaptive golf simulator, the Journal reported. Mathews had his right knee bent in a device with a prosthetic leg and foot and was trying to balance while completing a full swing.
“The hard part was really balance, and it was also very tiring because I had too much weight on one side,” Mathews told the Journal. “What we learned is that anytime a veteran can get out and do something, it’s going to be beneficial to them.”
Jason Hurd, Augusta Country Club’s General Manager, told the Journal that swinging a club with the adaptive equipment was harder than he thought it was going to be. Hurd hopes to get his club’s program started sometime in June and for it, the club will set up forward tees in the middle of the fairways to shorten its course and make it more accessible.
While Augusta CC is a membership club, Hurd said that once the summer program is complete, any golfer who participated would be welcome to use that club’s course for the remainder of the season.
“The experience has been wonderful, and we hope for the people that participate in the program that it is a life-changing experience,” Hurd told the Journal. “Golf is a great game that people can play for the rest of their life.”
Liz Marrone, a recreational therapist at the VA Maine Healthcare System in Togus, Maine, said the adaptive sports program has “been really cooking since late 2013” and said the importance of the different activities to veteran well-being cannot be understated.
“It’s not necessarily about the sport or activity, but rather it’s the process and getting there and feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride,” Marrone said before taking some swings while sitting in a chair to re-create what it would be like to play golf in a wheelchair. “Recreational therapy is so individualized, so it is important to find what works.”
After the session concluded, Mann said he was looking forward to implementing adaptive golf at his club, Norway (Maine) Country Club.
“The fact that veterans can still participate in things like this in life is huge,” Mann said. “To be able to bring this element to these people where they can regain their confidence is incredible.”
Windsor, who got his big break in the golf industry at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., said hearing from a veteran about the program’s effect is special.
“When you hear them talk after a program or a round of golf about how they got out there, controlled their emotions and made new relationships, it’s true therapy for them,” Windsor said. “There is such a crossover from the golf course to everyday life.”
It is also gratifying to see the veterans absorbed in the process and learning the game, Windsor told the Journal.
“They are getting their families involved and focusing on things away from their upcoming appointments or surgeries,” he said. “It is a true escape for them to feel so much better about themselves.”