EDGA golf project with Ukraine adapts to help casualties of war

“Golf brings people outdoors, it encourages movement, social interaction and challenges cognitively. But perhaps in the main, golf helps heal mentally, pushing mind space into new horizons of hope and joy and taking us away from the places our mind has occupied, places of fear and loss and anger.”

Veronika Rastvortseva, the ‘FREEPEOPLE EDEM’ Project, Ukraine

The Ukraine Golf Federation is working with EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) in a new project to introduce people with a disability, including specifically those affected by the ongoing war, to the rehabilitation and health benefits provided by golf.

Doctors and physiotherapists from Ukraine and PGA coaches are being trained by EDGA, with funding from The R&A, to offer golf to the nation’s citizens of all ages who have been injured in their lives or have a medical impairment/condition. Called the ‘FREEPEOPLE EDEM Project’, named after the Edem Resort Medical and Spa in Lviv, Western Ukraine, it is hoped that also those who have suffered the trauma of the military conflict can, through golf and using the Edem Resort, find “new horizons of hope and joy”.

In recent years, golf had been developing well in the Ukraine. The Ukraine Golf Federation is one of 36 member countries of EDGA, and its golf coaches and administrators had been highly progressive in looking to grow participation for new and existing players with a disability. These positive efforts were hampered by first the Covid pandemic and then even more so by the war against Russia.

But recognising the potential benefits of golf and sport in the lives of its people, the Federation has been committed to supporting its coaching infrastructure for the good of new players. Due to the changing international circumstances, an online coaching development conference organised by EDGA became the catalyst for the new FREEPEOPLE EDEM Project that has just begun in Ukraine.

Thanks to the generosity of Poland’s golf authorities in providing a workshop based in the city centre of Warsaw (Studio Gwiazdzista), the first training session for Ukrainian medical professionals and partnering Polish golf coaches took place in early November. The ‘EDGA3’ training is part funded by The R&A and will enable all present to deliver golf in a simple, engaging and fun way to people of all abilities.

The Edem Resort Medical and Spa in Lviv will be the welcoming point for golfers with a disability in need of rehabilitation or physiotherapy including complex cases. The venue will be part “medical retreat” but also a haven away from conflict, where those who have been caught up in the war can enjoy the nature and peace of a golf course and the health and social benefits of sharing a fairway with friends. With the help of PGA coaches in the project they will also improve as golfers.

Mark Taylor, EDGA’s Head of Development who ran the training workshop in Warsaw, said: “We are all aware of the terrible situation in Ukraine – so identifying golf and putting golf into the hands of medical professionals as a rehabilitation option for people who may have suffered injury or trauma could be life changing. Working with some of the Ukraine’s leading medical professionals over these two days has been truly amazing. They already possess their extensive expertise and are now ‘golf ready’ to introduce experiences to a new audience.”

‘Golf helps heal mentally’

Veronika Rastvortseva, Spokesperson for the “FREEPEOPLE EDEM” Project, said: “We have experienced through our EDGA training the difference golf makes to people who have been affected by conflict. At the seminars, we invited people with multiple disabilities, some incurred on the front line in previous conflicts, who discovered how golf could become a game for them. These people never thought they could play sport again, experience the emotion of success and failure, or simply, spend time with family, friends and colleagues pursuing a healthy activity that supports their well-being.

“The EDEM Project will now provide a medical retreat and golf course to support people affected by the war in the Ukraine and this can be of huge, lasting benefit. Golf brings people outdoors, it encourages movement, social interaction and challenges cognitively. But perhaps in the main, golf helps heal mentally, pushing mind space into new horizons of hope and joy and taking us away from the places our mind has occupied, places of fear and loss and anger. Importantly, golf brings the family together. A wonderful activity for all generations! We are so proud to have the support of EDGA to use their extensive knowledge and expertise around golf for the disabled to embed golf into the framework of rehabilitation.”

Oleksii Bashkirtsev, Head Doctor of the Edem clinic, said: “The physical therapists of the Edem Сlinic have many years of experience but they faced new challenges in providing rehabilitation to people who have suffered injuries in the military conflict. Thanks to the completed EDGA course in Warsaw, our specialists will use this knowledge in our golf rehabilitation programme to restore the functioning of the musculoskeletal system for victims of war, helping them to recover their endurance, speed and strength qualities. Using golf learning, such specialist rehabilitation can ensure full recovery of the body’s self-regulation processes and return people affected by the war in Ukraine to their previous quality of life.”

Tony Bennett, President of EDGA, wished to extend a “huge thank you” to the Polish Golf Union and the PGA of Poland which have been so supportive in providing this opportunity and training facility to their neighboring country.

‘Power of golf to change lives’

Tony Bennett added: “Every day I see the positive effect golf can have on people of all ages, nationalities, genders and abilities. The FREEPEOPLE EDEM Project is a powerful example of how a multidisciplinary approach to golf for individuals with a disability can help open doors that have been closed due to the trauma of accidents and now also war. EDGA is delighted to be able to contribute our skills, knowledge and programmes to the EDEM Project and we congratulate the team that created and delivers this far-reaching project. The Ukraine Golf Federation joined EDGA to help bring golf to individuals with disabilities and to build an inclusive sport. This initiative demonstrates the power of golf to change lives.”

Golfers in Ukraine will be further supported by EDGA as a beneficiary of a project run by DP World, in which used golf balls are collected and redistributed to worthy causes.

EDGA seeks to change the lives of people with disability through the power of golf. The objective is to help 500,000 people with disability to try the game.

A coach education framework was set up by EDGA in 2007 that sought to upskill qualified professionals in coaching golf to individuals with a disability. In 2017 a dedicated EDGA development team started creating systems, programmes and tools to build capacity in the golf industry and help coaches to enable golfers with a disability to have a better experience. The current EDGA359 three-step player pathway into golf – adopted in Poland and Ukraine – is part funded by The R&A.

EDGA is the international not-for-profit association is made up of the National Golf Federations from 36 countries around the world, and provides advice, guidance and standards to leading golfing bodies, including; The IGF, The R&A, and the European Tour Group.