EDGA Congress sets out new pathways for inclusivity – Golf Business News

1.33pm 22nd November 2022 – Exhibitions & Conferences
The European Disabled Golf Association’s annual congress saw delegates from all over the golfing world gather in Portugal to discuss how golf can help change the lives of people with disability.
Creating a stronger culture of equity, inclusion and opportunity across golf is how this can be achieved via continued innovation and best practice, delegates were informed at the congress, which was held both in person and online at Real Marina Hotel in Olhäo on Portugal’s Algarve coast from November 9-10. 
On the second day of the conference EDGA’s membership elected golf federations from Kenya and Namibia, taking membership of the association to 36 national federations. 
Over two days of presentations and workshops on what is termed ‘G4D’ – golf for the disabled – delegates discussed major progressive steps recently taken to grow the game, from encouraging the very first putts and chips in golf by ‘samplers’ of the sport to possibly playing at an elite level for golfers with a disability.
Case studies of success were shared from around the world. Golf Australia’s ‘Guidelines for the Inclusion of People with Disability in Golf’ underlined the need for all established golf nations to recognise a changing world: that today they have a “mandate for inclusion”, to ensure golf clubs act with equity, inclusion and respect towards all players. Golf Australia’s golf programme promoted this positive attitude, a view echoed by Golf New Zealand, which launched its 2022 Disability Action Plan in April to ensure that people with a disability have “more choice, improved access and positive experiences to learn, play and compete in golf”. The federation is championing an inclusive and welcoming game for all, and changing perceptions through its participation brand ‘LOVE golf’.
‘A most rewarding project’
The congress could not have got off to a more positive start as The R&A’s Jim Gough informed of The R&A and the USGA’s latest update to the Rules of Golf that includes, for the first time, the modified Rules for players with disabilities being fully incorporated into the playing rules, without the need to adopt a local rule.
The DP World Tour’s CEO Keith Pelley appraised delegates on the successful partnership with EDGA and the growth of the G4D Tour. Seven G4D Tour events were held in 2022, where at each tournament the world’s leading golfers with a disability play on the same course and in the same week as the stars of the DP World Tour, with the events watched by thousands on Sky Sports and on social media. Pelley said this was a “most rewarding project to be involved in” for all at the DP World Tour, a project which will continue and grow in the years ahead. 
These showcase events for the best G4D players help focus a great many more people on golf for the disabled around the world. This in turn helps EDGA, with the support of its key partners, to create systems, programmes and tools to build capacity in the golf industry and help coaches to enable golfers with a disability to have a better experience. Whether they are a “sampler, participant, or competitor, they should be supported by coaches,” said EDGA Head of Development Mark Taylor. 
Mark took the audience through the coach education framework that seeks to embed G4D knowledge and learning into existing coach education. Professionals and volunteer support workers can also deliver golf in a simple, engaging and fun way through ‘EDGA359’. Part-funded by The R&A, this three-stage player pathway into golf has been delivered in person to eight nations in 2022, training more than 200 coaches, volunteers and medical professionals in Poland, Belgium, South Africa, Canada, Ukraine, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Spain. Further educational visits are already scheduled to Finland, Ireland and the UAE in early 2023 to add further member countries to the growing list of federations and developing golf nations looking for wider support in coach education for G4D.
A major element of progress in development must be a better representation of female golfers. EDGA Director of Development Aimi Bullock recognised much good work by member nations to encourage more women into the game but challenged every nation member of EDGA to deliver more G4D women players by the time of the 2023 congress.
Today, golfers registered with a WR4GD or Access Pass will find EDGA tournaments to enter all over the world. In 2022 some 92 EDGA Tour events or EDGA badged events were held with more than 100 expected to be held next year. Golfers with disability from 15countries also took part in the European Golf Association’s Team Championship in June. 
The complete player pathway starts with ‘samplers’
The player pathway is open to every golfer with a disability. The EDGA Tour and supported events provide this pathway for new golfers who can ultimately reach the G4D Tour. New players can sample the game with introducers, learn to play with family, friends and the help of coaches, and often start to compete in clubs, and with the support of foundations and national federations. The winner of last week’s G4D Tour Series Finale @ DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the highest-profile event on the G4D Tour, was won by Sweden’s Rasmus Lia, aged 21, who started playing in EDGA tournaments in 2017. 
The majority of EDGA tournaments count towards the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) and delegates received a helpful update on recent technical innovations on the Ranking from Professor Steve Otto, Chief Technology Officer at The R&A, together with some suggestions of plans for the future.
Just as the WR4GD has to work for the benefit of all involved, so does the eligibility and classification of all the golfers around the world who apply for a WR4GD or Access Pass. Dr Roger Hawkes, EDGA Executive Director of Eligibility, took the delegates through the many layers of work needed to ensure opportunity, fairness and equality for players, and how trained medical assessors will be supporting the growth of competitive golf further going forwards.
The congress was designed to inform, educate and share ideas with member nations. The advantages of being a member of EDGA include access to a high level of expertise stretching over 22 years. Some EDGA services offered are in marketing and communications, one example being the development of a pack of ‘white label’ assets that federations and partners can use to promote, attract and retain individuals with a disability in the game.
EDGA is a not-for-profit organisation that provides advice, guidance and standards to leading golfing bodies, including: The IGF, The R&A, the European Tour Group and the EGA. Looking ahead, each member can benefit from the market growth experienced by expanding the reach of the game to appeal to the estimated 15 per cent of people with a disability around the world. 
‘Freedom of choice, and equity’
EDGA President Tony Bennett said: “The content of the conference underlined just how much is going on across the G4D landscape, from market opportunity for the industry to national governing bodies being given the platform to play a central role in progressing the sport and be recognised for doing so. The world is changing quickly and one of the great ways it is changing is the desire for inclusion for people with disability, to give them freedom of choice to get involved with sport and their need to be treated with equity. 
“We believe golf can play a leading role here. A number of countries are demonstrating fantastic work to create a more positive environment and we need to all ensure that golf clubs can extend a warm welcome to players with a disability, including non-golfers who may be harder to reach at first. We have some wonderful partners who understand this, including The R&A and DP World Tour who spoke to our delegates so well. Meanwhile, it has been fantastic for our membership to welcome new nation members Kenya and Namibia into the EDGA family. Working together, EDGA seeks to change the lives of people with disability through the power of golf. The objective is to help 500,000 people with disability to try the game.” 
Bennett closed the congress by offering special thanks to supporters of EDGA, including The R&A, European Tour Group, Ryder Cup European Development Trust, RSM, PING, Srixon, Dreams and Golfbidder.
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The judging panel for the inaugural Women in Golf Awards, which are taking place on December 7 at the Bramshaw and Bell Inn in Hampshire, has been decided.
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