By Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, PGA
2014 PGA National Teacher of the Year
Why does the so called “model golf swing” seem to be the only way a golfer can play golf? In fact, there are millions of different ways to hit a golf ball. Not all players swing the same, think the same, are built the same, have the same ailments, or have the same reasons they play the game. So why are a lot of players trying to swing the same? While there are some things that need to happen to make the golf ball fly in the air, each and every one of us playing the game should be regarded as completely unique. Adapting golf is important, because golf is for everyone!
I teach adaptive golf every day. A student comes to me and tells me their golf story, what they would like to improve, or the results they would like to see. Then it is my job to help solve the puzzle with them as part of a team effort. Part of the equation is finding out what they physically can and cannot achieve. Once I understand this, my work begins to find a way to enhance their physical, equipment, and mental needs in order to enable him or her to actually hit a golf ball.
Here are some examples of “adaptive needs” that I may address in my consultations: bad back, shoulder issues, foot problems, knee surgeries, missing a limb (like an arm or leg or both), disruptive or distracting thoughts, social anxiety, and much more. This is called “Adapting” or Adaptive Golf. We, as a team, need to figure out how the player can hit a golf ball up in the air and forward! Maybe we need to secure or design a golf club to attach to them physically, maybe adjust the length, and possibly create a club with higher loft, weaker, or more flexible golf shafts, or even lighter or heavier weights. These are all factors in the equation.
Physically, they might not be able to make a back swing or a complete finish. They may have to take the railing off of a golf cart to get in and out easier. Sometimes people feel they can’t play the game because they feel they would hold up play. If that’s the case, then, Simulators are terrific! With a simulator, a golfer can play the game and not have to go far to play nine holes. This still allows them to socialize with their friends, providing an activity that may make their day a bit brighter!
The emotional impact on a golfer who can now (or again!) enjoy this positive social atmosphere with others demonstrates marked improvement in the quality of their everyday lives. It encourages all individuals that they can succeed in their own, unique, and different way– as opposed to the so called “Model Swing”. In fact there is NO “Model Swing”. We just try to make the clubface square and make the golf club go through the golf ball. Our goal is that everyone is able to reap the copious benefits that golf has to offer, giving each golfer their model golf swing– and no one else’s!
If you know of someone who you know needs to be playing golf– or who should come back to golf, please check out some “Adaptive Golf” programs in your area. Golf really is a game for everyone.