Ian Woosnam coaches a golf player who is wearing an eye mask


International Blind Golf Association

Although there have been blind golf tournaments held since the early 1950s the International Blind Golf Association (I.B.G.A) was officially founded in 1998 through the efforts of Dr Handa (now Honorary President of I.B.G.A.) who arranged meetings in Australia and the United States which resulted in bringing together six countries that were each following their own programme.

The number of member countries has grown steadily ever since. Currently there are over 500 registered I.B.G.A. players and many more playing who are not yet registered. The number is growing all the time.

Golf is a sport which can be played by anyone regardless of age, gender, physical ability or disability. Most people will think it is essential to have good eyesight to play golf, but that is not true. Totally blind and severely visually impaired golfers, with the assistance of their coaches/guides, are able to enjoy the friendship and exercise the game affords – but most of all the thrill of hitting a good shot. There is also the challenge of competition against other blind golfers and the opportunity to compete with fully sighted players using various handicapping schemes.

The IBGA was formed to govern, sanction and provide funding for international open blind golf events. Prior to its foundation, national associations had organised their own regular open championships. Each time, these associations received substantial funding from Japanese philanthropist, Dr Handa, who was inspired to create a central funding body for these tournaments after playing golf with a blind golfer in Australia.

In 1997, representatives from six countries met in Perth, Western Australia, to draw up a Constitution and Handicap Scheme for such an organisation. These were agreed in 1998 at the World Blind Golf Championships held in Florida, USA, and the International Blind Golf Association was born.

Dr Handa, Honorary President, continues to provide financial support to the IBGA and, through it, to competitions around the world. Each year four or five national Open Championships take place, and every two years the World Blind Golf Championships are held. The most recent took place in in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 2012.

Currently there are over 500 registered blind golfers in the 13 member national associations. In addition there are individual associate members from a further three countries. The IBGA would like to see these numbers grow and is also involved in a bid to introduce disabled or paragolf into the Paralympics in 2020.

For more information on The International Blind Golf Association please visit their website: www.internationalblindgolf.com