The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires reasonable modifications to golf course policies, practices or procedures to serve people with disabilities (as defined by the law) on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. A reasonable modification is one that does not present an undue burden to the golf course or alter the fundamental nature of the game.
On September 15, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released final rules to update its ADA regulations and implement new accessibility standards for golf courses and other recreational facilities. The rules impact municipal and commercial entities and codify the architectural guidelines for barrier removal. The rules impact new golf course development and renovations to existing facilities. Alterations to existing golf courses include the redesign of teeing grounds and greens. Mowing and other general maintenance activities are not considered an alteration. After March 15, 2012, all new golf facilities must be accessible in accordance with the golf course accessibility guidelines and existing courses must remove barriers when it is “readily achievable” over time (easy to accomplish without much difficulty or expense). The golf course accessibility standards cover: accessible routes and/or alternative golf car passages; teeing grounds; putting greens; weather shelters; and driving ranges.
Further, on July 26, 2010, DOJ issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) specific to accessible golf cars. DOJ is considering issuing regulations requiring golf courses that provide golf cars, when replacing or acquiring additional standard golf cars, to provide accessible golf cars for use by individuals with disabilities.
GCSAA has been active in working with golfers, lawmakers and regulators to address ADA issues since the law’s inception. GCSAA and its members have also taken a proactive stance on golf course accessibility issues through the use of best practices to accommodate golfers with disabilities; through modification of policies; and through education and outreach to golf course owners and operators. GCSAA serves on the executive board of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, which is the leader in inclusion — working to ensure the opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to play the game of golf. Formed in the summer of 2001, the National Alliance is represented by major golf, recreation and therapeutic organizations in the United States; organizations that provide services for people with disabilities; and others who advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities into society. GCSAA helps golf course superintendents understand and comply with the ADA; implement ADA programs at the golf facility and provides compliance with the technical ADA Accessibility Standards.