The Sheltering Arms Adaptive Golf Program, in partnership with McGuire Veterans Administration Hospital, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Amputee Golf Association, The Stand Up and Play Foundation and the Windy Hill Sports Complex in Midlothian is helping people with a myriad of physical disabilities enjoy the therapeutic benefits of a summer day out on the links.
The bulk of the program consists of a series of Adaptive Golf Clinics hosted by Windy Hill Sports Complex. They are available to individuals with all types of physical disabilities, including, but not limited to, war injuries, brain trauma, amputees, stroke victims, paraplegics and quadriplegics.
Our clinics operates like an interactive seminar in which volunteers and golf professionals on staff, teach disabled individuals how to use adaptive equipment, such as the ParaGolfer, to complete basic golfing activities, like driving, putting and chipping. Clinics are held 6 to 8 times a year beginning in April. A year end tournament is scheduled for mid September.
In addition to the clinics, both Windy Hill and Brandermill Country Club offer “On-the-Course” play periodically during the year. As the name suggests, “On-the-Course” events allow the disabled players to put the skills they absorbed at the clinics into practice by competing in a full round of golf.
“People often think that if they have a physical disability that they have to stop doing all those things that they love,” Alison Clarke, the Community Recreation Services director at Sheltering Arms, said. “Our goal is to introduce folks to the activity and show that they can get back to the game of golf with some adaptive techniques.”
Perhaps the most impressive piece of adaptive technology is the vaunted ParaGolfer.
Provided by the Stand Up and Play Foundation, the ParaGolfer is a state-of-the-art mobility device that is equal parts golf cart, wheelchair and leg stabilizer. A laudable feat of ingenuity and practicality, it allows mobility impaired individuals to stand eye-to-eye with their peers and accomplish physical tasks that may, at one time, have seemed impossible. This includes hitting a golf ball 150 yards at the driving range or sinking a 30-foot putt on a practice green or, perhaps best of all, playing a full 18 holes of golf with peers, friends and family.
The ParaGolfer is an all-terrain vehicle so – no matter where the ball ends up: in the rough, the woods or even a bunker — the versatile apparatus can get there. Even locations that are off-limits to traditional golf cars, such as the pristine grass that covers the green, are free game for a roving ParaGolfer.
It was co-developed by Anthony Netto, who also founded the Stand Up and Play Foundation.
Netto, an avid golfer, was injured in a gruesome auto accident back in 1994 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Such an unspeakable tragedy could have bred contempt in Netto’s heart, but instead it inspired him to design a vehicle that would help disabled individuals become active again. We currently have two ParaGolfer units. DuPont provided the funds for the first and Sweet Frog the second. We are always interested in talking to individuals or companies who would be willing to help fund our next Paragolfer. Unfortunately, we have many, many more interested athletes than we have equipment to handle them.
While there’s no doubt that the ParaGolfer is an invaluable tool, it should be made clear that all physically disabled individuals are encouraged to register for the program, not only those who would need to use the ParaGolfer.
If you or someone you know is debating whether or not to come out, don’t think twice. If you are disabled and would like to sign up for a clinic, call Sheltering Arms a call at 804-764-5275. Those interested in helping with the clinic as a volunteer may contact Doug Chaffins at 804-357-8066. Individuals, companies or Corporations interested in making a donation, please call Windy Hill at 804-794-0010 and speak with Janet Phillips or Bob Fahy.
Special Olympics Golf
For more than 20 years, Windy Hill has had a very “special” relationship with Special Olympics. Athletes practice and are coached at our range, play our course and develop their games as they prepare for their tournament events.
“Working with these golfers has been a great experience for me and I wouldn’t give it up as I look forward to our next season together” says Bob Fahy, Director of Adult Golf and Teaching Professional at Windy Hill. There is no lack of enthusiasm with this team and they work hard preparing for their events. Over the years some of those events have taken place at Windy Hill.
We have recently added Foot Golf on our par 3 course. We discussed the concept with Richard Koch, Special Olympics Sports Director and he introduced our team to this unique new sport on our course. Foot Golf is played as you would regular golf except you use a soccer ball and count the numbers of kicks from the tee until you hole out. A larger hole and flag are located near the putting green. At the first event, 18 Special Olympic soccer players turned golfers, or golfers turned soccer players participated. Happily, no balls were lost in the event.
Paul Marretti and other Global Messengers representing Special Olympics in Virginia met with U.S. President and Mrs. George W. Bush at the White House, recognizing the unprecedented growth and contribution of Special Olympics. ChesterfieldCounty and PowhatanCounty have over 20 athletes participating in the golf program, and over 600 athletes participating in year-round athletic and recreational events in twelve different sports.
If you are interested in volunteering or if you know of an athlete who would like to participate in the Golf program, please call Windy Hill at 804-794-0010 and ask for Bob Fahy.