How golf is advancing diversity and inclusion

Golf girl practicing her chipping

Promoting diversity and inclusion in golf means ensuring the sport is open, friendly, and accommodating to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, social or economic background, skill level, or other defining mental or physical attributes.

It also means ensuring that all golfers feel welcomed, respected, and valued for who they are: creating a positive and supportive environment at clubs, driving ranges, and courses, training staff in inclusive practices, and making sure golf equipment, facilities, and events are accessible to people of all abilities.

Various initiatives aim to increase diversity and inclusion in golf, as it’s recognized that more needs to be done to make the sport inclusive and accessible to everyone. Here is a detailed guide on the main strategies and initiatives.

Outreach Programs

Many organizations have created outreach programs to bring the sport to traditionally underrepresented communities in golf. This can involve offering free clinics, equipment, and golf lessons to people in these communities.

Here are the most famous programs :

  • The First Tee: This youth development entity exposes young individuals to golf and the intrinsic virtues associated with the sport. The organization orchestrates educational initiatives to foster character development, imbuing beneficial life values and encouraging health-conscious decisions through golf.
  • PGA REACH: PGA REACH represents the philanthropic arm of the PGA of America. Its objective is to make a constructive difference in the lives of young people, military personnel, and varied communities by facilitating connections to PGA professionals, PGA Sections, and the sport of golf.
  • LPGA USGA Girls Golf: This developmental junior golf program aims to empower girls and provide them with lasting friendships, inspire personal growth, and instill a lifelong love for the game. The program is a joint venture between the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the United States Golf Association (USGA).
  • Youth on Course: This program subsidizes greens fees to remove costs as a barrier to entry for potential lifetime golfers. Kids can play golf at participating courses for $5 or less, with Youth on Course picking up the remainder of the standard greens fee.
  • Golf Fore Everyone: Golf Fore Everyone is an initiative by the R&A (one of the governing bodies of golf) designed to promote inclusivity in golf and open the game to a broader, more diverse audience.
  • Women’s Golf Day: This global movement strives to engage, empower, and support women and girls through golf. It’s an opportunity for any girl or woman to try golf for the first time in a fun, welcoming environment alongside existing golfers.

We cover as many initiatives and programs as possible, but many more exist locally, nationally, and internationally. They all aim to increase diversity and inclusion in the sport of golf.

The conversation reached the Golf Today section of the Golf Channel a year ago :

Scholarships and Grants

Several scholarships and grants are available to promote diversity and inclusion in golf. These often support students who demonstrate a passion for the sport, show academic potential, and come from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds. Here are a few:

  • PGA WORKS Golf Management University Scholarship Program: This program offers scholarships to students from diverse backgrounds pursuing PGA Golf Management University Program degrees, intending to join The PGA of America as a PGA professional.
  • John Shippen National Invitationa: This scholarship fund is designed to provide financial support for youth from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the business of golf. The scholarship is named after John Shippen, the first American-born golf professional who was also African-American.
  • The First Tee College Scholarship Program: The First Tee, a youth development organization, offers college participants scholarships. Some of these scholarships specifically promote diversity and inclusion in golf.
  • LPGA Foundation Scholarships: The LPGA Foundation offers several scholarships for young women who have demonstrated outstanding academic and leadership capabilities and active involvement with golf.
  • United States Golf Association (USGA) Scholarships: The USGA partners with various organizations to provide scholarships to students who have demonstrated a love for golf and need financial assistance.
  • PGA REACH Scholarships: PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America, offers scholarships to students from diverse backgrounds who aspire to work in the golf industry.
  • Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation: While not solely focused on diversity, the Evans Scholars Foundation provides full tuition and housing college scholarships to deserving caddies nationwide, often benefiting students from low-income backgrounds.

Promotion and Representation

Representation matters, and showcasing diverse golfers in the media and advertising campaigns can encourage more people to get involved in the sport. Highlighting successful golfers from diverse backgrounds can serve as role models and inspiration.

Here are some of the most famous examples :

