This month I wanted to tackle two debates which seem to rage in bars and pubs across the world, driving passionate golf fans to distraction. The accusations usually start like this:
1. Golf isn’t a real sport is it!?
2. Why is that sport in the Olympics? It’s not the pinnacle of competition
Let’s bring two chief antagonists to the box for a cross examination:
“Golf isn't a sport. How else do you explain that a man who is nearly 60 [Tom Watson] came extremely close to winning a golf major” - Mike Freeman, CBSSport.com
“If you don't break a sweat, it's not a sport; it’s a skill…” Ronda Rousey, the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo.
Let’s tackle the ‘athleticism’ debate first. Obviously golf doesn’t require as much power or endurance as say football or running, but the golf swing uses almost every muscle group in the body and after 4 rounds, an equivalent of 280 shots, the stamina and exertion takes its toll. Ok so players with the build of say John Daly can play golf, but what about the 340 pound offensive linesman, is he an athlete…for sure, big guys can be athletes too.
And the reverse is true, some of the best athletes in the world can't master golf. Jerry Rice might have been named the best American football player ever, yet he shot a round in the 90s when he tried to play.
Onto Ronda’s quote. Jason Sobel humorously pointed out that putting up Ikea furniture will cause most to break into a sweat. Ask yourself this; is walking 72 holes or more in 95 degree less strenuous than being an NFL placekicker? In terms of exertion, golf is closer to baseball than baseball is to triathlon.
Ronda’s comment also opens up another can of worms; on Golf’s inclusion in the Olympics. Now you can read endless articles online from every man and his dog. So to save you time, here is my take on the top 3 arguments against golf being an Olympic sport:
1. Olympic gold is not the pinnacle and should be about amateur endeavour, the Majors mean much more for the Pros
Answer – Correct. However please go and take the gold medal away from Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Bradley Wiggins etc. and see what they say! The Tour de France and Tennis Majors are supposedly the pinnacle. Be under no illusion, modern Olympic inclusion carries a price. If you have any doubt, remember tickets can only be paid with a certain credit card.
2. Golfers are global megastars, you won’t see them interacting with smaller sports as part of a team.
Answer – Incorrect. Having spent time working at London 2012, the high profile athletes are swept up in the atmosphere and team environment just as much as everyone else. Usually they are cocooned and wrapped in cotton wool and love the interaction with other athletes they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to meet or talk to.
3. The 72 hole strokeplay format is silly and not inclusive of every country
Answer – I actually agree with that one! If golf wants to be seen to be less exclusive then it should be matchplay and let all nations participate (within reason).
At the end of the day Wikipedia say golf is a sport…end of argument!
Have you seen this yet on The VPAR Championship? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TPphkfEDYc