Golf and autism – a personal story for #GolfHealthWeek
Golf is a game for all. Just ask Tomos Wray, who was junior captain at Wheathill Golf Club in Somerset last year. He loves golf, photography, art and watching wildlife. He has autism and here, as part of Golf and Health Week, he shares his story. The week is designed to grow awareness of the health benefits of golf and today’s theme is golf for all. Tomos explains why golf suits him.
Tomos, 16, has been playing golf since he was seven and spotted a flyer about lessons at Wheathill.
“In my view, golf is the perfect sport for people on the autistic spectrum. Many of my autistic traits are shown in golf, such as the love of repetitive motions and repetitive order. In golf, you take a practise swing, move your feet, take your shot, watch the ball and then move on. This repetitive motion calms me, and improves my wellbeing.
“When I play golf I see the golf course as a series of shapes, patterns and colours. When I take a shot and I move to where the ball lands these shapes, patterns and colours alter in a similar fashion to an old-fashioned computer game. My brain seems to like these constantly changing patterns and is maybe one of the reasons I enjoy golf.
“Many people on the autistic spectrum, including me, struggle when working in groups, so golf makes me feel more confident in myself. When I play well, it boosts my confidence and makes me feel proud of myself. I find it difficult to place trust in people, so in this way, I can build the confidence that I have in myself, not anyone else.
“The reason why I love golf so much is the fact that you are enjoying the outdoors and doing exercise whilst still having fun. One of my greatest passions in life beside golf is animals and wildlife. At the golf club I often see kestrels, woodpeckers, rabbits or foxes, especially in the summer. I’m forever stopping to take photographs, and this can certainly help me escape from the game if I am playing badly! I also like to visit nature reserves or watch birds in my back garden at home.
“Some golfers cannot play to their best unless they have complete silence. Very often when you watch the top players on the TV in competitions such as the Open, it goes deadly quiet whilst they take their shots. However, for me, this is the worst thing that could happen, because I can’t stand silence. It clearly shows that everyone is concentrating on me, which adds pressure to my shots.
“I also like to hear the natural sounds around me, as I am removed from the everyday noise and stress. I like the idea that I can play golf without disturbing the wildlife, but just lucky enough to share the course with it.
“Another reason why I enjoy golf is socialising with my golfing-friends and getting to eat afterwards. I’m quite a fussy eater, like many autistic people, so being able to eat food I’m comfortable with helps me to stay calm. Having a few friends at the golf club is a really positive thing for me because although I do have good friends at school, many other children there are not so friendly, and comments can knock my confidence. But aside from this, being able to socialise with like-minded individuals is always a great way to conquer this issue.
“Personally, golf has made me flourish. I have made very good friends, both young and old, have learned key social skills and etiquette, learned about respect and teamwork; not the sort of things that I would be particularly good at.”