We know golf is always some years behind the rest of the world in its moral outlook maybe it should have been no surprise, when I recently experienced (in our opinion) a truly awful show of ignorance by my local council toward Paul Houghton – TSG’s very own Disabled golfer.
Having got to know some disabled golfers pretty well over the last few years, we stupidly thought discrimination in golf was a thing of past….
Now and Paul and myself play a couple of times a year together, so was very pleased when he agreed to play at my local municipal course (which is one of the best in the South East).
Having extolled the values of this super little course to Paul many times, he may have brought a little too much expectation with him on the day.
However, I had no idea what was about to unfold.
Here’s our story in Paul’s own words with some excerpts from the letter he sent to the local council officer (N.B. Real names and places have been replaced) …
“Dear Sir or Madam,
I was invited to play golf at your municipal course by a resident of your borough. This is his local course but he is not a member.
On a Saturday in August, we arrived to play at the allotted tee time that we had booked. I introduced myself in the Pro shop and paid for my round.
I was told to present my chit to the starter in his hut.
As I left the Pro shop the man behind the counter ‘Dave’, followed me out and told me that I would not be allowed onto the golf course using my Electrokart.
A little surprised I asked why this was, as I possess my own public liability insurance for the vehicle and possess an EDGA tour card (European Disabled Golf Association) for which I had to have a medical for through England Golf.
‘Dave’ was very quick to reply, stating that without proper paperwork, he could only take ‘my word for it’ that I am disabled.
I replied asking “Could he not accept the fact that my leg is missing as proof?”
“No, the Council say I must have the proper paperwork before we let you on the course”.
You won’t be surprised that my initial response is not printable.
Slightly rattled by my determination to not back down and slightly panicked by the thought a lawsuit was already winging its way to his employers….
‘Dave’ quickly scanned the council website (not the Golf Course website – which has no information!) and stated that all the information was available online.
Now the paragraph on the council site is less than clear but does state that a letter must be obtained from the players ‘Doctor’ to justify the use of a buggy.
As I am an above knee amputee it seems pretty damn obvious of my impairment (my leg also make a tinny sound when you smack your driver against it) but ‘Dave’ stated that it was a ‘Council’ ruling and I would still not be allowed on the course without the proper documents.
(This document would take a matter of weeks to obtain and a Doctor would charge for the letter!).
He also indicated that I would be required to cross a road, which cuts through the course which can be dangerous, but surely that is the same for all golfers?
At this stage, I thought it right to mention to ‘Dave’ that my day job is actually working as a Disability Officer for the neighbouring council and that I know the disability laws inside out.
At which point the blood drained from ‘Dave’s face! (Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned this at the start of the debate!)
The local council concerned needs to impact assess their procedure in this respect, in line with their Duties towards the Equality Act 2010.
What I experienced on that Saturday in August was gross ignorance as to attitudes towards disability, the situation was handled very poorly and much of my day was ruined.
As a keen golfer, I have played all over Europe and have never been refused onto a course other when weather conditions inhibit it due to safety.
To say I was stunned is an understatement.
My playing partner and host were more shocked, not to mention embarrassed on his and my behalf!
To avoid any more stress for all parties, I decided to cut my losses and asked for my money back, ‘Dave’ retorted that ‘he’ was not discriminating against me.
When I said this was ‘blatant’ discrimination, he said you are only saying that because of ‘that’ pointing to my prosthetic leg”.
You couldn’t make it up, could you!
Discrimination in any walk of life is unacceptable and discrimination in golf turns our stomachs just as much…..
Shortly after receiving his email and letter, Paul quickly received the council’s response……they offered him a free round of golf and have asked if could help them review their wording on their website – hang on, isn’t that your job!
As all TSG members know, we promote equality and diversity, so to hear and experience a day in the life of a disabled golfer ourselves was a shock, to say the least.
Sadly, after four months, Paul is still yet to receive any kind of response or justification from the council as to how they plan to prevent this issue in the future.
Paul is considering legal action but that requires a lot of self-motivation – something he would probably prefer to channel through his golf!
PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH ALL YOUR GOLFING FRIENDS AND LET’S STOP THIS IGNORANCE NOW!
For more information on Golf for all, visit England Golf’s Equality and Diversity page.
By Ian Mullins
Footnote: Paul lost his leg suddenly sixteen years ago in a work accident whereby his leg was amputated above the knee. However, being the gritty character that he is, Paul decided to take up golf.
He later joined the Disabled Golf Association and has now represented his country 12 times, playing of a respectable handicap of 16. He works hard to promote understanding and empathy for disability and hates any form of discrimination in golf!