By Eden Anderson

On June 7, 2012, the United States Access Board (“Access Board”) hosted a webinar to discuss new accessibility requirements for miniature golf courses.  We listened in and summarize program highlights here. 

On September 15, 2010, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) issued new regulations adopting the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”), making the Access Board’s 2004 ADA Guidelines into binding regulations.  The 2010 Standards for the first time include accessibility requirements for miniature golf courses.  The regulations make clear that existing mini-golf courses must be brought into compliance with the 2010 Standards to the extent “readily achievable” (i.e., without much difficulty or expense) by March 15, 2012.  Miniature golf courses constructed or altered on or after March 15, 2012 must comply with the new requirements subject to limited defenses. 

While the Access Board’s webinar addressed other 2010 Standards applicable to areas commonly found in many recreational facilities such as parking lots, entrances, toilets, retail spaces, and food counters, this post will focus only on miniature golf courses requirements.   

Fifty Percent Of Miniature Golf Holes Must Be Accessible

The 2010 Standards require that 50% of holes on miniature golf courses be accessible to persons with disabilities.  The holes that are accessible must be consecutive, but there can be one break in continuity so long as the final hole on the course is included.  For example, if only holes 1-8 are accessible, there can be a break such that players finish their round on the 18th hole of the course.

Requirements for The Teeing Ground

Players must have an accessible route to the first accessible hole, and all accessible holes thereafter.  As well, there must be a clear floor space area at the start of play for each accessible hole that is 48” x 60” minimum, with a slope no steeper than 1:48 (2%) in all directions.  This allows the player to tee off on a level surface.

Navigating The Course

The accessible route through the course can be either adjacent to the holes or on the playing surface of the hole itself.  In either scenario, the course must be designed such that a golf ball at rest will always be within a 36” reach range from a 36” x 48” clear floor space that is connected to an accessible route. 

The requirements that apply when the accessible route is on the playing surface of the hole differ from those that apply when the accessible route is adjacent to the course and are generally more lenient. 

Requirements When the Accessible Route Is On The Playing Surface

  • When the accessible route is on the playing surface of the course itself, and the playing surface is made of carpet, the carpet must be stable, firm, and slip resistant.  Other accessibility requirements typically applicable to carpeted surfaces do not apply.
  • There is usually a walled in area around the playing surface that is intended to keep golf balls on the course.  So that wheelchairs can exit a hole, there must be a 1 inch maximum curb for an opening of 32 inches minimum so that there is a spot where a wheelchair can exit the hole. 
  • The accessible route on the course can include, at most, a maximum slope of 1:4 (25%) for a maximum four inch rise.  Slopes on ramp landings must be 1:20 (5%) maximum and landings must be at least 48 inches long.  Where ramps change direction, the landing size must be at least 48 inches by 60 inches. 
  • Handrails are not required when the accessible route is on the playing surface of the hole.  If they are provided, they do not need to comply with accessibility requirements.

Accessible Routes Adjacent To the Playing Surface

When the accessible route is provided adjacent to the playing surface, the route must comply with all the requirements of Chapter 4 of the 2004 ADAAG, including those applicable to slope, cross slope, width, handrails, and changes in level.

Exiting The Course

There must be an accessible route from the last accessible hole to the course exit or entrance.  This accessible route cannot track back through completed holes.   

At the conclusion of the webinar, the Access Board provided its view on some interesting issues of compliance.  Note, however, that it is the DOJ, not the Access Board, that enforces these requirements.  One person asked  whether a change in carpeting on a miniature golf course would constitute an “alteration” subjecting the altered area to the 2010 Standards.  Presenter Bill Botten said that he did not think such a facility update would trigger new compliance requirements, especially given the exemption noted above for carpeted surfaces.  Nonetheless, he said the issue was one for the DOJ to consider and address. 

In addition, Mr. Botten shared his view that if a course would like there to be higher walls to enclose the holes and keep balls from flying astray, that it can be constructed in such a manner.  A player simply needs to be allowed to exit the hole at its starting point and have an accessible route from there to the next accessible hole.  In Mr. Botten’s view, this would not run afoul of the requirement that an accessible route not require someone to travel back through “other holes” previously completed. 

The above is only a summary of highlights from the webinar.  Owners and operators of new golf courses must review Sections 239 and 1007 of the 2010 Standards for the full set of requirements.