Making golf more accessible
By Heather Wood, Golf Course News Magazine, January 1, 2007
Jack Eick credits the SoloRider golf cart manufactured in Englewood, Colorado for bringing him back to the links.
Eick, 83, was an avid golfer until a nervous system disease called peripheral myopathy made it difficult for him to walk, keeping him away from the course.
Golfer Jack Eick, left, golfs with the help
of a SoloRider golf cart made for the
disabled while Doug Stultz, golf manager
at the Hamilton County Park District,
looks on. Eick and Stultz are working to get
a cart for each of the county's golf courses.
Even though he couldn't play, Eick attended
senior tournaments when they made stop in
Lebanon, Ohio, near his hometown. He learned
of Dennis Walters, an aspiring professional
who was paralyzed from the waist down when
his golf cart flipped over on him.
Eick learned that Walters was able to continue playing golf by never leaving the golf cart. This was possible with the SoloRider golf cart made for people who have difficulty getting around nine or 18 holes.
In 2003, Eick got the attention of Doug Stultz, golf manager at the Hamilton County Park District, who oversees seven golf courses that serve the greater Cincinnati area and parts of Kentucky and Indiana. He convinced Stultz to look into getting one of the carts for the county's golf courses.
Stultz and Eick went to the PGA golf show to study up on what was available for disabled golfers.
In 2004, the parks district used a demo SoloRider on the courses and introduced it to some of the golfers. They kept the cart past the tryout period because it was so well received. In the fall of that year, the park district was able to purchase one of its own because of a private donation.
The SoloRiders look like standard golf carts, but without roofs. What makes them different is that there is only one seat, which swivels the whole way around, and acceleration is controlled on the handlebars, much like an all-terrain vehicle.
Golfers can swing the seat to the side of the cart and take their shot on the course, turn the seat back to the forward position and drive to the next shot.
Superintendents' concerns about the cart could be that the cart would have to go where the golfer goes, including the greens. The cart is designed to leave even those delicate surfaces unharmed, says Eick, who travels to senior groups and other establishments to talk about the carts.
Stultz works with golfers one on one before they get onto the course to make sure they have a full grasp of the cart. Once the golfer is ready to play, someone is available to offer assistance until the golfer gets the hang of it.
The Hamilton County Park District now has three of these carts in its fleet. They were able to purchase one of the carts because of a grant they received from the state of Ohio. Stultz hopes to buy two more in the coming year with help from a USGA grant.
Stultz received recognition for his dedication from the nonprofit organization The Inclusion Network, who presented Stultz and the county parks district with an Inclusion Award in 2005.
There are 30 golfers in the parks system who use the carts, Stultz estimates. Many of those golfers would not be able to play the courses without the help of the carts, he says. The added revenue from these golfers helps to recoup the cost of the golf cart they bought with money from the parks district's budget.
And in Eick's case, when he golfs, he brings three others to play with him.
But revenue is far from Stultz's mind when he thinks of the golf carts.
"Many of the individuals we work with had given up the game because of their disability," he says. "Through the use of this cart, we have brought many back to the game they have enjoyed their entire life. For others, we have introduced the game of golf to them for the first time."
Stultz referenced a 45-year-old paraplegic who had never played the game until recently, when he tried one of the golf carts. After a few lessons with Stultz, he surprised his wife and son at the golf course by picking up a club and playing a round with them.
"He now plays quite a bit with his wife and son," Stultz says. "You can't put a price tag on that."