18 Nov 2021 | All Abilities |

Sandy gets its first Paragolfer

by Martin Blake

Sandy gets its first Paragolfer
James Gribble tests out his Paragolfer at Sandy Links this week.

Sandy Golf Links in Melbourne has taken delivery of its first Paragolfer unit, the all-terrain wheelchair that helps golfers with a disability to play the game.

Golf Australia’s Senior Manager Programs and Inclusion, Christian Hamilton, tested out the unit this week alongside James Gribble, founder of Empower Golf, the Sydney-based organisation that has done enormous work in the all abilities space.

“We want people coming down and using it,” said Hamilton, who imported the first Paragolfer to Australia when he was working at Sandhurst links 15 years ago.

“In the ideal world, there would be one at every club. But at the very least, we’d like to see a Paragolfer within a few kilometres of every club in the country and then because they’re trasnsportable, clubs could access them.”

Sandy Links is now fully wheelchair accessible including the driving range, the café and the golf course. Hamilton said the course would soon run programs for the disabled using the Paragolfer alongside Empower Golf.

Gribble said there were now about 45 Paragolfer units in Australia, imported from Germany and costing close to $45,000 each.

“For the people who use them, they’re the difference between playing and not playing,” he said. “For people who’ve had recent disabilities, for people who were born with a disabilities or even the elderly when they get to the point where they want to keep playing, it gives these people an extra bit of a golf career.”

Gribble, a golf fanatic for much of his life, became a paraplegic in 2008 in a fall off a barstool in South Africa. He resumed golf several years later and has devoted his life to bringing the game to people with disabilities.

“Awareness is a massive thing,” he said. “Clubs say to us ‘how do we know how many disabled golfers are around?’ They don’t really know until they get a paragolfer unit and then people come out. So that’s a massive part of it.

“It’s a big thing but you have to promote it. Buying it and committing it is the first part, then there’s creating the programs and the messaging about inclusivity. It’s not just the players themselves; it’s the members and the board who need to commit, because without that the unit can go unused.”

James Gribble and Christian Hamilton Paragolfer image
Golf Australia's Christian Hamilton with James Gribble at Sandy Golf Links this week.

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