• All golf course operations are covered. The only exception is a private club. However, the law (ADA) is specific in identifying what qualifies as a private club and the U.S. Department of Justice takes an extremely narrow view of the definition of “private.” Basically, if you allow any public play on your course or functions at the facility then you are required to comply with the ADA. Even if you do not allow public play, if you open your facility to the public for weddings, receptions, spectators or other events, it in essence becomes a public entity at those times and is covered.

  • All parts of the facility, including the clubhouse and golf course, are covered. Rules governing the accessibility of the clubhouse are found in the Americans with Disabilities Act Access Guidelines (ADAAG). Guidelines for golf course accessibility have not been implemented to date, however, there are proposed rules issued by the Access Board for recreational facilities which include guidelines for golf courses, such as the number of accessible tee boxes, accessible golf car passage, greens access and dimensions for weather shelters on the course. Although the rules have not been formally adopted by the Department of Justice, they are the starting place for a course to begin to become more accessible.

  • Yes, you may ask a golfer if they have a covered disability. If the answer is yes, you should provide the accommodation. You should not ask the golfer to tell you what the disability is, you only need to know that they have a disability. A golfer’s disability may not be apparent visually. You should take their word for it. Some facilities have information posted in the pro shop that explains the ADA and the definition of a disability.

  • The concepts are clear in the ADA: people with disabilities are entitled to the same treatment as people without disabilities. But how does that translate to the daily routine of a golf course? Here are some brief examples of how a golf course can make reasonable accommodations for customers with disabilities.

    If a golfer with a disability wishes to bring his or her own golf car to the golf course and use it on the course, let them do so subject to your inspection. Your inspection should be intended only to assure that the car would cause no more damage to the course than cars you provide. In addition, you may be able to regulate whether the car is battery or gasoline powered. This allows a golfer with a disability, a frequent customer at your course, to purchase his own car for use.

    Many courses prohibit golf cars from going into certain areas, like the front parking lot, or along a route used heavily by automobiles. But a golfer with a cart that requires attachment to a golf car can only do so in the parking lot. Bend your rules and allow that golfer to have a golf car out in the parking lot. In fact, if necessary, have a member of your staff take the golf car out to the lot…the golfer in a wheelchair can’t drive the golf car and his wheelchair at the same time.

    Course management wants every golfer to come into the pro shop. Those sleeves of balls, shirts, hats, gift certificates, lessons and clubs add up. Welcome golfers with disabilities into your pro shop. If your counter is higher than 36″, come around the counter to conduct business. Or better yet, reduce the height of your counter to 36″, this nominal cost sends a clear message that you understand some elements of accessibility and are complying where you can. That will translate into return customers. Also, check the width of your aisles to insure that the golfer can get to the counter. They should be a minimum of 36″ wide.

  • As always, the operator has the right to run his or her operation and make a fair and reasonable profit. Management makes the determination to restrict carts to paths or allow no carts if weather or agronomic conditions dictate. Management has no right to treat any individual with a disability in any way differently than another paying golfer. In the event of any litigation, the burden of proof will fall to management to justify his or her action. It is suggested that the owner or operator refer to the resources listed in this tool kit, such as the USGA’s From Bag Drop to 19th Hole as they implement policies and procedures.

  • All areas of your operation should already be accessible. The ADA became effective in 1990. If there are still parts of your facility not in compliance, planning to make them accessible should begin as soon as possible. Just use common sense to make decisions about making your course accessible. A strong, good faith effort towards compliance goes a long way in your defense.

  • Clubhouse facilities and other non-playing surfaces, because they are covered under the original ADAAG rules, should already be accessible. Currently, there are proposed rules on making the golf course itself accessible.

    These rules were developed by the Access Board and address the issue of making the golf course itself accessible over time. Basically, as you renovate your course, you must make sure that accessibility is part of the plan. There are many architects and golf course builders who have expertise in the ADA and in making golf courses accessible. They will help ensure that you are in compliance. Removing barriers to golfers with disabilities’ ability to enjoy and participate in the game is the key. The standard is that privately owned courses must make changes that are “readily achievable” or inexpensive and easy to do.

  • This is a frequent and difficult question. The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone with a condition or disorder that has a substantial affect on one or more major life functions such as walking, hearing, seeing, etc. Temporary conditions are generally excluded, but a severe, long lasting injury could meet the test. Many individuals who have a permanent disability are eligible for and have a parking permit. While this is not particularly relevant to golf, it is the only standard identification from state to state, and does require medical documentation. A different approach is to provide a flag for a person with a disability or other identifier to everyone who requests it. Every operation should have a policy that outlines the requirements to be eligible for reasonable accommodations.

  • As a golf course owner or operator, you should review your policies and the success of their implementation annually. Because of the turnover in front-line employees, training on the ADA and accessibility should be included in all new employee orientation and then a refresher training held for all staff at least once a year.

  • The ADA provides for a tax credit outlining amounts that may be provided in making a facility accessible.

