New York Institute for Special Needs opens course for blind students
Norman Kritz, 92, designs and builds golf courses for blind students. His course for the New York Institute for Special Needs recently opened for play.
Photos courtesy of Alan Kritz

New York Institute for Special Needs opens course for blind students

The project was the brainchild of Norman Kritz, a longtime designer of courses for the visually impaired.

June 25, 2021

For 30 years, Norman Kritz has been helping build golf courses for those with disabilities. In May, the newest project he guided came to fruition.
The Kritz Links for the Blind and Visually Impaired, a short seven-hole course opened on May 25 on the grounds of the New York Institute for Special Education after what seemed like an eternity of development. The original meeting to propose the course had occurred in August 2018, and the COVID-19 pandemic further slowed the process. 
“There was about a year’s time where we really didn't have access to each other and to the kids,” Kritz says. “(The pandemic) was a thing that blocked up everything. Fortunately, we got through it and the end result was pretty good.”

The course is a brisk pitch-and-chip course designed to accommodate its target players. Its longest hole is only 45 yards, and the holes have been expanded to 8 inches wide, almost double regulation width. 

In addition to the expanded cup width, the first and fourth holes on the course have wheelchair access to accommodate those with additional disabilities at the school. “At a school for the blind, you not only have kids that have a problem with their vision, but many of the children have physical problems,” Kritz says. “Some kids are in wheelchairs and some kids are on crutches. And so, we build a couple of holes where wheelchairs can roll right onto the greens.”

In the 30 years Kritz has spent helping design and build courses for the disadvantaged, he has always felt it was for a good cause. When he first delved into the industry, he had originally wanted to use golf as an outlet to prevent drug use, but soon fell in with the Mid-Atlantic Blind Golf Association. 
The MABGA is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to getting blind and visually impaired people on the course to enjoy golf in their own way. The organization has 78 junior members, and Kritz has found the most enjoyment working with them.

Although he helped to design and construct the course, Kritz hasn’t visited the course since its opening. He’s 92 years old and traveling from his home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to the Bronx is taxing on him. The drive takes more than three hours, and Kritz can only go when someone —usually his son— drives him. Kritz closely follows the course despite not being able to make the trip as often as he’d like.  “I’ve still got my finger in it, I just don't have my hand in it,” he says. The team helping Kritz with the project included building contractor Dominic Parisi, supervisor Ken Brouwer, Glen Oaks superintendent Craig Currier, Metropolitan PGA executive director Jeff Voorheis and New York Institute for Special Education director Bernadette Kappen.

The school, and by proxy the course, also haven’t been heavily used yet. The New York Institute for Special Needs is out for the summer. He thinks the experience of working for the children in the MABGA is its own reward. Kritz is confident the course will bring plenty of joy to the students. “I guess you would call it an amazing 30 years working with kids,” Kritz says. “It's terrific and it’s very fulfilling. It's gratifying to see smiles on their faces. That's your reward, smiles you can take home with you.”

Jack Gleckler is an Ohio University senior participating in the Golf Course Industry summer internship program.