One of the great initiatives in recent years has been golf therapy veterans and other people who are challenged by a wide variety of disabilities.
Golf has the virtue of being simultaneously a solo and a social sport. As an individual sport, golfers play against themselves and the course without having to worry about about comparison or direct competition. As a social sport, golf offers opportunities for interaction on a shared field between people who may have nothing else in common. As Harvey Penick once said “If you play golf, you are my friend.”
Golf as therapy may not be a new idea, however. While the Library of Congress digital collections, I ran across a photo of two wounded veterans of the Great War (top of page). The photo’s headline read: “World War Disabled Veteran Heroes In Spite Of Their Handicaps Play Par Golf.” It reminds me of a lot of photos and video we now are seeing with veterans of our Middle Eastern wars.
Two other collections of photos show golf courses at “National Homes For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.” The first collection shows the golf course at the National Home For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. The only date for the photo is “after 1933,” but I think it is later than that. Another of the photos in the collection shows a Quonset hut, which suggests to me that the collection was taken after World War II. Still, the Los Angeles Branch of the National Home For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers dates to 1888, so there is no telling when the golf course was built. The property now is the Veterans Administration, which is the successor to the National Home For Disabled Soldiers.
The other photos shows the clubhouse of the National Home For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Danville, Illinois. A photo of the plaque in the photo collection indicates that the clubhouse was dedicated in 1954. The property currently is a regional health center.
The photos make me think that golf has been encouraged as exercise and rehabilitation for veterans for quite some time.
The National Homes For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers were established in 1865 to care for veterans of the Civil War.