  • Whether you use a TTY or an automated system someone who is hearing impaired must be able to make a reservation. If a golfer identifies himself as deaf when checking in, please insure someone from your staff or one of his playing partners lets him know when his time is called. Phone systems in every state also have the relay system, where a caller who is deaf can use a third-party to make calls. Course staff should be aware of the relay system for outgoing and incoming calls.

  • All customers count. The law of the land covers all individuals, with or without disabilities, while they are visiting.

  • The proposed Accessibility Guidelines require that one or more teeing grounds on each hole be made accessible, i.e. ability to get a golf car onto the teeing ground. If there are barriers that prohibit access, then they should be removed – or altered to provide a golf car passage. Study your course. Are there artificial barriers that won’t permit access to a tee or green such as roping or signage? You should work toward the goal of making it possible for all golfers to have access to the course. It might not be necessary to tear out all curbing. You might be able to cut an opening in the curb to allow access to the tee or fairway, or build a ramp over the barrier.

  • So long as you are consistent in your policies toward all customers, you won’t violate the ADA. If the ‘coach’ is not playing golf, then you cannot charge him for the cart. However, they don’t necessarily need a separate cart since they most likely will be riding with the blind golfer.

  • You should not honor such requests. How would you reply if it were a preference not to play with a woman, or a Hispanic or an African American? Honoring such a request is discriminatory.

  • Anyone that is careless while driving a cart can run into a water hazard – whether they have a disability or not. All cart drivers are responsible for driving safely and responsibly. As stated before, you cannot discriminate against people with disabilities and you can’t develop policies based on stereotypes or perceptions.

  • This situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The answer does not depend on whether or not mowing equipment is out. An owner is within his/her rights to deny accommodation if it will negatively impact the course. If course is closed to cars as a result of an agronomic decision such as overseeding, weather, etc., you are within your rights as a business owner. Train your staff to include consideration of the type of accommodation that is being requested (i.e. what if any type of adaptive device is being used) before denying access to the course.

  • This situation arises frequently. Golfers with disabilities need full access to the game, including the greens. The ADA requires you to make a reasonable accommodation. The only exception is if weather or agronomic conditions are such that a golf car on the green will cause irreparable damage and significant financial harm. Once again, the burden of proof lies with the golf course operator.

    On the issue of golf cars on the greens, product development continues to develop “greens friendly” mobility devices. The PSI of some of these single rider golf cars on the greens surface is no more than or less than the human footprint and less than that applied by motorized mowing equipment. Include information in your golf car policy regarding the appropriate operation of a motorized car on the green. As stated above, the burden of proof, in case of complaint or litigation, will rest on the golf course owner to prove that allowing these mobility devices on greens surfaces will create an undo burden. It is important to be factual when you make this decision and not rely on perceptions or stereotypes.

  • The first thing is to be careful. Too often a golfer with a disability seems to automatically be the focus for charges of slow play when they are not the cause. No player, regardless of disability should slow play. The impact on other players is unacceptable. However, don’t focus on the golfers with disabilities to the exclusion of other groups. If in fact an individual with a disability may be slowing down the field, perhaps some assistance or lessons might help, just as you would offer for others who slow down play. Training of your marshals and rangers on sensitivity to this is key. Just as you don’t want them always singling out women or juniors or senior citizens as the source of slow play, they should not automatically look to your customers with disabilities as the source. A good resource for this issue is the USGA’s From Bag Drop to 19th Hole.

  • All of your customers appreciate knowing good times to play your course. However it is discriminatory to restrict golfers with disabilities to certain times of the day. All players must have equal access.

  • Controlling and minimizing wear on a golf course is an issue regardless of the demographics of your clientele. First, meet with your superintendent. Define the areas of wear. Generally, a change in roping direction or some other minor alteration will take care of the problem. Following are courses that have addressed this issue successfully:

    Homestead at Fox Hollow
    Lakewood, CO
    Bruce Nelson, CGCS, Golf Course Superintendent
    (303) 987-5428

    Braemar Golf Course
    Edina, MN
    John Nylund, Golf Course Superintendent
    John Valliere, General Manager
    (952) 826-6799

    The Walker Course at Clemson University
    Clemson, SC
    Don Garrett, CGCS, Golf Course Superintendent
    (864) 656-1814

  • Yes. You should have a written policy that not only spells out how and when golf cars are provided, but also welcomes the golfer with a disability. This should be visible so that golfers without disabilities and all golf course staff are fully aware of your policy. Your policy should state what the ADA requires, that all reasonable accommodations are made. For example:
    Green Acre Golf Course welcomes golfers with disabilities. The course will make reasonable accommodations to ensure that golfers with disabilities are able to enjoy the course. See John Jones at the course for more information.

  • Single rider or other types of accessible golf cars are one means of increasing accessibility to the game. However, the purchase of single-rider golf cars in itself does not make a golf facility fully accessible. Golf course operators must also address other areas where accessibility is mandated i.e. clubhouses, bathrooms, parking lots etc., as identified in ADAAG Guidelines.

