The United States Blind Golf Association (USBGA) was established in 1953 for the purpose of encouraging and enhancing opportunities for blind and visually impaired golfers to compete in the game of golf.
Blind and visually impaired golf is played with the assistance of a sighted coach. As a team golfers and coaches are expected to follow the established rules of golf with the exception of being able to ground a club in a hazard and have the coach stand behind the golfer when lining up a put.
USBGA conducts an annual national tournament in different parts of the country each year along with several regional events.
Full membership is open to men and women who meet a specific set of sight guidelines ranging from no vision at all to legal blindness or specific field restrictions. Perspective members must demonstrate the ability to meet established scoring guidelines set forth by USBGA. Yearly membership dues is established by the board of directors.
Support membership is available to any individual who wishes to support the game of blind golf at a reduced rate from full membership.
USBGA is pleased to sponsor clinics for blind and visually impaired children throughout the country. Such clinics are usually put on with assistance from a variety of First Tee programs.
USBGA is directed by a 6 person board of directors who report to the membership and is responsible for conducting an annual meeting at each national championship.
As a Not for profit 501C3 organization, USBGA conducts a variety of fund/raising opportunities including, but not limited to grants, corporate donations along with donations from individuals.
These categories are accepted and recognized by the International Blind Golf Association IBGA and the United States Blind Golf Association USBGA.
Totally Blind Division:
B-1: No light perception, or light perception which is not functional, central or peripheral, with or without light projection, up to the inability to differentiate between a blank sheet of white paper and a sheet of white paper with a black symbol on it.
(The black symbol is displayed on the IBGA/USBGA Sight Form and is used as part of the exam.)
Vision Impaired Division:
B-2: From the ability to recognize the shape of a hand up to visual acuity of 20/600.
B-3: From the visual acuity above 20/600 up to visual acuity of less than 20/200.
All classifications are in best eye with best correction.
All blind and vision impaired golfers, bar none, will tell you they owe their game, their scores, their enjoyment and their mobility to their coach. It takes a special person to have just the right combination of skill, patience and impatience. Somebody's got to keep things moving, and that's the first job of every coach. Especially at tournament time, it's a game where we all line up, and follow one another. The lead horse, which changes from tournament to tournament and day to day, has got to stay out front and keep moving. But this is so for all contenders, as playing golf blind puts us far too often in difficult lies and behind imposing obstacles, where the only shot is to chip out and hit it again. Speed of play is imperative.
Secondly, and no less important, is communication skills, both verbal and tactile. The coach sizes up the shot that his man or woman is facing, and then must communicate it in the most intelligent way possible. What is the yardage to the pin? Is the terrain between us and the green up hill, or down, by one club or more? Should we be going for the stick, or lay up short of the traps? All of these are decisions that take thought and care, as what comes intuitively with sighted play needs concise conversation when coaching. And the same goes for describing shot outcomes. For the golfer, there's nothing worse than hitting a shot and not getting any feedback from the coach. What feels good at first is often all you need to know, but just as often not. Telling your golfer the precise outcome, that the ball went 30 yards right or 30 yards left is crucial, as your golfer will want to make grip or set-up adjustments on his or her next similar shot.
The Coach videoThe capabilities and function of a coach as defined by the USGA rules modifications. (1:09 minutes)
Dennis Cone, the Founder of the Caddie HQ-the Caddie Foundation, honored Kevin J. Sullivan by presenting him with the Buckey Walters Award at a special ceremony held at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Classic, on Monday June 25, 2007.
With this Award, Kevin became the first Caddie/coach to enter into the special section of the Professional Caddie Hall of fame.
The Buckey Walters Award was established to recognize Coaches of the Challenged golfer, who enjoy the game, while managing special needs of all kinds. Sullivan has coached Bill McMahon in numerous Blind Golf competitions, since 1991.
Other USBGA coaches to receive this honor are Gerry Berouse and Joseph McCourt.
My first involvement with blind and visually-disabled individuals was at a fundraiser for the Middle Atlantic Blind Golf Association (MABGA) in the Philadelphia area eighteen years ago. I found it to be a very interesting concept and the next year started coaching a B1 player. It has been a rewarding and challenging experience ever since and the friendships established are priceless. Five years ago our MAGBA president received a call about a B2 player from Lexington KY who was looking for someone to coach him in the USBGA tournament at Edgemont Country Club just outside of the city of Brotherly Love. That player was Ty Thompson. I was his coach, we bonded, and we have been friends ever since. The national tournament is much more demanding with its description of each hole, hazards ahead, exact distances, walking off putting requirements and overall being very attentive to the needs of the player compared to our more socially-oriented MABGA events. I had the opportunity to coach Ty again in 2012 at the Middle Bay Country Club on Long Island. It was a wonderful reunion with him and some other players whom I met at Edgmont. The golf is a team sport between player and coach. The well-run tournament by Sheila Drummond was another wonderful experience. I feel very fortunate to be part of the blind golfers.