Welcome to the United States Blind Golf Association’s web site. Spend some time checking out our links and you will quickly learn why our motto is: “You don’t have to see it … to tee it!”
The association’s name states blind golf but we welcome all golfers with sight loss, men and women, youngsters or seniors. Whether you are blind or visually impaired the USBGA offers regional, national, and even international tournaments for those who enjoy competing.
If you are interested in joining the USBGA visit our Membership page. On it is information on requirements for membership and application forms.
DVDs are available upon request. One is about the organization, the other is on how to play and coach blind golf. Our members play golf according to the USGA/ R&A Rules of Golf with the approved exception of allowing the club to be grounded in a hazard and the use of a coach.
Support for the association and its members comes in many forms but none more important than the people that assist us in playing the game - the coach. Coaches are the reason blind golf is referred to as: “The ultimate team sport.”
Communities benefit immensely who are involved or host USBGA tournaments. The greatest reward at these events is seen through the smiles of sight impaired children who learn in blind golf clinics that they too can participate in the game of golf.
Bob Andrews was the President of the USBGA for a decade (1992-2002) and is a significant contributor to the success of the USBGA. During his tenure as President, the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Club, all created "A Modification of the Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities", which now allows us to compete in the game of golf. Also, with Disney, the USBGA Golf Ball Logo was created and through Florida International University, the motto, "You Don't Have to See It ... To Tee It" was developed. Through his leadership, the International Blind Golf Association was organized with it's first six member countries. Below, he has captured a perspective of Blind Golf and how it has evolved and affected those that participate and support the efforts of the USBGA in both our nation and throughout the world.
The Story of Blind Golf (Word document) or read the text below:
The Blind Golf Story
By Bob Andrews
One more article or story about golf could be of some interest, but probably nothing that captures the imagination. However, if one were to precede the word blind in front of golf it always gets everyone’s attention – then they follow up by asking the questions. Yes, there is such a thing as blind golf and the players are represented by an organization called the United States Blind Golf Association (USBGA).
In 1946 a hand full of totally blind men, primarily recent World War II veterans, gathered in California. Their purpose was to play some competitive golf rounds. More startling was the fact that they were playing according to the Rules of Golf. One then asks how is that possible? Well, blind golf is a team sport and every blind golfer has alongside him the most important part of his equipment – a partner, often referred to as a ‘coach’ or ‘guide’.
Those first competitive golf rounds became an annual event and 70 years later the National Championship, as it has become known, continues on. Not too many years after this blind golf story began an organization was needed to validate the growing membership. So in 1953, the USBGA was organized. Several member players, prior to losing their sight, belonged to clubs or knew successful business men and even Hollywood entertainers. This was extremely important because those contacts often opened up golf courses for the USBGA to compete on. In addition it was the beginning of a tradition, still in place today, of assisting members with tournament expenses. It was accomplished through entertainment shows and golf scrambles that gave sighted golfers an opportunity to play with blind golfers.
Some great personalities were part of the USBGA history as well as famous golf clubs and courses. Friends of blind golf would include Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, HRH Prince Andrew of the Royal Family, and even former President Gerald Ford. More recently, Eli Manning has been the host of a very successful fund raising blind golf event. Through the years blind golfers and the USBGA have had the privilege of playing at famous locations such as Mission Hills, The Riviera Club in L.A., Firestone, Wentworth in England, Sedgefield in NC, and numerous times at Disney World’s Lake Buena Vista Course.
Several PGA tour golfers have supported the USBGA and even played in demonstration rounds with the members. First and foremost on that list was Ken Venturi, former golf TV color analyst for CBS. He dedicated one weekend every year for 25 years supporting “my friends, the blind golfers.” British Open winner, Ian Baker-Finch teed it up with USBGA players. One of the most memorable rounds ever was with U.S. Open champion, Payne Stewart, who played with a blindfold on! He lost to the USBGA national champion but helped create a national awareness of the ability of blind golfers. Civic organizations like the Rotary Club, Lions Clubs, and golf equipment corporations all contributed throughout the history of the USBGA. PGA club pros all over the country have also helped make the annual national championship a special event.
The notoriety and the overall growth of golf stimulated the beginning of international blind golf with new organizations in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Austrailia. International golf matches were held which eventually grew into major tournaments with blind and vision impaired golfers. It wasn’t long before an International Blind Golf Association was born in 1998. The first World Championship was held in the United States and is now held biennially around the world. The financial backing from a very generous Japanese business man, Dr. Hirahusa Handa, made the growth and interest in blind golf world wide possible. The United States Golf Association took note of the growth of blind and disabled golfers and asked the USBGA to help write The Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities. The Royal and Ancient Golf Association also participated and the two small exceptions to the rules were made official: (1) grounding a club in a hazard and (2) allowing a coach to stand on the line of play as well as the line of a putt.
Around the turn of the century there were many additions and changes to the USBGA. The biggest came with the inclusion of vision impaired golfers. Another great addition was the development of a website, blindgolf.com. With the growth of the web and the use of computers by the blind, communications opened up new possibilities. The Midnight Golfer, a quarterly newsletter was circulated throughout the country. Several regional golf tournaments were included in the schedule. The use of net scores to determine title winners became the norm generally around the world. The USBGA however, stuck to its roots and gross scores continue to determine a national champ.
The last decade of the 1900s brought some other updates and exciting developments. The organization finally became an official IRS recognized 501 c-3, non-profit association. A marketing class at Florida International University was given an assignment – to create a catchy motto that both says and captures the uniqueness of blind golf. Well, they did and the membership proudly displays “You don’t have to see it, to tee it!” as its motto. Found in some very old files of the USBGA was a letterhead on stationary with the familiar emblem of a golfer putting with his coach kneeling down lining up the putt. In the early 1990s it was given a modern graphic look by a Disney World artist and became the national tournament logo. About the same time the golf ball with sun glasses was given a face lift and turned out to be perfect when placed on a logo pin. Recently they have been slightly modified but remain as popular symbols.
With so much history it was inevitable that a hall of fame needed to be established. The USBGA Hall of Fame recognizes the three entities which made blind golf famous: the players, the coaches, and friends of blind golf. On the website one can read the bios and statistics of the great players and coaches. Also included are the articles about friends of blind golf who provided financial grants, tournament organization, training and so much more. Six decades of wonderful stories are told in the hall of fame.
So now one knows – blind golf is not about a blind or vision impaired person with a golf bag full of clubs. The story is about what happens when the blind or vision impaired person joins up with a sighted coach. Add to this ultimate team, the friends of blind golf, and opportunities will abound. Yes, the USBGA members have teed it up nationwide for the past seventy years and look forward to future competitive golf games.