More than 10 million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss – that’s one in six of the population. Within 20 years, it’s expected that the figure will rise to more than 14 million. Currently two million of us wear a hearing aid and 800,000 are severely or profoundly deaf.
So what has this to do with golf?
According to the English Deaf Golf Association (EDGA), golf is the perfect team sport where team mates can communicate to each other between shots with sign language.
But the EDGA desperately needs financial support. It is working in collaboration with England Golf to promote the game of golf to deaf schools, communities and individuals thanks to some funding from Sports England but with more golf events planned from next year it needs more sponsorship to encourage and educate deaf people to enjoy golf.
Says Ben Stephens, architect, single-figure golfer and newly appointed secretary of the EDGA: “Despite being profoundly deaf myself, living in the mainstream world and communicating verbally using a cochlear implant device, I did not join the association until nearly two years ago. My experience initially was a bit of a shock but I was determined to fit in with the deaf community.
“When I first took part in the English Deaf national championships I was not aware that I was not allowed to use my hearing device. I had to play in total silence. The strange thing is that it does help you focus more on the shot unless you see any sudden movement can be a distraction.”
“Due to my hearing impairment I have always been a ‘feel’ player rather than relying on any sound. So I had to focus more on lip-reading with no sound and learn sign language where clapping was replaced by twisting of the hands to say ‘well done’ or ‘good shot’,” revealed Ben, who is learning ‘golf’ sign language but admits that to attract the attention of a playing companions ahead, it still needs a golf ball to be thrown past them!
Six of England’s best deaf golfers – Ben among them – are hoping to compete later this year in the World Deaf Golf Championships in Japan. They are also seeking financial support for their trip and will be making a contribution to the Japanese Tsunami Fund.
For many of us golf is a relaxing but competitive sport but without the benefits of sound and communication, imagine how much harder it can be.
The EDGA meanwhile is determined to introduce the experience as a positive option for this growing community of those with impaired hearing.
Contributions can be made to EDGA’s ‘just giving account’ – www.justgiving.com/EnglishDeafGolf-Japan2012.