Yes, golfing is a sport. It is a contest or game in which people compete against each other. Golf involves specific physical activities and is played according to a detailed set of rules. To play golf is to play a sport.
So, what is the definition of what a sport is anyway? Is golf back in the Olympics? How did Tiger Woods make golf mainstream? How many miles do golfers walk when they are playing? Does golf require a tremendous amount of physical and mental practice? Can a hobby still be a sport? Finally, what common arguments do people make about golf not being a sport?
Here is the complete breakdown as to why golfing is a sport.
The Definition of What a Sport Is
According to The Britannica Dictionary, the definition of a sport is a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities with a certain level of skill or prowess. The sport – whether popular or not – must have a specific set of rules, and players must compete against each other with those rules.
Golf is Back in the Olympics
The game of golf is an Olympic sport, as it was reinstated as part of the 2016 Olympics. It was previously an Olympic sport in the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games. It is open to all qualifying players, whether amateur or professional golfers.
Olympic golf tournaments include men’s and women’s individual stroke play events. It includes four eighteen-hole rounds of golf, similar to what a standard professional golf tournament would consist of.
Many prominent PGA Tour professionals, including Rory McIlroy, played in the most recent Olympics (Tokyo in 2021). However, other popular professional golfers like Tiger Woods and John Daly have never participated.
Tiger Woods Made Golf Mainstream
Tiger Woods helped take golf into the mainstream for many reasons. The most apparent reason is that he was the best and most accomplished minority golfer in a sport previously dominated by white male golfers and not very popular across a wide range of the sporting population.
Tiger Woods often referred to himself as “Cablinasian.” This “Cublinasian” referenced that his ancestry comprised (in his words) Caucasian, Black, and Asian heritage. This contributed to his being popular across a wide range of fans.
Golfers Walk Miles on the Golf Course When Playing
Golfers walk several miles during a round of playing on a course. For a professional golfer, courses are usually over 7,300 yards, which equates to over four miles of walking. This assumes all the shots are in the fairway and does not add physical exertion via looking for golf balls that may have been hit off-course or into the woods.
By the end of a professional tournament, which usually consists of four rounds, a golfer will have walked between 15 and 20 miles. The demanding layout and undulating terrain make it even more physically demanding for the more challenging courses, such as those played during the U.S. Open and the British Open.
Golf Requires Tremendous Amounts of Physical and Mental Practice
Becoming an accomplished golfer, and participating in competitive golf events, requires a tremendous amount of practice. From the physical side of things, you need to work on and practice a consistent golf swing, which requires well-developed hand-eye coordination. An avid golfer may go to a driving range several times a week and play three to four rounds at the local golf club during that same time. Golfers must also practice their putts significantly, as 50% of all golf shots are made with the putter!
Besides the physical side, golfers must develop a strong mental approach to the game. For the most part, golf is a very individual sport, and there are no teammates to rely on if you are having a challenging round. This is especially true at the professional level. Golfers who participate in professional tournaments are doing so to earn a living for themselves and their caddies, so the stress of competing – and doing well – can be overwhelming if they are not mentally strong.
The Associated Press Has Awarded the Athlete of the Year to Golfers Numerous Times
As further proof that golf is a real sport, the Associated Press has presented its Athlete of the Year Award to golfers over thirty times. In addition, a golfer was named Athlete of the Decade three times – Arnold Palmer in the 1960s, Jack Nicklaus in the 1970s, and Tiger Woods in the 2000s.
A Hobby Can Still be a Sport
Yes, a hobby can be a sport. Sports are generally considered competitive events, with rules and guidelines for the competition. Hobbies are usually an activity that someone does as an enjoyable part of their leisure time.
Golf, for example, can be both a sport and a hobby. Professional and high-level amateur golfers participate in tournaments that award prizes or money to the top finishers. At this level, it is a sport. However, millions of golfers take up golf as a hobby and enjoy playing with friends and family on a friendly, non-competitive basis.
Both groups are playing the same game, but one is doing so as a sport, and the other is doing so as a hobby.
Common Arguments for Why People Think Golf is Not a Sport
Those who argue that golf is not a sport tend to make this assertion based on appearance. When many people think of sports, they think of athletes such as football players, basketball players, or those who compete in the Olympics. The energy and physical exertion to participate in those sports are immediately visible.
Conversely, golfers walk on the course, occasionally stopping to hit their next shot or putt. Some might drive in golf carts instead of walking to hit their next shot. This walking, driving, and stopping may appear to be a leisurely activity. Still, people may not recognize the amount of physical and mental stamina it takes to compete at the sport’s highest level.
Conclusion: Is Golfing a Sport?
Yes, by any definition, golf is a sport. It involves physical activity, is played according to a specific set of rules, and players compete against each other.
While there are arguments that the style of play may be different from other sports, by the definition of what a sport is, golf is one of them.
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