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Golf groups highlight benefits of inclusive sport

Golf groups highlight benefits of inclusive sport
10th September 2018 Ian Streets

The benefits of sport for disabled people – and of disabled people for sport – are highlighted by the case of a golfer with a prosthetic leg who is suing a local council.
Brentwood Council in Essex is defending the claim by Paul Houghton. It is quoted in media reports as saying it was “committed to ensuring safe access for everyone to all its facilities” and would issue a full statement when legal action had concluded.
Mr Houghton has found support from various golf organisations. England Golf, the governing body of amateur golf, said it “wishes to encourage the participation in golf of all players regardless of disabilities” in accordance with its obligations under the Equality Act.
Cae Menai-Davis, co-founder of the Golf Trust, a charity that works with disabled groups to make golf more inclusive, highlighted a wider point.
He said: “Golf is a sport for everyone. Making it difficult for a disabled golfer to use a buggy isn’t just bad policy, it is bad business. There is a huge untapped group of people with learning and physical disabilities that want to play the game and will benefit hugely from it.”
The media reported that Mr Houghton’s right leg was amputated in 2000 after he was affected by a lethal, tissue-eating bacteria. He learned to walk again – and golf became an important part of life but he still also uses crutches and a wheelchair.
He has represented England at disability golf 13 times, with a handicap of 14, and has played on courses across Europe, but because of his disability he needs a buggy in order to play an 18-hole course.
In August 2016, Mr Houghton had booked to play at Hartswood Golf Course in Essex but he claims he was told he would not be allowed on to the course without a letter from his doctor justifying the medical need for a buggy.
He told the BBC: “I’ve played over 100 courses around England, I’ve played all around the world and I’ve not been treated in this way before. It sends the message that disabled people aren’t welcome, that we are not part of society, not included, but are segregated and can’t join in a sport that’s accessible to everybody, because we need to use other equipment to play the game.”
His solicitor, Chris Fry, said: “This case is more than just about making a service more accessible; it’s a reminder of the importance of the benefits which sport brings to social inclusion, together with physical and mental health.
“This is especially important for people with a range of disabilities, and not least mobility impairments. A simple adjustment in this case will benefit Paul, and thousands of others in a multitude of ways.”
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, golf’s governing body, allows modifications to standard rules and equipment because it “wants to encourage all golfers to play the game regardless of any disability that they may have”.
It will be interesting to see how the case progresses, but it does seem to be a strange one for a sport in which participants often play well into their senior years, with golf buggies used widely.

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