NJ Adaptive Golf Courses: US Pushes Accessibility Standards

In early June, as golfers prepared for the US Open, Bill Botten and Juliet Shoultz of the United States Access Board reminded people that even golf – with its rolling greens and water hazards – should be accessible to all.

The Access boardeditorial manager guidelines required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, hosted June 2 online seminar and sent out emails reminding golf course owners, recreation professionals and the public of their “obligations to break down barriers.”

But from the Sky View Golf Club in Sparta Township to the National Golf Club in Cape May, athletes with disabilities aren’t the only ones in New Jersey who can benefit from accommodation.

As illustrated by the myriad retirement communities built around golf courses, “people want to play golf until very old ages” and the standards “will extend the game to a lot of people,” said Botten, a golf specialist. Accessibility Senior.

As summer rolls around and more golfers hit the links, the Board hopes the renewed focus on ADA requirements will help make the sport fair and fun for everyone.

“It took decades for the golf industry to realize that golfers come in all shapes and sizes,” said Gianna Rojas, 60, an Oak Ridge woman who founded the nonprofit group. Adaptive Golfers to make the sport more accessible.

Here’s a look at what the Access Board says every player should expect from their course – and some Garden State courses known for their accommodations:

Entrance accessibility

It starts with arrival, said Juliet Shoultz, an engineer at the federal office.

Accessible parkingramps, sidewalks and curbs in the parking lot are a good start while their absence could be a harbinger of tough times.

“There should be an accessible route through an accessible entrance and the entrance shouldn’t be a ramp back into an alley somewhere,” Shoultz said. “It should be the same entrance that everyone can use and you should be able to walk all the way to the sales counter.”

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“Everything that’s available to a person without a disability, from parking to customer service and the amenities they provide, all of that has to be accessible, and that’s before we even enter the course,” he said. she declared.

This includes the golf cart rental area, bag drop area, practice greens, teeing grounds, and weather shelters.

Drinking fountains, bathrooms, service counters, and the clubhouse must all be equally available regardless of location, according to ADA guidelines.

Adaptive equipment

Equipment must also be accessible. There are putters that can be angled down so that they are parallel to the ground when used from a seated position. Courses can also provide specially designed adaptive golf carts — a solution to what Botten said is the Access Board’s toughest challenge.

“How do you provide an accessible route wherever a ball might land? Botten said during the webinar, which was attended by course designers, disability rights advocates, and state and local government officials from across the United States.

The answer was a vehicle with ball wheels a bit larger than on standard golf carts so they wouldn’t damage the course, because, as Botten said, “this green is one of the most sacred on earth”.

The cart’s chair can swivel to either side allowing its driver to swing a club without leaving their seat.

Kevin Hughes, 37, was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He was 26 when he first went to a driving range with his father. The results were less than stellar.

“I had no suitable apparatus, just regular clubs, and as athletic and strong as I think I am, the ball went 30 feet, if that. It was quite a struggle,” Hughes said.

Trolleys and clubs

He didn’t think about golf until years later when he worked for an adaptive sports organization called Turnstone in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he is now a director.

It was there that he got his hands on a set of clubs with movable joints that can be placed at a better angle for a player in a seated position. The right equipment made a big difference.

Hughes can hit a ball 150 yards using these clubs. Turnstone also introduced him to adaptive carts. The ADA requires government-owned yards to be modified and properly equipped, but such vehicles are rare where he lives.

The carts, made by companies such as SoloRider and Golf Xpress, cost between $7,000 and $10,000.. Turnstone went 50/50 with the Fort Wayne Parks Department to purchase one.

Playing sports allowed Hughes to meet “more people like me,” he said. “My wheelchair basketball coach uses a wheelchair and has a family and a full-time job. It pushed me and showed me what normal is. It could be me. It really opened my eyes. »

Public courts are required to make accommodations under Title Two of the ADA. Anyone who thinks a course is discriminatory can seek help from the federal Department of Justice, Botten said.

“You can file a violation of civil rights with the Department of Justice. You can sue the local building code officials and you can sue the landlord,” he said.

Accessible Classes in New Jersey

Gianna Rojas of Oak Ridge, born without fingers on her left hand, founded Adaptive Golfers to provide golf resources, programs, clinics, training and equipment to people with different abilities as a form of therapeutic activity.

Rojas, who was born without fingers in her left hand, was surprised at how many courses were inaccessible when she started playing golf 10 years ago to spend time with her husband.

She began Adaptive Golfers in 2017 with the aim of “empowering” people with disabilities by spreading the message that classes should be open to all.

Many people are excluded from sport, she said. But some courses in New Jersey offer accommodation:

  • Rojas recommended Rossmoor Golf Course in Monroe Township and Galloping Hill Park and Golf Course in Kenilworth.
  • Coakley-Russo Memorial Golf Course in Lyon and the Picatinny Golf Club in Dover have SoloRider adaptive golf carts, according to Texas-based SoloRider.
  • The Rutgers University Golf Course at Piscataway offers an adaptive trolley.
  • Five public courses in County of Somerset also use SoloRider carts: Neshanic Valley in Branchburg, Green Knoll in Bridgewater, Quail Brook and Spookly Brook in Franklin and Warrenbrook in Warren.

Gene Myers covers disability and mental health for NorthJersey.com and the USA Today Network. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @myersgene

Michael C. Ford