A PIONEERING aid that gives disabled people the freedom to play golf has been introduced at a west of Scotland club.
The Paragolfer, a mobility vehicle that elevates people from a sitting to a standing position, has been hailed as “life changing“ and inspired other clubs in the country to launch fundraising drives of their own to buy one.
The prohibitive cost of the Paragolfer – they retail for as much as £20,000 – has meant it is a rarity in Britain, but a club in East Renfrewshire has become the first in Scotland to use it.
Mearns Castle Golf Academy says interest has been “phenomenal“ since it introduced the Paragolfer free to its players last month. Disabled players and the likes of wheelchair basketball teams are now regular visitors at the Newton Mearns club.
The Paragolfer was designed by healthcare firm Otto Bock in conjunction with Anthony Netto, a professional golfer from South Africa who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a car accident. With a console featuring a joystick similar to those found on power wheelchairs, players strap themselves into the three-wheeled device using a harness. By nudging the joystick they are able to stand on footplates and adopt a posture to swing a club.
The vehicle is driven using the same joystick and can accommodate a golf bag holder to one side of its chassis. As it is suitable for all terrains, those players who hit a wayward shot can even direct the Paragolfer into long rough or certain bunkers, while the machine’s lightweight wheels do not damage greens.
Otto Beck say by stimulating the metabolism and enhancing the joint mobility and flexibility of physically limited players, the device has “immense” physical benefits. By allowing unrestricted shoulder movement, the company believes the product could be used in sports such as archery and fishing.
Russell Gray, operations manager at Mearns Castle, said: “The feedback from players is fantastic, it’s not about being able to play but being able to stand up. We had one guy who couldn’t stop laughing when he was in the Paragolfer – it was the first time he’d stood up in his life. The idea of the machine is so simply but it’s life changing.”
The Paragolfer was donated to Means Castle by TS Sport, a charity which reintroduces disabled people to sport. The Scottish Disability Golf Partnership, also helped find a device using its contacts in Europe.
Jim Gales, the partnership’s secretary, said: “The Paragolfer is a great thing for all sorts of people with disabilities, whether they are paraplegics, amputees or have other conditions.”
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