With the 146th British Open around the corner, an old argument amongst friends has cropped up.
To be honest, I don’t think golf is a sport. But before you kick off, let me explain.
Sport is defined as; “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
Now I have played golf for about 3 years now after re-falling in love with the game. I used to play as a kid and ended up getting blacklisted at my local club for playing on the course (not in the way), during a senior men’s comp.
Who does that to a kid who is desperate to learn and play the game? This isn’t an argument for today. We will cover this in another golf post of it’s own.
Now some of you may know that I do a lot of endurance events and try to maintain a body fat percentage at around 10%. This takes hard work, but I do it because I enjoy it. This is just to give some perspective that I am a fan of both fitness and golf, and therefore feel like I have feet in both camps with regards to the argument.
I feel like golf is trapped in the no-mans land between a sport and a game. You have others in the same category like Darts and Formula 1. Darts isn’t a sport, I mean come on, look at the “athletes”.
This isn’t to take anything away from Darts, it takes 10,000 hours to get to their level of unbelievable skill, mental strength and general all round ability. I play darts badly from time to time when I am out with the lads, and let's just say as with most things, they make it look easy.
For me, because there is no element of exhaustion, strength or physically heightened ability that can lead to a competitive advantage, and be applied to overcome opponents and the event itself, then it isn’t a sport.
Take Formula 1 as the best example of this. Jenson Button is a Triathlete and Ironman competitor in his spare time. Yeah, because driving 200mph round corners can get a bit boring can’t it Jenson? In Formula 1 especially, the drivers are put through incredible amounts of pressure, both mental and physical with G-Forces similar to fighter jets and space travel.
They lose fluids through sweat at an alarming rate, and they have to physically battle with the car at every turn. However, this doesn’t make it a sport.
Most of the drivers are physically fit and keep in amazing shape on the off-season. Lewis Hamilton is in shape, but nothing like Jenson. Yet Hamilton wins most of the time because he has the fastest car and the largest budget on R&D, engineering and design.
I am not anti-F1, I love watching the races and follow it in the news. I am just trying to put forward a balanced argument on sport.
So lets look at golf where this athlete spectrum has been even more prominent since Tiger Woods burst onto the words stage. Supposedly the first golfer outside of Gary Player that argued being as fit as an athlete, gave him an additional small advantage over his competitors. The key here though is that this advantage didn’t mean that he won every tournament over and over. He won a lot don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there will be a dominance like that ever again.
Let’s look at Angel Jimenez as a prime example, who has on many occasions beaten a number of the worlds best and fittest golfers including Tiger Woods. John Daly is an even more extreme example of why being at the height of fitness and endurance isn’t necessary for Golf like it is for a sport.
When I play golf, I carry my bag like everyone else. I don’t use a trolley and you are having a laugh if you think I am paying for buggies. On an 18 hole golf course, which is usually 6,000 yards give or take, I burn 2,000+ Calories. That blew my mind. That’s the same as running a half marathon at pace.
Now I burn more than the average bloke given I am zigzagging across the fairway on every hole, to get to my next shot from the bushes and rough on either side. This is a lot of calories but it still doesn’t mean it’s a sport.
I love golf, and it never deters me when you are caught in the rain playing terribly. Ball after ball going into the hazard, puts trickling past or landing too short of the hole. Then you get the odd shot here and there, when you change nothing in your swing or game, and you hit a worldy that Rory would be proud of. 150 yards to the pin and you land it with a touch of spin to within 6 feet.
Why can’t I do that every time? I didn’t do anything different? Is what you usually hear, especially from me!
The margin for error in golf is so small. Smaller than most games. It takes more dedication I believe than any sport. You don’t just get fit and learn your craft. The guys who are the best in the world have hit millions of balls in their life on the course and on the range. They have spent their childhood being dropped of at a club in the morning and being dragged back home at night. This for me is the key.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a sport or not. Formula 1, Darts, Golf and any other games that are stuck in no mans land. The truth is, all of them take a dedication, passion, sacrifice and sprinkle of talent that the majority of us in the world don’t have.
All of them are amazing to watch, and a big part of most people's lives.
So who cares.