Wheelchair accessible

A vision for an industry first of a fully inclusive golf teaching facility that could equally support people with disabilities and able-bodied players, has been realised at Walmley Golf Academy & Foundation CIC.

Head teaching professional, Sam Stuart, who founded the Academy in 2011, says the facility is committed to achieving its primary aim ‘to make golf accessible, engaging and relevant to everyone in the local community’.
He said, “For some time, there’s been talk in the industry about the need to improve wheelchair accessibility, and I’m delighted that we here at Walmley have been the ones to actually achieve this. Huxley Golf helped us come up with a brilliant solution to a considerable challenge, one that would have been difficult to overcome without their expertise and specialist support. We are thrilled with the result, as I’m confident that many wheelchair golfers will be too.”
Huxley Golf worked with the onsite greenkeeping team to create a large rectangular practice area of some 228 square metres (nearly 2,500 square feet) . Comprising a central golf green featuring circular islands in three corners of the green from which wheelchair users can tee off, it is surrounded by a wide, wheelchair-friendly perimeter pathway that facilitates putting practice. This design means that wheelchairs don’t need to go onto the green itself preserving the integrity of the playing surface, and its curved form enables golfers to putt in multiple directions.
Will Alsop, PGA professional and sales manager for Huxley Golf, worked with Sam and his team on the project. He said, “This project required a great deal of thought as, to the best of our knowledge, creating a wheelchair practice area of this nature had never been attempted before.
“Aside from the design of the feature itself, two key considerations for us were ensuring user safety and preserving the long-term resilience of the playing surfaces with sustained and concentrated wheelchair use. We worked very closely with head greenkeeper Jamie Brooks, who built the bases with our guidance, to adapt gradients and contours to safeguard wheelchair stability, and, of course, we know how our surfaces respond to wear and tear and supplied our most durable, resilient surfaces for this project.”
Budding golfer Pauline Reid said, “As a disabled person, I am aware of barriers to lots of activities. So, when I was invited to attend a women’s taster class in golf, I expected only to observe and network. However, instructor and accessibility advocate Sam Stuart helped me see beyond the barriers; he showed me that golf can accommodate people with disabilities. Walmley understands that navigating natural grass can be difficult for mobility-related disability and that adopting artificial green surfaces really improves accessibility and inclusivity. This is a great stride forward for the Club and shows how accessible golf can be.”

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