A pioneering golf taster day at Gaudet Luce Golf and Leisure Complex in Worcestershire, brought together seven servicewomen with physical and mental injuries to explore how the sport can help their recovery.
The event was part of England Golf’s disability strategy to introduce the game as a rehabilitation therapy and also attract more women into the game. It was a joint initiative with the On Course Foundation.
“It was a great day which saw the exciting work we are doing in partnership with the On Course Foundation begin to come to fruition,” said Jamie Blair, England Golf disability manager. “We are working together so that more people can access golf as a rehabilitation therapy.”
Almost all the participants were new to golf and feeling nervous when they arrived, so the day started with coffee and introductions to put everybody at ease.
PGA professional Russell Adams, started the day in the clubhouse by explaining a bit about the game and what the day would cover. He then took the women outside for the first exercise – learning to putt.
As they relaxed and gained more confidence the servicewomen moved on to try chipping and then hitting the ball – slowly building their skills in bite-sized portions until they felt comfortable enough to move on to the next exercise.
The day finished with a fun 9-hole game played in teams so as not to put any individual under pressure to perform.
The On Course Foundation supports the recovery of wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans through golf. Its mission is to build confidence and self-belief through golf skills and help participants explore how the game can help them on the road to recovery.
Russell Adams commented: "By the end, everybody was buzzing with enthusiasm and keen to learn more about golf,” he said. “The day showed how sociable and adaptable golf can be. Everybody can play, whatever their injury, which is one of the reasons it is so good at helping service personnel recover.”
One of the women taking part was 29-year-old Kate Surman, 29, who is recovering from cancer in her jaw, diagnosed after a tour of Afghanistan.
She says: “I got so much out of the day. It was amazing and great to be among other wounded, injured and sick service personnel that understood me.
“I love playing golf. It gives me a focus, an aim to aspire to and exercise that isn't too arduous. My worries disappear while I’m on the course because the game is so absorbing.”
Penny Broomhead, a clinical specialist physiotherapist in amputee and prosthetic rehabilitation, is convinced that golf can play an important role in rehabilitation.
“It proves the power of sport to heal and shows what an individual is able to achieve when being challenged but without feeling they are being 'assessed,’” she said
Paula Allen, volunteer county co-ordinator for Derbyshire Help for Heroes, had driven some of the women to the event and accepted the offer from Russell to take part as well.
She said: “It became clear that golf has a unique ability to help heal the injured service personnel that we work with at Help for Heroes.”
Some participants were suffering from mental injuries, such as post-traumatic stress and depression.
“Golf really helps with this,” added Paula. “When you focus on the game you are not thinking about your injury and that is magical. On the day I was looking around at the women taking part and thinking this is working, this is great!”
“A military career is not just a job, it is a sense of camaraderie and belonging and once you are injured or ill that can be taken away. Golf can bring back that sense of pushing yourself, perseverance and close bonds with others and it’s a game that everybody can play.”
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