- Published on 27 February 2015
like most golfers, Special Olympics athletes are driven by the opportunity to compete. Program planning is designed to develop individual golf skills that enhance performance, allowing the athlete to achieve success in playing the game. Both on the practice area and on the course, Special Olympics athletes participating in golf have gained the respect of their golf peers. The Special Olympics Golf program is centered on two educational phases designed to encompass all skill levels: learning to swing a golf club and learning to play the game; including five levels of the competition. Athletes may participate in Skills, 9 hole stroke play or 18 hole stroke play.
Special Olympics golf includes five levels of competition:
- Level 1: Individual Skill Contest — entry-level athletes are tested for six skills similar to on-course play, including a wood shot, an iron shot, a pitch shot, a chip shot, a long putt and a short putt.
- Level 2: Unified Sports® Team Play Competition — a nine-hole alternate shot format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of more advanced skill and knowledge.
- Level 3: Unified Sports Team Play — 18-hole alternate shot format that teams a Special Olympics player with a non-Special Olympics player of similar ability
- Level 4: Individual Stroke Play — 9-hole
- Level 5: Individual Stroke Play — 18-hole
Individual Skill Competitions (level 1) provides useful competition for entry-level athletes, offering them training and competing in the basic skills of golf sport in order to reach the advanced levels (2-5) if the scored 60 points in the basic skills test.
Special Olympics athletes can also participate in Unified Sports® Golf Team Play.Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. In Unified Sports golf, a team would include one Special Olympics athlete and one partner; teammates should be of similar ability.
- Golf made its debut at the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
- At the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in North Carolina, USA, 113 athletes from eleven countries around the world competed in golf. Kevin Erickson of Wisconsin, USA, broke a Special Olympics World Games record by scoring a 78 at Washington Duke Country Club Golf Course.
- At the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland, 119 athletes from 12 Programs competed in golf.
- Today 8,241 Special Olympics athletes from 61 Programs compete in golf.
- Level 2 - Alternate Shot Team Play Competition
- Level 3 - Unified Sports Team Play
- Level 4 - Individual Stroke Play Competition [9 hole]
- Level 5 - Individual Stroke Play Competition [18 hole]
The following event provides meaningful competition for athletes with lower ability levels:
- Level 1 - Individual Skills Competition (Short Putt, Long Putt, Chip Shot, Pitch Shot, Iron Shot, Wood Shot)