In their own words: Andy Gilford

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick December 26, 2021 13:21

The secretary of England and Wales Blind Golf (EWBG) asks golf clubs to consider what they are doing for visually impaired men and women.

By the end of today another 250 people will have started to lose their sight. In statistics published back in 2015 more than two million people in the UK are living with sight loss that is severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives.

For many this means being unable to do the things that the rest of us take for granted. Imagine not being able to drive, go shopping on your own or even enjoy watching a favourite programme on television. No wonder that despair and depression, particularly amongst visually impaired men is so high, a feeling of having dropped out of society and being regarded negatively by all but very close friends and family.

Hatfeild Hall member, Andrew Sellars, is guided by a former colleague at Barclays Bank, Martyn Wright

For a few being able to take up golf has, quite literally, been their salvation with members of the England and Wales Blind Golf (EWBG) association admitting the relief and pleasure it has brought them simply to no longer feel housebound and useless whilst taking part in a sport at a competitive level.

The problem is that not nearly enough people are receiving the message that golf can bring massive benefits: of being able to get out of the house, to take exercise and play a sport. The able bodied get plenty of siren calls to join a golf club, those with disabilities very few.

Yet even those partially sighted men and women that have started to play golf often struggle to find someone to act as their guide. A reticence to ask is often a major reason but not quite as big a factor as no one asking if they could be of help in getting visually handicapped newcomers into the game by volunteering to be their eyes and driving them to their club to make introductions.

Every golf club is obliged to deliver lavatory facilities for the disabled but what, apart from this form of tokenism, is golf doing for the disabled in terms of getting them out onto a golf course? EWBG has known of people withdrawing applications to join simply because they cannot find a guide.

Before the start of next golf season EWBG is targeting all golf clubs and their members to consider what they are doing for visually impaired men and women and ask those they know if they would like to try golf or, if they played it before their sight deteriorated, whether they would like to start playing again.

Over 700,000 people in England and Wales regularly play golf yet the EWBG active membership is just 30. As Barry Ritchie, chairman of EWBG, says: “The biggest hindrance to playing blind golf is finding a guide. There are a lot of people who would really like to play who can’t.”

EWBG secretary and Ham Manor GC member, Andy Gilford, is guided by his wife Mel

The question EWBG wants to answer is: ‘How much are English and Welsh golf clubs and their members prepared to help in order to boost this figure whilst, along the way, making life a lot more enjoyable for visually impaired people?’

For more information on England and Wales Blind Golf, visit: ewblindgolf.co.uk or contact Andy Gilford at enquiries.blindgolf@gmail.com or Steve Killick, press officer, on se.killick@btinternet.com

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick December 26, 2021 13:21
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