Our final debate of 2014 is a return to an argument we had a few years ago, namely is golf a sport? Well, before we can even begin to argue on a subject, it might be a good idea to look at just what the definition of a sport is. According to the dictionary a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
So does golf have those parameters to qualify? Does it involve physical exertion? Not to the extent as playing full court basketball or ice hockey or even swimming a few competitive laps in a pool, but yes, there is physical exertion involved, particularly if you are walking the course in addition to the numerous times you swing the club. If you disagree that this falls into the category of physical exertion then David Ortiz or any other designated hitter does not participate in a sport, and neither does a kicker/punter in football. Of course most football players don’t regard kickers as athletes anyway.
Does golf require skill? If you want to play it well or even respectably is certainly does. In fact golf may be the most skillfully challenging of all games/sports. It requires near perfection in the swing, which is a very athletic move, requiring timing, great hand/eye coordination, strength and balance. Consider that most of the world’s greatest golfers are or were great athletes. Jack Nicklaus was a standout in both basketball and football. Tiger Woods could dunk a basketball and could have been a world class long or high jumper. Ernie Els was a standout rugby and soccer player. Billy Andrade was a great high school soccer and basketball player. And unlike other sports, you cannot make up for a lack of skill with hustle. You either execute or fail.
In golf individuals do indeed compete against one another and also against the toughest opponent anyone will ever face, themselves and a piece of land (especially land that has a lot of water thrown about). And golfers certainly play for entertainment. Professionals do it to entertain galleries and people watching on T.V. and the rest of us do it to entertain ourselves. Although, to be truthful, golf usually stops being entertaining for us by the third shot of our rounds and becomes a test of temper. In my previous argument on this subject I conceded that the golf many play is a stretch to call a sport. If you are riding around the course with a pot belly, a stogie stuck between your teeth and a cooler of beer on the seat next to you, then a strong argument can be made that you are just spending time at an outdoor bar while occasionally advancing a little ball around a pasture.
There is the game of golf and then there is the sport of golf, but that is what makes golf so appealing. It has different levels, so it’s really impossible to put it in one box. It’s much like the game/sport of softball. Sunday morning beer leagues are all about camaraderie and having a good time, while hoping not to blow out a hammie. Then there is the serious softball where you find some really amazing athletes. Golf, played at a high level, even among top club players, is a serious sport, that requires training, practice, nutrition discipline and a great skill set.
While detractors of the game point to the overweight pros that you occasionally see, the vast majority of pro golfers are in peak fit condition. They work out daily to remain that way. Yes Virginia, golf is a real sport.