We give useful information about paragolf in Switzerland, show the most important tool and introduce people who want to make golf accessible for all
- 6 minutes to read
- 14 November 2023
Golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and for good reason. Golfers can enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass, the beautiful scenery, and relaxed pace of the sport. Golf is also easy on the body and can be played at any age. However, those suffering from motor disabilities and paralysis have only recently been able to join in on the fun.
In this post, you can read about the assistive device that make golf available for people with spinal cord injury and learn about the golfers who are spearheading this change.
The ParaMotion powerchair
Golf has been previously unavailable to people with paraplegia because a player must be standing to be able to swing their club. However, this has changed with the ParaMotion (originally ParaGolfer). It is a powerchair that raises the user to a supported standing position, allowing them to swing. The user is then lowered back to a seated position and can move around the course.
The ParaMotion has revolutionized golf for those with motor disabilities, but only at golf courses that have one available to rent. The size and cost of a ParaMotion make it unreasonable for most people to own, but it is not yet widely available at golf courses. Many courses argue that the demand is too low to justify the purchase.
ParaGolf in Switzerland
Switzerland has many wonderful golf courses and the right climate for golfers to enjoy. At the few courses in Switzerland that offer adaptive devices like the ParaMotion, paraplegic people can experience the physical and mental benefits of golf. Finding these golf courses, however, can be challenging for people looking to get into paragolf.
The Swiss ParaGolf Association wants to ease the stress of getting started in paragolfing, so that everyone who wants to can enjoy the game. Established in 2022, this new organization is working to improve the accessibility of paragolf in Switzerland. It encourages people with paraplegia to try paragolf, whether as new golfers or those who want to get back into the game after an accident. And it hosts paragolf tournaments and events to create a community based on a common love of golf.
Importantly, the Swiss ParaGolf Association is aiming to inform Swiss golf clubs on how they can better accommodate golfers to ease the mental, physical, and financial stress of golfing as a paraplegic person. They are also planning to create a list of golf courses in Switzerland that are the best suited for players of various disability levels. Unfortunately, as they state, in Switzerland “players in wheelchairs cannot play or visit many clubs”.
Local paragolfer: Pierre Massard
Born in Montreux, Pierre Massard was an avid golfer until a skiing accident in 2004 caused him to become paraplegic. A few years later, Pierre decided to try and pursue his passion of golf once again by sitting in a chair at the driving range and swinging his club seated. With the help of the Montreux Golf Club, Pierre was able to get a ParaGolfer powerchair and return to the golf course. Later, he created the Association Lève-toi et Swingue (EN: Get up and swing) and shares his story and golfing abilities with young people with and without wheelchair, as can be seen in this Swiss television video (in French).
In 2014, Pierre Massard published a book called Léve-toi et Swingue !, in which he shares his story of resilience. He shares that golf was what allowed him to mentally recover from his accident and enjoy life again. His competitive drive even led him to represent Switzerland in the first International Wheelchair Golf Open Championship in 2018.
Pierre continues to golf in Montreux today and has a jovial outlook on golf and his disability. When asked how exactly golf has helped him, Pierre says, “Golf is a very demanding sport, which requires a lot of concentration, and it allows you to experience the four seasons and to 'forget' your handicap for a while!”.
Around the world, paragolfers are sharing how golf has helped them overcome adversity and live life to the fullest. Despite experiencing limb loss and paraplegia, these athletes have excelled in golf and inspired many paraplegic golfers with their triumphs.
- Anthony Netto – Stand Up and Play Foundation
Originally from South Africa, Anthony Netto created the Stand Up and Play Foundation after an accident caused him to become paralyzed as a young adult. This foundation spreads awareness of paragolf, donates ParaMotions to golf courses around the world, and offers free paragolf lessons. Anthony has established himself as a global ambassador of paragolf, and previously coached both the German and American disabled golf teams.
- Monique Kalkman – Paralympian and public speaker
Dutch athlete Monique Kalkman was 14 years old when an Ewing's sarcoma tumor left her with spinal cord injury. Monique went on to become a four-time Paralympian and six-time world champion in wheelchair table tennis and wheelchair tennis.
After this, she recognized the physical and therapeutic benefits of wheelchair golf and fell in love with the sport. She was the Netherlands Golf Federation’s Adaptive Golfer of the Year in 2014, and continues to strive for success; her goal is to become the disabled golf world champion, which would make her the first disabled athlete to be world champion in three sports. Monique also travels Europe sharing her story to inspire others.
- Chad Pfeifer – Moving Foreward organization
After losing his leg in the army, American Chad Pfeifer turned to disabled golf to bond with others who have lost limbs. The sport helped him get used to his prosthetic leg and provided mental relief during his rehabilitation. As a self-taught golfer, he began to excel and play in tournaments such as the National Amputee Golf Association Championship, which he won twice. Chad is currently ranked 7th in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability. In 2014, he cofounded the organization Moving Foreward, which hosts golf clinics with physical therapists and golf professionals for people with disabilities to learn to golf using assistive devices and techniques.
Paragolf is enjoyed by paraplegic and other disabled people around the world. The demand for paragolf-friendly devices and golf courses is growing in Switzerland as more people recognize the joy of playing golf. How about you, would you be interested in trying paragolf?
More useful links:
- Swiss Paraplegic Association, information on golf in Switzerland (including contact person): https://www.spv.ch/de/, then click on "Golf" (link in German)
- PluSport Disabled Sports Switzerland, information on golf in Switzerland: https://www.plusport.ch/de/ (link in German)
- EDGA (formerly the European Disabled Golf Association, but meanwhile they are operating worldwide): https://edgagolf.com/online/www/