Blind golf pro Brian MacLeod, seen here with former coach Joan Perrin in 2008, will be in St. John’s this weekend to teach other blind and visually impaired people how to play the sport. — Photo courtesy of the Truro Daily News
The reigning blind Canadian golf champion will be in St. John’s this weekend to teach a clinic.
VISUAL — Visually Impaired Seniors Undertaking Active Living — a group which advocates for recreation for the blind, is hosting the clinic at the Glendenning Golf course in St. John’s Saturday and Sunday.
The group has been around for about a year and has held clinics to teach curling and lawn bowling to those who can’t see or have trouble seeing.
Group co-ordinator Don Connolly is elated that Brian MacLeod and his current coach, Kevin Lemmon, will be on hand to show blind people how to golf.
“Golf, I know, is something that blind and visually impaired people have been playing for years,” Connolly told The Telegram.
“We know that there are people (in this province) who are interested in the game.
“We made contact with Brian, (and he) said he’d love to come over,” he continued. “Brian shoots under 100. … That’s not bad golf for any fellow.”
MacLeod has been playing blind-golf since 1997. He lost his sight at 28 and helped start the Nova Scotia Blind Golf Association in his home province.
He’s currently both the U.S. and Canadian Open blind champ, and has placed second at the world championships twice and added a third-place finish.
MacLeod said blind golf is a team sport as the player must rely on his or her coach for advice and direction.
“You play as good as your coach, really,” he said in an interview from his home in Truro. “It’s a real team effort.
“I like for my coaches to paint a picture for me,” MacLeod added. “If there’s bunkers out there, if it’s a dogleg. We talk about the shot. And then he basically takes my club and lines it up behind the ball and steps back.”
On the green, his coach walks side by side with him to pace off the distance to the hole.
“I can feel the break with my feet and I’m pretty good at (it),” he said.
MacLeod said except for two small changes, the rules of blind golf are the same as the regular sport.
The differences are that a coach can set the player’s club behind the ball, and then stand behind him to watch it fly. Blind players are also allowed to ground their club in a hazard like a sand trap.
MacLeod has had to teach himself how to play based solely on distance because he can’t see the pin.
“I know how far I hit every club, so if Kevin tells me it’s 135 yards I’m probably going to hit an eight iron,” MacLeod said.
The coach also helps him factor in the terrain and the wind.
While many blind golfers don’t tee up their own balls, MacLeod does.
He said when he first started he played with some of his in-laws, who used to have fun with him by not putting a ball on the tee and letting him swing at air.
MacLeod said the best advice he can give people who want to try blind golf is to not get frustrated.
“Don’t think that you can go out on the golf course and play ... right away,” he said.
Spending a good amount of time on the driving range first is recommended, and when starting to play a full game, MacLeod advises people to begin by playing best ball with some sighted friends so it doesn’t hold up the golfers coming behind.
“I always tell people, take it as far as you want to,” said MacLeod. “If you want to get good, you practice.”
He said the speed of play is a big issue for blind golf, as setting up for a shot takes a bit more time and it’s important not to upset others on the links.
Having a good coach also helps keep up the pace.
People who are interested must register for the clinic in advance by contacting Connolly at 726-5975 or by email at email@example.com
They must also bring along a sighted buddy to act as their coach.