Tim Surry sinks a putt from his Stand Up and Play chair while Jason Graber, Nick Pryor and Sara Callagy look on.
All photos by Loren Worthington except where noted

“So, you were a golfer?”

“I am a golfer.” Bob Larson corrected gently, out on the Encanto 9-hole course. Less than a month into recovery due to a spinal cord injury, Bob was enjoying a sunny day on the links as part of the Barrow Neurorehabilitation monthly golf clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He’s still wearing his body brace, which impedes his swing. But, on a beautiful spring day on one of Phoenix Metro’s more than 200 golf courses, he was in the zone.

Golf is more than a sport. It’s an identity, a way of life. With Ability360’s Adaptive Golf equipment and local programs, golf can still be your game.

If you’re ready to take a swing, this is what you need to know.

Newly-injured Bob Larson putts on the third hole at Encanto Golf Course. Larson’s foursome was comprised of peer mentors and inpatients in the Barrow Neurorehabilitation at St. Joseph’s Hospital recreational therapy program.

Carts & Chairs: Stand Up and Play golf units serve as power wheelchairs that carry you over the course and raise you like a standing frame for your swing. Ability360 has three units available. Solo Rider units are single-rider golf carts with a swing-out seat to elevate the golfer for a full swing. Ability360 has two units. Depending on your ability, a person can use one or the other. In some instances, people play out of their everyday wheelchair.

White golf flag, number 2.

Clubs: Ability360 has clubs available for beginners to learn the sport. Seated golfers can typically use a standard set of clubs. Clubs can be customized to accommodate a modified swing.

White golf flag, number 3.

Courses: Adaptive carts and chairs can be used at most courses with permission of the course. Currently, Ability360 is partnering with Longbow Golf Club in the East Valley and Encanto Golf Course in Midtown Phoenix for instruction and individual play. Calling ahead to clubs unfamiliar with this equipment is recommended.

Corbin Beu plays competitive golf from a manual wheelchair.
White golf flag, number 4.

Monthly golf clinics are offered through Barrow Neurorehabilitation at St. Joseph’s Hospital. (Call Recreation Therapy Department at St. Joseph’s for more information @ 602-406-3606)

White golf flag, number 5.

Additional clinics are offered through the Saving Strokes program facilitated by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. (For more information on this national program, go to www.savingstrokes.com or call 602-414-5352 locally.)

White golf flag, number 6.

Instructional clinics for all ages and abilities are available. We offer both on-hole play and 3-station clinics. Our first on-course youth adaptive clinic will be at Longbow Golf Club on April 16th. For more information, please contact golf@ability360.org.

White golf flag, number 7.

Mentors: Jason Graber and Tim Surry are avid golfers and full-time wheelchair users regularly using the Stand Up and Play carts. These two Ability360 staff members use adaptive golf as a vehicle for community integration and peer mentoring. You can find them at the Sports & Fitness Center to talk golf.

White golf flag, number 8.

Donors: When Ability360 decided to develop an adaptive golf program, it became clear we’d need to foster some great friendships and community partnerships. Founded in 1958, The Globe Foundation, a private family foundation based in Arizona, provided funding for the Stand Up and Play carts and the transportation requirements. This included a truck fit with hand controls, adaptive seats and a cargo trailer. Thanks to the Ability Center and Adapt Solutions, the truck was modified to include hand controls and seat lifts on both sides so that all of our qualified staff can say they’re “working” at the course. Longbow Golf Club generously donated our two Solo Riders.

White golf flag, number 9.
White golf flag, number 9.

Competition: Once you’ve mastered the adaptive equipment, you can find opportunities to compete in existing golf tournaments, new adaptive golf competitions and unique events like the ParaLong Drive competition.

Golf is the one place where it’s acceptable to ask “what’s your handicap?” What’s yours?

Jason Graber chips from a Solo Rider while Alison Baionno looks on from Stand Up and Play unit.

Using the Stand Up and Play or Solo Rider is partial weight-bearing; make sure your bones are up to it. When’s the last time you were in a standing frame? If it’s been a while, you might get dizzy or risk passing out.

Arizona climate extends to the course; remember your hat and water, especially if your body does not regulate core temperature well. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Talk to your doctor about your limits.