Challenge Golf:The Therapeutic Impact of Golf

In the late 1980s, Ron Tristano, PGA, became a volunteer golf instructor at the Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Institute. He was drawn to the unique nature of the program, which uses golf as an extension of therapy to help those with disabilities focus on what they can accomplish, not what they can’t.

In Feb. 1991, Tristano was hired full time to oversee the construction of the program’s new golf facility. The Challenge Golf Course opened in the spring of 1992, and became the first course in the nation designed for those with disabilities.

Now home to the Akron General Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Institute Challenge Golf program, the course features three holes, all of which have wheelchair-accessible cart paths, handrails on the tees, and slope inclines of no more than eight percent. It also includes an indoor facility where golf lessons continue year round.

As Managing Director of the Challenge Golf Program, Tristano works closely with therapists and their rehab patients—including those who have suffered a stroke, amputation, brain injury or neuromuscular disorder—to teach them the game of golf (or relearn it). He helps patients set realistic expectations, and then achieve their goals through hands-on lessons and practice.

Over the program’s 22 years, there have been countless stories of patients overcoming physical restrictions to find enjoyment in golf. Tristano recalls one recent story:

“A four-year-old boy with cerebral palsy came to us as part of his therapy, excited at the prospect of playing a sport. We adapted the game to his physical abilities, and over the past eight years, he has truly flourished. His progress has been remarkable, exceeding all our expectations, and he is now preparing to compete in the Northern Ohio PGA Junior Tour this summer.”

For more information about this program, which is funded by the Akron General Foundation, visit