Help for Heroes has teamed up with one of Scotland’s most scenic golf clubs to offer veterans the chance to tee off as part of their road to recovery.
Help for Heroes physical development manager Rob Hood worked with veteran Brian Brown to develop the Golf Fore Recovery courses at Castle Park Golf Club at Gifford, near Haddington in East Lothian. A total of 23 veterans took part in the first two sessions and organisers now hope to roll out the model to other golf clubs around the UK.
Brian Brown, from Edinburgh, was medically discharged in 1999 after being injured in Northern Ireland. He also served in Bosnia and the first Gulf War with the Royal Highland Fusiliers and Royal Scots and attended the Lockerbie air disaster at just 21. Eight years ago the 50-year-old veteran was diagnosed with PTSD and cirrhosis of the liver.
Brian, a member of Help for Heroes’ Band of Brothers, explained: “I played golf in the army. But when my world fell apart with my diagnosis I did not go near the game again, as I associated it with drinking. When I look back now it was a struggle. I had no idea what PTSD was. I was old school military – you were told to get up and get on with it.
“Then a couple of friends persuaded me to give golf a go, I went to a coaching session and got the bug back. I now use golf as my coping mechanism. It is similar to adjusting to civilian life, it is about making connections. You are engaging with the outdoors, you have a sense of competitiveness, doing something completely different. I love organising the coaching courses for other veterans, it keeps me busy and I can see the benefits they get from it.”
Rob Hood said: “It’s not just about competition and winning medals, it’s about recovery, social inclusion and companionship, getting out in the fresh air and building confidence. We hope these courses will encourage more veterans to improve their knowledge and skills of the game as we know how integral sport is to the recovery of so many of those we support.”
The course includes coaching and playing golf, ending with a mixed Texas scramble competition with club members. Among the participants was veteran Richard Monteith, from Falkirk, who has PTSD and other mental health issues. The former Argyll and Sutherland Highlander agrees it helps his recovery.
“I now play every Saturday. When you are playing golf you can go away and forget about the world. I used to go to the football a lot but I now find it difficult to be in big crowds, with noise and sirens. The coaching was brilliant, the instructor was really good and we were treated like royalty by the club. “
Julie Porter, from Ayr, has a back injury and mental health issues and is waiting for medical discharge as a forces pharmacist. She said: “My sister suggested I give it a go. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would play – I remember watching it on TV and saying “golf is not a sport”! But I will definitely keep it up, it’s a chance to get away from everything and is manageable despite my back pain. “
Colin MacLachlan, from Edinburgh, said: “A round of golf is like life, it has ups and downs and struggles, and you share it with somebody else. Camaraderie is something that veterans really miss – and you get that with a round of golf.”
Gary McNulty, from Bearsden, Glasgow, has been disabled since being injured in Aden in 1967. He said: “It’s wonderful, I enjoy the company, talking to the younger veterans and taking them around the course.”
Stuart Beaton from Tullibody, Stirling, said: “It's my first time and I am so glad I got invited. Golf gets you out of the house, meeting like-minded people – everyone should try it!”