  • Tiger Woods: Woods, one of the most successful golfers in history, broke racial barriers in a sport lacking diversity. He established the Tiger Woods Foundation, which has programs such as the TGR Learning Lab and the Earl Woods Scholar Program that aim to help underserved students thrive in school and beyond.
  • Cheyenne Woods: Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger Woods, has also been vocal about the need for diversity in golf. She has used her platform to raise awareness about the lack of representation of women and people of color in the sport.
  • Renee Powell: Powell was the second African American woman to play on the LPGA Tour and has been a lifelong advocate for diversity in golf. In 2017, she and her family established the Clearview Legacy Foundation for education, preservation, and turfgrass research.
  • Lee Elder: Elder was the first African American to play in the Masters Tournament. His courage and determination paved the way for other golfers of color. In 2021, the Masters honored Elder by inviting him to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starters.
  • Annika Sörenstam: Sörenstam, one of history’s most successful female golfers, has done much to promote women’s golf. Through the Annika Foundation, she helps to provide opportunities in women’s golf at the junior, collegiate, and professional levels.
  • Rory McIlroy: The Northern Irish golfer has voiced his support for increasing accessibility and promoting diversity in golf. He’s often spoken about the need to make golf more accessible to the public, particularly to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to play.
  • Se Ri Pak: Pak was a trailblazer for Korean golfers on the LPGA Tour. Her success helped inspire a generation of golfers in South Korea, significantly increasing diversity in women’s professional golf.

Accessibility Improvements and Leadership

Making golf courses and facilities more accessible to golfers with physical or mental disabilities can also help to increase diversity. This might involve:

  • Adaptive Equipment: Providing adaptive equipment, such as specialized golf clubs or single-rider golf carts, can help people with mobility impairments play golf.
  • Accessible Facilities: Ensuring all facility areas, including the clubhouse, restrooms, and practice areas, are wheelchair accessible is crucial. This might involve installing ramps, widening doorways, and adding accessible restroom facilities.
  • Course Modifications: Depending on the type and level of disability, some modifications may be made to the course, such as smoother paths for wheelchair users or markers with braille for visually impaired golfers.
  • Inclusive Training: Offering golf lessons and clinics for people with disabilities can encourage participation. Trained instructors who are knowledgeable about adaptive techniques can be invaluable.
  • Flexible Rules: Adaptations to the rules of golf can make the game more accessible. For instance, allowing a player with a balance disorder to ground their club in a hazard or permitting a wheelchair user to tee the ball forward of the designated tee area could be allowed.
  • Accessible Website and Booking System: Making sure the course’s website is accessible to people with vision or hearing impairments (using large fonts, clear contrast, alt text for images, captions for videos, etc.) is essential. The booking system should also be accessible and easy to use.
  • Promote Accessibility: Be open about your facility’s accommodations for golfers with disabilities. This can encourage individuals to participate who may otherwise assume that golf is inaccessible to them.
  • Partnerships with Disabled Golf Associations: Partnering with organizations like the United States Disabled Golf Association (USDGA) or the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) can provide further resources and support.

Making golf courses more accessible to players with disabilities can increase participation rates, promote diversity and inclusion in the sport, and provide therapeutic and social benefits for individuals with disabilities.

The most famous disabled golfers

Documentary on Manuel De Los Santos

Several golfers with disabilities have risen to prominence and used their platform to promote and normalize golf for disabled players. Here are a few:

  • Dennis Walters: After a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, Walters adapted and continued playing golf from a swivel seat mounted to the passenger side of a golf cart. He has since become an inspirational speaker and performed golf trick-shot shows worldwide. In 2018, he received the USGA’s Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in golf.
  • Tom McAuliffe: Despite losing his right hand in a childhood accident, McAuliffe became a successful golfer and an influential golf teacher. He became a PGA member and has inspired many aspiring golfers with disabilities.
  • Manuel de los Santos: A former professional baseball player from the Dominican Republic, de los Santos lost his leg in a car accident. He took up golf for rehabilitation and has since become a top-ranked golfer in disabled golf tournaments.
  • Brenda Lawrie: Lawrie, who has a lower limb disability, is a successful golfer and a prominent figure in the golf world. She has won several Australian Women’s Amputee & Disabled Open Championships and used her platform to advocate for golfers with disabilities.
  • Chad Pfeifer: An Iraq War veteran, Pfeifer took up golf after losing his left leg in combat. He has become a successful professional golfer, even competing in the PGA TOUR’s Albertsons Boise Open.
  • Tony Bennett: As Director of Education for the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA), Bennett, who is also a PGA Master Professional, has done extensive work to promote golf for individuals with disabilities.

These golfers have shown that with determination and the proper support, people with disabilities can excel in golf. They continue to inspire many others, both disabled and non-disabled, through their commitment to the sport and their advocacy work.

Golf isn’t just a sport; it can also help improve society. Making golf diverse and inclusive is really important. This takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it because golf is about bringing people together.

There are many ways to make golf open to everyone. We can teach people about inclusivity, help people become leaders, get young people involved, give out scholarships, create golf programs for people with disabilities, and show more types of people playing golf in the media. Everyone involved in golf needs to help out with this.

Golf should be like the world around us, full of different people who are all accepted. We should appreciate our differences because they make golf more fun and exciting. To keep golf popular and loved, it must become more fair and equal, showing that everyone deserves a chance to play and compete.

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