The following is a blog post that I ran across that does not do a very good job of explaining why golf is not a sport. I am not sure if the writer plays golf or is just delusional about the sport. Below each point is my counterpoint (in bold) as to why I think golf IS a sport.
Six Factors that Make a Game a Sport – and why Golf is NOT a Sport!
There is a great confusion about what makes a game into a “sport”. Part of the problem of determining what is or isn’t a sport is that there is perhaps no clear definition as to what actually makes a “game” into a sport. Allow me to help! IMALTHO (in my admittedly less than humble opinion…), there are six major criteria that separate a mere “game” from an actual sport. I’ve listed them in order of importance. As a means of explaining why certain games are indeed not a sport, we can take golf as an example when applied to these criteria.
The most important element of a true sport is athleticism, which revolves around movement. The mantra of every coach is “move your feet”. Not only do golfers not move their feet, they try to limit all bodily movement. Athleticism involves instantaneous physical reaction to changing conditions. For example, a luger may seem to lie quietly on a sled, but he or she is reacting constantly with their entire body to the physics of the turns and the imperfections of the ice. Golf seems to be the antithesis to athleticism in that it involves the refinement of extremely limited, repetitive movement. When have you ever heard or read, “Wow! That was a really athletic shot or move” about a golfer? Never. This is not to say that golfers can’t be athletes, it’s just the game itself doesn’t require it.
Counterpoint: Golfers not only move their feet they move just about every other part of their body. The required body movements have to be learned. Strength in the legs, hips, arms and wrists are required not only to make a good golf shot, but to endure 5 hours a day in a four day tournament plus the practice before and after each round. Professional golfers are very regimented in their strength and endurance training. In almost all sports played with a ball, the only requirement is that a person can run and throw. These are things that kids grow up doing and that have been around since the cavemen ran after their prey and made a kill by throwing a stone at it.
2. Speed and Strength
In all real sports, speed and strength give great advantages. Even driving off the tee, strength does not play a major role, and being quick or strong never won a golfer a match. Technique, including leverage and timing, are much more important in generating club head speed and driving the ball a long way. Otherwise, the biggest players would always have the longest drives. But just look at how many small baseball players are on the leader board of homeruns. In tennis, it’s the same: the biggest servers are almost invariably the tallest players.
Counterpoint: See previous counterpoint. Clubhead speed is created by many factors. Technique is one, but golfers that are tall and have long arms most definitely have an advantage over shorter players. There have been short players in the past, but professional players today are tall.
In any real sport, sad but true that the higher level you play at the more at-risk you become for injury. Not just the “major” sports: field hockey, tennis, soccer, ice skating, equestrienne, etc., all produce their share of directly related injuries, from sprained ankles to deaths. Other than perhaps some back injury or getting conked in the head from another golfer, there are not many injuries directly related to playing golf.
Counterpoint: Golfers can and often do suffer many kinds of injuries. They include injuries to the back, hands, wrists, fingers, knees, elbows and neck. In fact, I think it was Greg Norman that said that 90% of all professional golfers will develop some level of degeneration of the spine before their careers are over.
4. The Impact of Others
In a real sport, you are directly impacted by others and by your environment. In golf, there is no one hitting or throwing a ball at you. There is no one sticking a hand in your face or some fifteen-hundred pound horse ignoring your commands. Forget the elements as an adversary; you could be taking a walk in the park (without the bother to hit a motionless little ball) and be bothered by rain and wind, perhaps even to the point of slipping and hurting yourself. Taking a stroll is not considered a sport. In fact, many duffers don’t even bother to walk the course, they drive carts.
Counterpoint: Everyone around golfers has an impact on their play. The professional is required to have mental toughness and the ability to shut-out unruly fans while amateurs deal with ignorant people that hit into their group or slow down the pace of play.
Not that every athlete is in top-notch condition–even if they should be!–but even the most well-conditioned golfer is not going to improve his or her game because of her conditioning. There are many top-level golfers who lost the battle of the bulge long ago. In highly competitive sports, great conditioning often makes the difference over skill. Although many golfers work out these days, there are still many successful professionals who do not.
Counterpoint: Endurance, physical and mental is required to play at peak levels. Remember, a golfer is continuously thinking, contemplating and performing. There is no break during a round that takes from 4 to 5 hours. Making a wrong decision or not performing can result in loss of thousands of dollars. Team athletes get paid whether they make a right or a wrong decision.
6. Age and gender
In any real sport, 45 is ancient. Most professional athletes are retired long before the age of 40. Because speed and strength are important, women cannot compete directly with men, although in many sports the defining qualities are agility and grace. In golf, teenage girls have competed in the same field as men with some success, and former great males have made semi-successful comebacks in their mid-fifties. They may not have won those tournaments, but the fact that they could even be competitive shows how unimportant the criteria of a sport are to playing golf.
Counterpoint: Golfers peak in their 30s and by 45 they are usually not that competitive anymore. The fact that golfers can continue to play as seniors is a testament to their physical and mental fortitude. You won’t find players from any other sport playing into their 50s, 60s and yes sometimes 70s.
Other than President Eisenhower’s passion that initially catapulted the game into the public eye, what makes golf so popular is that virtually anyone, regardless of age, physical condition, or lack of coordination, can play the game. The game is you against the course, so skill and success become quite relative. Some years ago the IOC actually considered contract bridge as a possible Olympic “sport”. Bridge is highly complicated, mentally challenging, and requires great concentration and a sort of endurance. That also describes golf. Neither one are sports.
Counterpoint: Golf requires being physically fit and coordinated in order to play at a high level. Kids grow up playing all the sports. Like the rest of the sports a limited number make it to professional level. Here there is no difference between golf and any other sport.