The seventh hole at Mauna Lani is a par-3 moving slightly downhill. It was the first hole of the golf course played along the Pacific Ocean. The waves crashed into the rock behind me during my tee shot. The hole played about 109 yards from the forward tee box I was hitting from. Seven can be lengthened to 214 yards from the championship teeing position. The hole was one in which video was taken of my golf swing. Video of myself has often been difficult for me to view, but watching it has become easier lately. Cerebral palsy causes my movements to appear different from those who aren’t disabled. The disability has also caused activities like playing golf to present a difficult challenge. In this blog, I wanted to show playing golf isn’t out of reach with CP. Cerebral palsy does bring on the opportunity to make some adjustments to playing. Those adjustments were not easy to make, as trying to play the game like everyone else seemed important. It felt important to play the course like most male players, from the white teeing ground or further back. On this hole, the white tee box is 163 yards away, which would have required a 3-wood instead of an iron. Most players would hit an iron from that distance, so it felt crucial to move closer.
The hole seems a good example of how cerebral palsy can change the way golf is played. Moving to the forward tee makes the game more fun. The shorter distance alleviates feelings of stress while playing. Instead of being concerned over hitting the ball far enough, the confidence of being able to reach the green takes over. Once the distance removes itself as a concern, we can concentrate on the swing. From that forward teeing ground, the club in my hand gave me plenty of strength to make an easy swing. There wouldn’t be a reason to swing with more force than was comfortable. It provided the opportunity to relax into the golf shot being attempted. The comfort of hitting from the correct area also allowed me to enjoy the view. Especially when playing golf in Hawaii, the draw has been to look around. The shorter distance helps breath in the hole instead of looking at the green with feelings of intimidation. With less concern over the distance, the skill of navigating the hazards comes into play. When hitting the ball from too far away, we simply worry about covering the distance with our swing, having less concern over where we want the ball to land.
Looking at the seventh hole at Mauna Launi, there were many things to consider. Moving up to the forward tee brings these factors into play. When playing from the white “men’s” tees, many factors wouldn’t have entered my mind. The primary thought would have been to hit the ball into safety on the left side, short of the green. My mental process would have understood the shot was too far. Therefore, taking away many of the mental questions adding enjoyment to playing. So, with cerebral palsy hampering my abilities, we shorten holes to bring in more variables, making the game more fun. Back to the interesting questions entering my mind surrounding this shot. The video shows much of the obstacles to be navigated, beautiful as those obstacles may be. The lava rock up the left of seven cause a scenic barrier between hole and ocean. Then, with the bunker to the back left, just behind an inlet of lava rock, the left side of seven was to be avoided. However, that left side of the hole was incredible to watch. The blue Pacific crashing into the lava rock provided peaceful sounds, as my tee shot was struck.
One of the most exciting things to take into consideration was the contour of the green. By playing the forward tee box, my shot would most likely travel the distance onto the green surface. This green seemed to be fairly large in nature. There would be a comfortable amount of room with which to land the golf ball. The most challenging part of the green, from the view of the tee box, would be the shelf running through the center of the green. That ridge separating the front of the seventh green from the back would be a challenge. Attempting to land the golf ball on the upper shelf would require a longer club selection. The position of the pin would also be something to consider. With the hole placed just on top of the ridge, being on the upper shelf could be more challenging. The putt from the top could be struck too firmly, causing it to roll down the ridge. So, it seemed being on the lower tier and putting up the hill would be better. My golf club selection would be the one providing less distance, hopefully landing the golf ball on the lower shelf.
My thought was just making a good swing. There would probably be enough distance to get the ball onto the green. The only thing I didn’t want to do was hit the ball left. The swing was good, making good contact with the golf ball. My shot landed safely on the right-hand side of the green. This meant the plan in my head was executed well, which doesn’t always occur. The golf ball hit on the right side and bounced down toward the middle of the green. It came to rest at the base of the shelf running through the middle. The resting place of the ball would give me the uphill putt in my plan. Walking off the tee box and back toward the golf cart provided a feeling of satisfaction. My ball had landed safely on the green as planned. Driving toward the green following the well-executed shot found me looking around at the scenery. It isn’t often we get to move around a golf course next to the ocean. We could look around the small bay, spotting more of the golf course along the ocean, holes we hadn’t played yet. Beyond the bay rose one of the mountains on the Big Island. It was quite the site.
Having cerebral palsy doesn’t mean we can’t play sports. It is true that playing sports might be more challenging because of the disability, but with effort we can play. I wanted to show how my swing with an iron looks. It does look different because of cerebral palsy effecting my movement. Cerebral palsy also has me playing from the forward tee box, because the coordination isn’t there to hit the golf ball further. But, making the small modifications like playing the holes at a shorter distance has made the game more fun. It isn’t something I did while growing up. I wanted to play from the same place as my friends, but I realized it wasn’t worth the stress. Playing golf from the correct place for my ability level brought more excitement. Playing throughout life has also helped increase coordination and movement in my body. The game has also brought unforgettable experiences like this one. Being able to play golf along the ocean was amazing. I wanted to share that even with a disability we can find a way to take on challenges, like participating in sports that are more difficult, and make special memories.