Date: December 13, 2012
Author: Christian Hamilton

See the ability, not the disability

Like most teachers we all get an amazing feeling of self reward when we help a student achieve their goals. Whether it is a beginner hitting that first shot in the air or an amateur that we have played our part in their journey to becoming a professional, it is incredibly rewarding to know that you have made a difference. Some of us may remember an experience or a lesson that stands out that can sometimes define us as a coach and what we do in the future. Back in 2007, Stuart Leong from the PGA of Australia and myself delivered a pilot program to a group of kids with learning disability from Port Philip Specialist School. The program went for 7 weeks with a game of golf and a BBQ the end prize for the students. There was one student that did not wish to participate due to her belief that she could not play golf as it was too hard . After 10 minutes passed and a lot of fun, Stuart and I were able to convince her to join in the fun and participate. To cut a long story short, on week seven we played four holes at Albert Park Golf Course, this girl hit a ball from 120 meters in the air and on to the middle of the green. She stood there for the next minute in absolute disbelief, shocked in what she had achieved, and then the penny dropped for me. Regardless of whether this girl was to play golf again, she can draw upon this experience to say: I can have a go at this! It was this coaching experience that sent me down the path of wanting to make a difference to people living in the community with a disability. It was this experience that also made me aware that golf is a great vehicle for not only promoting good health and mobility but also providing personal challenges that can help overcome other challenges in life. In my early days of coaching people with a disability, I took the wrong approach. Full of empathy I would go out of my way to ensure people didn t have to bend down and pick up the tee, drive the cart out to the car park to pick them up, open doors, swap clubs etc. Most people with a disability want to be treated as just another member of the community, which draws to my headline of See the ability, not the Disability . I used to take the approach of concentrating on what people couldn’t do, rather than what they could. We are teaching Golfers with a disability not Disabled Golfers. The game can present some mobility challenges at times, such as getting in and out of bunkers, but more often that not, some people just need a little more time than able bodied people to get the job done, that s all. From a coaching perspective basic Musculoskeletal Screening techniques are great to gain a basic understanding on what a person s physical limitation are. Simple rotation tests, screening the major joints of the body such as the pelvis, shoulders, elbows, wrists are a great starting point to gain information on the student s ability to move during the swing. Limitations learned through the screening process make the job of prescribing the right drills and practice advice for the student easier. We also know through these tests that we are able to increase a person s range of movement just by getting out and playing golf, this making golf also the perfect sport for rehabilitation. Any person living with a learning disability will gain great benefit from visual or kinaesthetic or Hands on Learning style of coaching. Try and adapt your coaching styles to move away from too much lecture style talking or verbalising instruction, seeing and doing with a hands on approach is much more beneficial for the student. And remember, less can be more, small wins over time can go along way further than trying to achieve too much in a small time frame. I would encourage all PGA members and Community Coaches to provide programs that include all members of our community as we all know the huge health and well being benefits that our game brings to the its participants. Christian Hamilton is a AAA accredited member of the PGA of Australia and regularly runs programs specific to people with disabilities at Sandhurst Club in Melbourne s South Eastern Suburbs. Sandhurst Club is also home of the Australian PGA. For more information on Programs for people with a disability visit or