Players redefine 'golf drive' Special cart enables
physically challenged golfers to get out on the links


JENNIFER PELLEGRINI - July 26, 2007


Local golfer Frank Peter shows off his golfing skills in a SoloRider cart, recently purchased by the Niagara Parks Commission. The cart - which allows people with mobility issues to hit the links - is the same as one Peter bought for himself last year. Legends is the first local public golf course to make the US$8,600 investment in one of the machines.

Frank Peter has a little joke he likes to tell when talking about golfing.

"This guy was talking to me and he asked what my handicap was and I said, 'Permanent,'" quipped Peter, who was once Canada's top-ranked wheelchair tennis player, but has since turned his attention from the tennis court to the fairway.

It's only natural, he said. Coming from a family of golf enthusiasts, he would be the one to call up family members or friends to try to convince them to hit the links.

But playing in a wheelchair proved difficult, particularly when it came to getting into sand traps. Last year, he did a little online investigating and came across the SoloRider, which has a seat that turns 350 degrees to allow duffers to tee off like everyone else.

At a price of US$8,600 it's out of many golfers' budgets, but was an expense Peter happily shelled out for in order to hit the links whenever and wherever he wants.

They're a regular sight on U.S. public golf courses, where the law requires at least one single-rider accessible cart.

But that's not the case in Ontario, despite legislation that requires equal access for all Ontarians, including when it comes to recreation.

To date, only one local public course - Legends on the Niagara - has purchased one a SoloRider.

"We made the commitment last year to purchase one for this season," said club pro Curtis Labelle.

Labelle said since its arrival, the cart has proven popular among golfers for whom hitting the links had become a challenge as tough as the course itself.

"We've had a handful of people ask to rent it - we just have to get the message out there to more golfers that it's here," he said.

Although the cart is predominantly for Legends, Labelle said it can be transported to the Whirlpool golf course for people who want to play there.

There is no additional fee for renting the cart at Legends, but there may be a fee for moving the cart between courses, something that has yet to be determined.

What Peter likes most about the cart is that it closely resembles a regular two-person cart.

Clubs are stored in a holder at the front and a strap holds players in place when the seat rotates and rises, allowing golfers to take their swing.

He said the design makes it less likely to stand out as a mobility device, allowing golfers like himself - or people with knee, hip or other ailments - to keep playing as long as possible.

"If you left the game and can't get around, come out and try it," he said.