Blind people are known to have played golf since the 1920s in the USA. It is also on record that a match between two blind Englishmen and two Americans took place before the Second World War. The United States Blind Golf Association was established in 1947 and organised events have taken place in America since then.
In Britain there were individual visually impaired people playing golf in isolation. There was also a small group based around St Dunstan's, who received professional tuition. In 1982 England and Wales Blind Golf (as it is now known) was founded - it was then called the Visually Handicapped Golfers Association. EWBG developed gradually becoming a registered charity in 1989 and a company limited by guarantee in 1997.
The main purpose of the Organisation is to provide visually handicapped people with the facility to train and compete in the game of golf. Training is provided by giving new members support to receive lessons from professional golfers. In addition each year the organisation invites all members to attend a training weekend at which PGA professionals teach the various aspects of the game. Assistance is also given to schools for the blind where pupils want to start to play golf.
Players meet together on six occasions each year for the EWBG major competitions. There are three one day events, a two day English Strokeplay Championship, a Matchplay Championship played over three days and the Lawrence Levy British Blind Masters, a four day 72 hole competition (the only one of its kind in the world). In addition beginners are invited to play in 9 hole events from time to time.
In rotation with the Scottish Blind Golf Society and the Northern Ireland Blind Golf Association EWBG hosts the British Blind Golf Open Championships every three years.
Each year EWBG players strive to be selected to represent England in the Annual Blind Golf International against Scotland for the Auld Enemies Cup. To qualify players have to finish in the top nine in the Order of Merit with EWBG Captain choosing four wildcards. In the series to date the score is England 12 and Scotland 13 with 3 matches halved. England currently holds the trophy.
In addition to domestic competition EWBG members can play in open blind golf events around the world including the World Blind Golf Championship held every two years. In 1998 EWBG was a founder member of the International Blind Golf Association an organisation that now has fourteen member countries around the world.
The Organisation has developed gradually through the years and is very much like any other golf club, the major difference being it has no golf course of its own. A handicap system is run which is similar to any golf club and the game is played to the Rules of Golf laid down by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews subject to agreed Modifications for Disabled Golfers. The main differences are that a blind golfer may ground the club in a hazard and the guide can stand behind the players when the shot is played. EBWG keeps in contact with the R&A and an audio version of the Rules of Golf is produced when the rules are revised every four years.
EWBG currently has ten Patrons, Peter Alliss, Sir Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood MBE, Henry Kelly, Keith Wood, Geoff Cope, DJ Spoony, Iain Carter, Ian Woosnam and Alec Fernihough and appreciates their active support. For example Sir Nick Faldo has participated in events to help raise the profile of EWBG, Peter Alliss gives the Association a mention during most of his commentaries and Alec Fernihough has welcomed us to Gaudet Luce Golf Course. The Association is very grateful to get such involvement from its Patrons.
As a charity EWBG is continually raising funds. The Association is fortunate to be the beneficiary of the will of Lawrence Levy (who was the premier golf photographer) and his legacy funds the British Blind Masters and the training weekend each year. The Primary Club sponsors the English Matchplay Championship each year. In addition many club captains make EWBG their charity for the year and thereby enable the organisation to run its events.
Players from EWBG take part in the golf days of many other charities including Cystic Fibrosis, The Royal London Society for the Blind and Merthyr Tydfil Institute for the Blind. Participation by blind golfers helps to publicise such events and the Association is pleased to help in this way.
A Board of Directors carries out the day to day administration and organisation of EWBG. All Directors are volunteers and they each give a great deal of their time to ensuring the organisation continues and is run as efficiently as possible. The cost of administration is therefore relatively small and the vast majority of funds go to meet the main objectives of the Association. As with all charities funding is essential but the Directors are optimistic that they can maintain sufficient funding to continue to meet the main aims of the charity in the foreseeable future.