Is golf REALLY a sport?

Should we call ourselves sportsmen and sportswomen when we don't even break sweat?

John Leigh
Tue, 21 Nov 2006

Is golf REALLY a sport?

Is golf a sport?
Can big golfers like this call themselves sportsmen?

Until a few years ago, the possibility that golf was not a sport had never really occurred to me. Golf was in the national newspaper sports pages and I saw it on 'Grandstand'. Golf magazines were always with the other sports magazines in WH Smith and if you wanted a golf book from the library, you found it in the sports section.

So what planted the kernel of doubt that perhaps golf was not, after all, a sport? Surprisingly, it was playing this confounded game. In current parlance, Tiger Woods and his cohorts - even John Daly (inset) - are now regarded as 'athletes'. But as we wind our merry way around the golf course and look at our fellow players, I have to say that the word athlete does not immediately spring naturally to mind!

It's when I start to look more closely at this game which holds us in its grip that I realise that if I take the four - mile walk out of the equation what I'm left with is about two minutes of action in a four-hour round; and half of that is snooker with an upright cue.

Is golf a sport
Do you need a fitness regime for golf?

This then raises the question: Can an activity that requires so little effort truly be called a sport? If I draw up a checklist of boxes, which have to be ticked in order for an activity to be called a sport it would probably be something like this -

1. It should require a specialised physical skill.

2. It should demand a level of exertion over and above that required in normal day-to-day living.

3. It should be capable of being competitive.

4. It should be possible to decide the winner by objective means (i.e. goals scored, height or speed achieved, distance covered etc.)

Is golf a sport?
Should golf be classed with snooker?

When looking at these requirements,I'm forced to the conclusion that by failing Test 2, golf really belongs with snooker, darts and bowls.

By applying the four tests, all the 'normal' sports get in quite easily although it has to be admitted that cricket was a pretty close call - the majority of both sides standing in a field or sitting in a pavilion for the best part of five days is stretching it a bit! However, the batsmen, bowlers and slip fielders just save it.

Also qualifying - but only just - are those activities where the participant is carried by another (e.g. horse or motor vehicle, as the rider/driver is not a passive passenger and certainly expends a fair amount of effort during an event).

More tricky are 'sports' which need a panel of judges to award points. In my view gymnastics and diving get in as the judges are determining which elements of the discipline have been correctly performed.

This is objective. However, anything that has any points for ‘artistic interpretation’ fails on the basis that this is subjective.

Is golf a sport?
Cricket makes it - just!

So what about golf?

It’'s a leisure activity, a pastime and yes, it'’s a game. But it'’s tough to marshal a strong case to enable golfers to consider themselves as sportsmen and sportswomen.

Or am I missing something?

John makes some fascinating points. Have we been kidding ourselves all these years that we can add golf to our sporting prowess. That a golfing handicap should be worn as a badge of honour and that a hole-in-one demands some kind of celebrity status? Or should it just be a pastime to be held in as little esteem as a walk in the park or a game of dominoes in the pub? Tell us your views on the forum. Either stand up for golf as a symbol of sporting competitiveness or admit it's just something to do on a nice day.

Is golf a sport
John Leigh

Cheshire-born John Leigh (60) is a member at Little Lakes Golf Club in Bewdley, Worcestershire and took up the game after repairing and making golf clubs as part of his skills in his own motor accessory business. A local magistrate, he now works in the despatch department of a local firm, which gives him time off to pursue his golf, where he has recently got his handicap down to single figures.

"My ambition is now to reduce my handicap from eight by a shot a year until I'm 65 and I've just treated myself to a set of Pingi5s to help me do it. I also formed a golf society from members of my badminton club (so no problem with raising a sweat there!) and we celebrate our 10th anniversary next season."

He adds: "Thanks to Golfmagic for the encouragement by publishing my article (and the subsequent feedback) and for a terrific site which is interesting, funny and particularly informative regarding the Rules of Golf. I will endeavour to write another article should a subject awake the pixie in me!"