Hugh Montgomery, OVIG Board Member, Gives Advice to Blind Golfers

General Low Vision News
June 17, 2020

Hugh Montgomery

Hugh Montgomery plays blind golf and is a board member on OVIG (Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers). He was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease when he was 24. Hugh is also an eSight user, and wears it for his job as a business analyst, around the house when he’s woodworking, and of course, while playing golf!

Hugh Montgomery, blind golfer

“The eSight 3 is a very powerful tool. I use it a lot, especially for golf.”

Even though he has low vision, he has played golf for 30 years since his Stargardt’s disease diagnosis. On June 10, Hugh hosted a webinar as part of #eSightTogether to share how he golfs as a blind person, and to answer questions from the webinar participants about accessible golfing tools.

Featured Webinar: Hugh Montgomery hosted a webinar discussing assistive tools for the visually impaired, finding a coach for blind golf, and reducing anxiety while golfing.

Watch the webinar on-demand here.

How Does Coaching Work in Blind Golf?

Although Hugh is a frequent eSight user, he explains that in competitive golf, blind golfers can’t use assistive technology like eSight’s low vision glasses. 

Instead, he has a coach that lines him up in front of the ball, keeps score, and lets him know when it’s his turn to go. The coach describes where the hole is, and follows the golf ball with their eyes so they can ride in the golf cart together to find the ball after.

Golf cart, could include a blind golfer and their coach.

In recreational golf, Hugh typically doesn’t use a coach but rather his eSight to zoom in on the green or the flag. 

How Can I Find a Golf Coach?

Hugh recommends contacting the golf course and letting them know about your visual impairment and that you want to get into golf. He adds that many golfers will unofficially become your coach if they’re in your group of four while golfing. You could also ask your family and friends.

How Do You Track the Golf Ball as a Blind Golfer?

Hugh reaffirms the necessity of having a coach as a blind golfer because trying to hit a shot and then following it in the air with eSight’s glasses can be difficult for him. He has been able to hit the ball and look down the line, where he might see it land on the green, but following the ball closely is mainly the coach’s job.

Man hitting golf ball into the air.

Hugh adds that people have asked him why he plays golf as someone with a visual impairment due to Stargardts since it’s such a visual sport, and he replies that golf to him is more about getting out, being with friends, and meeting new people, rather than just the sport itself.

I Feel Like I’m Slowing Down or Imposing on Others When I Play Golf

Hugh recounts that when he already had a vision impairment when he joined a golf course, and the 16 people he played with were eager to help him track the ball. 

He also tells a story about how he went golfing with his wife once in a group of strangers, who were all amazed at his ability to golf after they realized his wife was lining him up.

“Suddenly, I had three new friends!”

He explains that no one ever gave him a hard time or complained that he was slowing them down, and encourages everyone to golf freely without feeling like a burden on others.

Did You Have any Anxiety Early On as a Blind Golfer?

Hugh laughs as he says that regular vision people can take a long time to play too. 

“If I’m not holding the group up behind me and I stay close to the group in front of me, I don’t let my pace bother me.”

In recreational golf, if he’s having a hard time with a hole, he has no qualms about just writing it off and going to the next hole. He understands that most golfers watch PGA Tours, and feel like they have to count every stroke and be super competitive, but his mindset is more focused on having fun, and competing against himself.

Golf ball right beside a hole.

What Other Tools Do You Use While Playing Golf?

The sunglasses that are shaded on the side but are clear in the front work well for Hugh, but he reinforces that this will be different for everyone depending on how their eye cones react to different conditions.

A participant noted that when playing recreationally, they use a neon yellow cane to point in the direction that they need to hit, as well as neon yellow balls for greater visibility.

Neon yellow golf ball beside a white one.

How Do You Practice?

Hugh smiles when he says that he goes to the range whenever he can talk his wife or friends into going with him. When Hugh met Dave Stockton, his advice for blind golfers going to the range is to focus more on the feeling of how the club hits the ball, versus constantly lifting your head or looking at your coach right away. Instead of trying to get visual feedback, try to get sensory feedback when the club hits the ball and let your hands become your eyes.

How Do You Judge the Contour of the Green and How Much a Ball will Break?

Hugh always walks the golf course with his coach first, to get a feel for how the landscape slopes. He will walk from the ball to the hole and try to map it out with his feet.

As well, the people you’re playing with could always advise you on this.

Picturesque golf course.

What’s Your Best Score?

In recreational golf, Hugh reveals that his best score was a 79, which was eight over par. In competitive, he is about a 19 handicap and his best score was an 83.

Hugh won both the Ontario Provincials and the Western Open two years ago.

Is There an Acuity Range for Each Level in Blind Golf?

Hugh explains that as a blind golfer, you must take a professional eye test and fill out a form to send to the Blind Golf Association in Canada if you want to compete. The three main classifications are:

  • B1: no sight at all up to light perception but not able to recognize the shape of a hand at any distance
  • B2: sight is from recognizing the shape of a hand up to 2/60 Snellen or its equivalent
  • B3: sight is better than 2/60 but does not exceed 6/60 Snellen

Hugh falls into the B3 category.

How Can I Volunteer for a Blind Golf Event?

Hugh has an email ([email protected]) for volunteer inquiries in regards to next year. He elaborates that these events do need a lot of volunteers to help with boxed lunches, transport, scoring, registration, and more. He adds that this could potentially also be used towards student mandatory community service.

Does Every Swing Count in Competitive Golf?

If it’s on the tee and the ball falls off but you didn’t try to hit it, it doesn’t count. If you swing and miss but you had the intent to hit it, it counts.

Golf ball on a tee.

What’s Your Advice for Someone with eSight Who Wants to Go Golfing?

Hugh stresses that it’s important to know the device well, and how you can set it up best for yourself. Understand how it works for your eye condition in the sun, and experiment with settings at home before you go onto the golf course. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to fiddle with everything while you’re in the middle of golfing.

Did you enjoy reading about Hugh’s helpful tips for blind golfers? Read more here about Mary Mammoliti’s accessible cooking tips.