  • This is an often-heard question. Why should I go through the expense if no one will come? The only answer is that eventually they will. The number of outreach programs introducing people with disabilities to the game of golf is increasing. Also, as the population continues to age, many of your regular customers may begin to require some types of accommodation. By the year 2020, one in every four persons will be 65 years of age or older. Many of these individuals will also have a disability. It is good for business to plan now for the future.

  • A policy such as the one you suggest will eventually fall on its own weight. In addition to the potential negative publicity, think of all the revenue you may have lost by not addressing the needs of these golfers. Further, if you wait and lose in a court of law or administrative decision, you will also have to incur the costs of an attorney and the costs of the complainant’s attorney.

  • No. You are not required to have special clubs available for rent.

  • The question of course safety and where it is appropriate for a golfer to take a cart is the decision of the cart driver. If there are specific and unique circumstances that concern you, please let the golfer with a disability know before his round. However, you must make your decisions on where golf cars may go applicable to ALL golfers, not just those with disabilities. You may ban all golf cars from certain holes, but not just cars used by golfers with disabilities.

  • Without knowledge about your course, golfers won’t come. The same rule applies to golfers with disabilities. If they don’t know about your course, they won’t come and you will miss out on that market segment. There are numerous opportunities for golf course marketing to people with disabilities. Golfers with disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, and just like other golfers, with varying skills and varying degrees of readiness to golf.

    There are as many as 6,000 municipal park and recreation departments throughout the country. All provide recreation opportunities for adults and children with disabilities, and many employ Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists. These departments employ specialists who are skilled in recreation program planning and have knowledge of various disabilities. A phone call, a meeting, and an invitation for the parks and recreation agency to use your course and your staff for scheduled golf programs, lessons, leagues, tournaments and clinics for people with disabilities is a great start.

    Some people with disabilities learn or relearn golf after an injury resulting in disability. Hospitals and rehabilitation centers employ Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, occupational therapists and physical therapists, all of who have the opportunity to use golf as a rehabilitation tool. These professionals will welcome an approach from a golf course regarding clinics, outings, and lessons for patients from the hospital or rehabilitation facility. To contact these professionals, call your local hospital and ask for the recreation therapy department, occupational therapy department or physical therapy department. Additionally, more PGA and LPGA golf professionals are learning to teach people with disabilities to play golf and are willing to assist. Check with your local PGA Section for the names of these professionals.

  • It is not necessary to change any policy except to increase accessibility. The key is that all policies must apply equally to all people.

  • It depends on what your trail fee policy is for non-disabled golfers. They should be the same. If a trail fee is charged for a golfer without a disability, the same fee can be charged for a golfer who brings a single rider car he or she owns.
    If you offer single rider carts and someone wants to use their own single rider car, then you may charge a trail fee; as you would for another golfer who brings his or her own golf car.

    If your course is walking only, the person with a mobility disability does not have the option to walk so you must make an accommodation to allow the adaptive device (golf car or single rider car) without charging a fee.

  • The number of parking spaces required to be accessible to people with disabilities is found in the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). These rules, which were implemented in 1991, state that you must have at least one accessible parking place per 25 total spaces. The rules also state that parking spaces should be placed closest to the area/facility being accessed. Therefore, it is also important to consider the placement of those accessible spaces. They should be located where they provide the best access to your facility for golfers with disabilities. For example, near the bag drop and clubhouse entrance. Be sure to check local and state requirements that may exceed federal ADA requirements.

  • These rules are also found in the ADAAG – one van accessible space is required for every eight spaces that are required to be accessible with a minimum of one van accessible space. Be sure the spaces are cleared for the van user and do not have inappropriate devices such as dumpsters, etc. that would not permit a van to be opened. Additionally, check local and state requirements which may exceed ADAAG requirements for accessibility.

  • Some facilities do not allow golf cars in the parking lot for insurance purposes. This may put a burden on the player with a disability in getting to your course. Please examine your procedures, and if golf cars cannot be allowed on your lot, perhaps a golf car attendant can pick up the individual with a disability and his/her equipment in the parking lot. The issue is customer service – making this accommodation will ensure that the customer with a disability has a good experience at your course.

  • These are found in the ADAAG.

  • The ADA applies to all facilities and services – including those operated under contract. If there is a potential problem, corrective action should be taken to insure that people with disabilities have access to all amenities associated with your golf operation.

  • The ADAAG does provide guidelines for aisle space in a retail environment. You should be aware of the guidelines, and always remember to make it easy for any customer, with or without a disability to spend money.

  • Yes. However, it should be wheelchair accessible and have an inside lock. It must meet ADAAG standards and it is not acceptable in new construction unless other accessible (male and female) dressing rooms are provided as well.

  • Yes if meeting the code is readily achievable and inexpensive and easy to do. In addition, staff should have specific training on providing good customer service. Program access is the key to accessibility. Your customers with disabilities should be served as effectively and completely everyone else. So, as an example, your employees would need to be trained to come out from behind the counter to assist the customer with a disability.