"Have You Heard the One about the Blind Golfer?"

Have you ever heard of macular degeneration? It’s the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. To understand it’s impact, try holding a clenched fist up in front of your eye. You have peripheral vision, but can’t see straight ahead. That means you can’t see faces, read, drive, or participate in sports you once loved…like golf.

My dad was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 1992 at the age of 75. In recent years, tremendous advances have been made in treating this condition. Unfortunately, at the time of my dad’s diagnosis, nothing could be done to reverse lost eyesight and or even to slow the progress of this devastating impairment.

His vision quickly deteriorated, and he was forced to give up driving. (Forced is the operative word here.) It seemed inevitable that he’d have to give up playing golf, too.

My dad was an engineer, and problem solving was part of his DNA. So he set about figuring out how to continue to play the game he loved. And he did! He used the thin white tape used to pinstripe cars. He placed that tape along the club head, and made a “T” at the sweet spot on the club.  He then experimented with every color golf ball imaginable, and determined that the good ‘ole white ball was easiest to see when marked with a very large black dot made by a magic marker. Using his peripheral vision and the adaptations made on his clubs and golf balls, my dad was able to continue to play golf!

Yes, it took a support team to accomplish this objective. My mom became his chauffeur to the course. His friends had to drive the cart and watch where his ball landed (and not forget!). Countless hours of after-dinner putting practice in the living room over the years had made my dad a superb putter. With his visual impairment, Dad needed his golfing partner to stand with his feet in a V behind the hole to know where to aim the putt. No, the PGA probably wouldn’t approve. But for an aging recreational golfer who loved the game and was renewed by being outside, it was a perfect solution!

But by the grace of God,my dad was able to continue to play golf until three weeks before his death at the age of 93. And during that last game, he sunk one of his longest putts ever!

Wonderful lessons emerged from his resiliency:

Aging may slow you down, but it doesn’t mean the end of doing things you love. Be creative! Think outside of the box! 

Having a positive attitude makes all the difference. I saw colleagues of my dad diagnosed with macular degeneration sink into depression and a “poor me” attitude. They quickly gave up on much of living. Not my dad. His resilient attitude was inspirational to all who knew him.

Supportive friends and family were essential. Yes, others were inconvenienced a bit. When dealing with aging, it’s easy to grow frustrated because normal activities take much longer. Helping someone with a new disability is an adjustment, requiring an extra measure of patience for all. But the enjoyment that continued for my dad and for his golfing buddies showed the value of pushing through those frustrations.

Has life given you lemons? Take a lesson from a blind golfer…and make some lemonade! Or better yet, make an “Arnold Palmer!”


Great post, Jody.  Very encouraging .....and sure wish I could have known your dad!!