Norman Kritz is a Philadelphia-area pharmacist. Charitable involvement turned him into a golf course architect. His first – and still only – completed project resulted in a playable course for blind children.
More than 500 satisfied players later, Kritz could be moving toward repeating what the Middle Atlantic Blind Golf Association constructed at Overbrook School for the Blind. “It’s been a revelation,” Kritz says. “It’s the greatest thing I have ever done. Just watching the kids play is a reward in itself. We would like to build a golf course for every school for the blind.”
The Overbrook course, in a densely populated northwest Philadelphia neighborhood, opened in 1996, three years after the MABGA started its junior program. With help from maintenance crews at Cobbs Creek Golf Club and Bala Golf Club, the MABGA constructed a course with nine holes, none longer than 45 yards. Holes were designed around a quarter-mile macadam track, making the course wheelchair accessible. The facility took two years to build.
Along the way, the MABGA has received help from numerous Philadelphia-area golfers and pros who volunteer time to offer instruction and services such as resizing and regriping donated clubs. The junior program received a boost when it established a relationship with the GCBAA Foundation Sticks for Kids program. Kritz, who directs the MABGCA’s junior programs, drove from Philadelphia to Jersey City, N.J., in early August to attend the annual GCBAA Foundation auction and raffle. Kritz mingled with GCBAA members and gave a passionate presentation about how support from efforts like Sticks for Kids help blind children. Sticks for Kids provides the MABGA with clubs, bags and other equipment.
“Sometimes you take it for granted when you are in the national offices, and you see letters and emails keeping us posted on what programs are doing and how you can help them,” GCBAA executive director Justin Apel says. “And then you get a chance to have someone like Norman come and shows us the pictures and tell us the stories. It’s indescribable, not only to us as staff, but to our members.”
An encounter at the GCBAA meeting could help Kritz accomplish his goal of designing another course for blind children. Chris Hill, the President of Georgia-based Course Crafters, has committed to offering his company’s expertise when work starts at a site in Macon, Ga. No timetable has been established for the project, but Kritz is eager to work with a professional golf course builder.
“It will be a learning experience for me,” he says. “I’m a pharmacist, been a pharmacist for 65 years, so building golf courses is totally foreign to me. We are not creating Pebble Beach or Pine Valley. It’s something that these kids can do and they seem to love it. As long as they have smiles on their face, I know I’m doing a good job.”
Kritz also has completed preliminary sketches for a nine-hole course and putting green at the Maryland School for the Blind. Multiple holes on the Maryland course will be wheelchair accessible.
The programs at Overbrook are models for other blind schools that build golf courses. On the first Saturday this fall, a junior event attracted 32 participants and 40 volunteers. Participants are taught a variety of golf and life skills, including the importance of caring for the course. Overbrook’s grounds crew handles maintenance, and local superintendents make themselves available when needed. Functionality, though, is the most important factor when building and maintaining a course for blind golfers.
“I don’t think the greens [at Overbrook] would come in at 12’ on the Stimpmeter,” Kritz says. “They are puttable. Let’s put it like that. We just had a clinic and 32 kids were there. I didn’t have any complaints, so I figured it must be good.”
The Shark Speaks
Greg Norman joined Superintendent Radio Network to discuss his 2016 design and construction experiences and longtime relationship with the GCBAA. Listen to our exclusive interview with the CEO and Chairman of Great White Shark Enterprises by entering bit.ly/2bYD3tS into your web browser.