Browsing Golf Industry NewsVIEW ALL

Empower Golf Founder celebrates 10 year journey to making golf inclusive

POSTED ON December 1, 2018 @ 8:00 am

By Mathilda Andersson

Little over a decade ago James Gribble would have been identified as a successful investment banker, a keen sportsman and obsessive golfer with his whole life ahead of him. But his trajectory would take an unexpected turn in a freak accident during a visit to South Africa in 2008, which would later see him turn tragedy into triumph and start a social charity along the way.

After being out on a run in sweltering heat James fainted from dehydration and fell backwards off a stool onto hard sand, shattering his C4 & C5 vertebrae and damaging his spinal cord, rendering him a quadriplegic.

Following several months in hospital, the former athlete embarked on a long and intensive rehabilitation journey and was after four years of hard work able to get back into the swing of things, walking short distances with crutches, proving many doctors wrong.

“I started playing golf in my head already at the hospital after being told I would never walk again,” he said.

“I guess you make a decision very early on whether you’re going to lie there and take what you’ve got, or if you’re going to sit up and have a fight.”

The first time he hit a golf ball after the accident was in a park with his father.

“I stood up on my crutches, got dad to strap a club to my hand and made the swing. I was pretty unstable, but I made contact OK. That feeling of hitting it sweetly – yeah that was really something.”

His condition, however, made playing golf a tedious process when having to swing from a seated position in a conventional wheelchair. That’s when he discovered the ParaGolfer, an electric wheelchair allowing golfers to swing from an upright position. After having experienced the benefits of the all-terrain mobility device, Gribble aspired to make golf become more accessible to all individuals.

James founded Empower Golf in 2014 with a mission to facilitate and promote golf for Australians of all abilities. The foundation has since run over 200 free clinics across every State and Territory in Australia (and in New Zealand) as well as established 12 Empower Golf Hubs around the country, including clubs in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Gold Coast and Adelaide.

“Our aim at Empower Golf is to get more golf clubs in Australia to commit to becoming more disability-friendly,” said James.

“We wish to establish 30 golf courses around the country to work as hubs for monthly Come and Try clinics for people with all kinds of disabilities, providing them with the latest technology within disability golf.”

Each Hub are holding monthly Come and Try Golf clinics, free of charge for first-timers, to introduce new people to golf or reintroduce former players to the game they love after accident or illness. A ParaGolfer is available at every clinic, with the majority of Hubs having one stationed and available for hire or use.

Aligned with the charity’s mission to create opportunities for golfers at all levels of the game, last year Empower Golf ran their first two all-disabilities golf tournaments at Long Reef Golf Club in Sydney. The event marked the first truly multi-disability tournament open to all abilities held in Australia.

“The day was a significant milestone in Empower Golf’s story, that was reflected in the stories of many of our players,” it said on the charity’s website about the tournament. ”We have been proud to have shared the golfing journey of some of our players and their families from their very first hit of a golf ball to their first tournament.”

Now, over ten years after his accident, James is still seeking new ways to reach out and help other less abled bodies through the events of his own accident and the power of his extraordinary attitude, and his own charitable initiatives.

Read full article in GIC Summer e-magazine

Comments are closed.

CLICK HERE TO Sign Up for the GIC Newsletter for all the latest Industry News.

Grow the Game Central Golf Recruitment Central Golf Marketing Central

Royal Melbourne GC GM Hill-Rennie heading back to New Zealand

The Royal Melbourne Golf Club has announced the...


JOB: Golf Systems Support Team Member – MiClub Services (Perth)

  Join our brilliant golf systems support team! ...

Commonwealth golf club

Commonwealth Golf Club appoint Renaissance Golf Design as Course Architect

Commonwealth Golf Club is a spectacularly presented 18-hole...

Golf Operation Assistant – National Golf Club (Victoria)

The National Golf Club

The role A wonderful opportunity exists to join our Golf Operations team at the world class National Golf Club at Cape Schanck....

Video: Watch: Dirt bike riders tear up Auckland's Howick Golf Course

A band of unruly dirt bikers have been filmed taking to an East Auckland golf course doing wheelies and “boosting around” greens...

Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club rezone proposal hit the rough

Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club

The Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club has hit the rough with its plan to rezone its 80 hectare course in Papatoetoe....

JOB: Golf Club Assembly Operator Mizuno – Melbourne

About the business Mizuno Corporation is a Japanese owned sports manufacturer and one of the largest sporting goods companies worldwide. The guiding philosophy...

Mike Whan Named CEO At USGA


After months of rumors and speculation, all interested parties confirmed the news on Wednesday. Outgoing LPGA commissioner Mike Whan...

Women's Golf Day honours Winners of The Inspire Action Award

Womens golf day

Women’s Golf Day (WGD) has announced this year’s winners of the WGD Inspire Action Awards.  Congratulations to Jackie Davidson,...

Placing Sustainable Golf in the Spotlight

Chris Gray

Chris Gray will highlight some of the most pressing matters facing golf in the 21st century when the Asian...

Agronomic Expert Ready to Spill the Dirt on Soil Testing

Alex Glasgow

Alex Glasgow, one of the Asia-Pacific region’s foremost experts on sports turf construction and maintenance projects, will share his...

Terang Golf Club in Victoria destroyed by birds

Thousands of birds are destroying the greens of a south-west Victorian golf course. The flocks of corellas have pecked...

The “How To Do Leader” Leadership Template

gregg pattersson

What Do Leaders Do??? Upwardly mobile club professionals hunger to become The Leader—to Make Things Happen, to get The...