Language & Communication8th November 2014

Deaf Awareness, Bespoke BSL supports Golf4All Programme

Staff at Ridgeway Golf4All Club learn BSL in preparation for Deaf Golf Sessions

by Simon Deacy OBE

As so few sports clubs across the UK are truly Deaf friendly, it is good to learn about clubs that are making the effort to understand and embrace Deaf culture and Deaf communication. One such club is Ridgeway Golf4All in Caerphilly, South Wales, a club now working with Wales Deaf Golf Association, Golf Development Wales and Disability Sport Wales to provide an opportunity for deaf youngsters across South Wales to start playing golf.

Hitting a few balls in the driving range at the club a few months ago, Sarah Lawrence recalls being approached by Bill Fitzgerald, a Director at the club. “I had spoken to Tom, the Manager at the club about Deaf people using the range, and Bill approached me shortly afterwards when I was practicing and asked if there was anything the club could do to support Deaf golf. Minutes later we had agreed to run some golf taster sessions for deaf youngsters, giving them free access to the range and coaching. I could not have been more pleased.”

Of course, offering coaching and use of the range free of charge to deaf youngsters alone does not make a club a Deaf Friendly. However, this is a sports club run by a group of young people who have signed up to the ethos of the golf4all way of thinking that underpins what they are trying to do at Ridgeway. Boasting a proud record of developing talented young deaf golfers, including one of the current professionals offering lessons at the club Oli Baker, the team instantly supported Bill’s offer to deaf youngsters.

Backed by a small amount of sponsorship from the Principality Building Society, arrangements were quickly put in place for a couple of the staff to undertake some deaf awareness training and to learn some golf club specific British Sign Language (BSL). Turning up for the first session on a Wednesday afternoon, Sarah Lawrence, a deaf awareness trainer for 20 years, was expecting two and possibly three of the staff at the club to start the training. Showing just how keen the club were to get this right, nine people took their seats at the start of the session.

“I was delighted to see that there were staff from golf coaching, the bar, kitchen and ground-keeping.” Sarah explained, “There were also two other people present, one a talented young golfer at the club and the other one of the more elderly members. It is wonderful that the Principality Building Society have made this programme possible.”

Since that first session, training has continued for six weeks on a Wednesday afternoon, with each member of staff learning how to communicate with any deaf youngster including BSL that is relevant to their roles whilst working at the club, meaning that they are now far more deaf aware and can welcome Deaf signers to the club as well as deal with their golfing, bar and restaurant needs.

Dave O'Rourke, the business development manager at the club, threw himself energetically into the training, able to have a short conversation with Sarah at the end of the first 2 hour session. Commenting on the training at the end of the 6 week programme, Dave, told me, "I could not have foreseen just how much I would get out of this and how enjoyable it would be. I am so pleased that the club is going to be able to support grass roots golf for the Deaf community, and to be able to communicate and sign to any of the Deaf youngsters who come along is just a huge advantage."

Their signing talents will soon be put to the test with the first of the deaf golf taster sessions taking place on Wednesday 12th and Sunday 16th November.

Places are still available for any deaf youngster (7 – 19) who wants to attend (please email to confirm).

Whilst all of the staff enjoyed the learning, some were concerned that there would not be any follow-on opportunity, with Dave and Oli, the self employed professional at the club, particularly keen to take their BSL skills to the next level. As Oli said, "This programme of deaf awareness and BSL learning has blown me away. It's been brilliant. To think that I will be able to give golf lessons to Deaf youngsters using sign language after just 6 weeks of Sarah teaching is wonderful. I am looking forward to helping Deaf youngsters take up golf and become good players."

Enquiries are currently under way to find a way to give the team at Ridgeway access to the Entry Level Qualification in BSL offered by the Institute of British Sign Language. "Everyone at the club has taken a lot from this experience with Sarah and the links being made with Deaf golf," Tom Bowen, Manager at the Club told me. "The benefits for the club and our Golf4All ethos are obvious for all to see and I am hopeful we will be able to get a number of our staff onto formal BSL courses so that they can continue their learning."

In the meantime, we hope the taster sessions for deaf youngsters is a great success and sets up some of those involved for active involvement in golf for many years to come.


Article by Simon Deacy OBE

posted in Community / Language & Communication

8th November 2014