After an overseas accident left him a paraplegic, James Gribble thought that he’d never play golf again. However after years of rehabilitation and the emergence of a new machine that helps him stand and swing, James is back in the game. Ann Jones reports from one of Australia's most accessible golf courses.
You could be in a fairytale setting: the soft green grass looks perfect for a picnic and a miniature castle wreathed in foggy clouds wouldn't seem out of place under the pines.
Instead, there’s a golf buggy with two people in polo shorts, teeth gritted and bum cheeks clenched as they go around the steep edge of a sand trap. Over to the left a frustrated man with a seven iron is fossicking for his ball under the trees. Welcome to the golf course. There are thousands like it—places of freedom, places of frustration.
After four years of hard work in rehabilitation, Gribble was able to stand up on crutches and take a few steps.
The machine is like a beefy electric wheelchair. The golfer is strapped into it around the waist and the knees, and has the ability to move backwards, forwards, and turn tightly.
It’s all-terrain and differs from the most bulky of wheelchairs as it stands the golfer into an almost upright position and supports them there. That way, they’re able to swing without worrying about toppling over.
The game itself is almost like a metaphor for life. It takes you on a roller coaster every time you play, from missing a short putt to an amazing drive. It’s probably one of the most challenging and psychological games you can play.’