Is Golf a Sport? Pros and Cons
Video exploring critical thinking and how it leads to great citizen involvement
Last updated on: 10/9/2012 10:44:42 AM PST

Is Golf a Sport?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Stewart Cink, professional golfer and 2009 British Open champion, stated the following in an Apr. 24, 2012 interview with Will Leivenberg titled "B/R Exclusive: Stewart Cink Dishes Majors, Social Media and Why Golf Is a Sport," posted on bleacherreport.com:

"WL: Sports fans tend to sideline golf as not a 'real' sport. How would you respond to them?

SC: Look, there's parts of golf that are and parts that aren't. I wouldn’t react in an insensitive way to this question. Physically, golf is obviously not super-demanding. There’s not a lot of contact and, you know, no one is running a marathon.

But the hand-eye coordination involved in hitting a certain kind of shot, like hitting a drive 320 yards down a tree-lined narrow fairway, or a delicate pitch shot from behind a sloped green, or simply the tiny movements within the swing is what makes it athletic and challenging and a sport. In the end, there’s no real answer, and I don't think it matters in the end because golf has strong, loyal fans."


Apr. 24, 2012 - Stewart Cink 

Is Golf a Sport?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
Ed Sherman, former golf writer at the Chicago Tribune, stated the following in a list titled "Golf Is a Sport," published in the 2011 book Golf List Mania!: The Most Authoritative and Opinionated Rankings of the Best and Worst of the Game that he cowrote with Len Shapiro:

"If you're going to discount golf as a sport because players like John Daly (the fat version), Tim Herron and Craig Stadler don’t have chiseled bodies, then I’ll present to you the image of the 340-pound offensive lineman with 60 pounds of flab hanging over his gut. Technically, all they do is stand up and try to get in somebody’s way. Carl Lewis, they’re not. I know there’s much more involved in being a lineman, especially with footwork. Hey, fat guys can be athletes, too...

If golf isn't a sport, then how come the best athletes in the world can't master it? Jerry Rice might have been the best football player ever, yet he shot a round in the 90s when he tried to tee it up on the Nationwide Tour. Michael Jordan only dreams of being a professional golfer. Yes, golf is a hard sport...

Sadly, if you can take steroids to improve your performance, then you're a sport. Golf falls under that category. Golf was way behind the curve on this, but officials finally did institute testing for performance enhancing drugs. Just like sports such as baseball and football, golf reacted to curb a potential problem...

Just like the other sports, the mental aspect is huge in golf. The player who can think his way around the course, who can handle and overcome adversity, who can stare down an opponent, who can will the putt in the hole with everything on the line, always will reign supreme in golf. Michael Jordan had it in his sport. Tiger Woods has it in his sport."


2011 - Ed Sherman 

Brett Hull, Hall of Fame and two-time Stanley Cup winning former National Hockey League (NHL) player, stated the following in an article by Peter McCleery titled "Are Golfers Really Athletes?," published May 2, 2007 in Golf Digest:
"Sure it's a sport. People don't understand what it takes to be an elite athlete in any sport. To me the mental preparation and toughness in golf blows away what it takes in any sport. Just because golfers don't wear running shoes and don't run down the fairway doesn't mean they aren't athletes.''

May 2, 2007 - Brett Hull 

Neil Wolkodoff, PhD, Medical Director at the Denver Center for Health & Sport Science, stated the following in an Aug. 10, 2010 New York Times article written by Bill Pennington titled "A Little Scientific Research for All Those 19th-Hole Debates," available on nytimes.com:

"There are a lot of ways to define a sport. But we know that the golf swing uses almost every muscle group in the body. We know it uses a pretty significant amount of energy — not as much as running a 10K but more than people think. And one significant measure of a sport is whether physical training improves your ability to perform, and I think that’s been proven in golf.

So in my estimation, it's absolutely a sport."


Aug. 10, 2010 - Neil Wolkodoff, PhD 

Sterling Sharpe, television analyst for the NFL Network and former Green Bay Packers wide receiver, stated the following in a Jan. 3, 2011 video produced by Nike titled "Is Golf a Sport?," available at YouTube.com:
"What makes golf a sport is that it combines, just like all the other reactionary sports, it combines both physical and mental... You have to have the physical ability to move the golf ball from point A to point B, but you also have to have to mental capacity to understand how to get that done in the best, most efficient way possible. So, combining both the physical and mental makes golf a sport."

Jan. 3, 2011 - Sterling Sharpe 

Stephanie Wei, golf blogger and former member of the Yale University women's golf team, stated the following in her July 22, 2009 article titled "Is Golf a "Real" Sport?," published on The Huffington Post:

"While I can't deny the argument that golf doesn't demand the same strength and power required in other sports such as basketball and football, it does require athleticism...

It's called being able to consistently swing a club with the same motion and tempo. And it's not as easy as it may look.

There's also a little something called endurance. Even an athletic person will tire after playing and walking 18 holes. Try carrying your own bag around a hilly course in 90-degree heat. Or repeating the same swing all day, and with accuracy. Then get back to me about golf not requiring any kind of athletic ability.

Most professional golfers are in great shape. They do work out. Golf calls for tremendous coordination, stamina and strength, albeit a different kind. Call it whatever you want -- a sport, game or hobby. It doesn't matter. In my opinion, Old Man [Tom] Watson's epic performance [at the 2009 British Open] further validated why golf is the best sport ever."


July 22, 2009 - Stephanie Wei 

Tim McDonald, Contributing Writer for TravelGolf.com, stated the following in his July 11, 2010 article titled "Golf Isn't Just a 'Sport,' It's the Hardest of Them," published on TravelGolf.com:

"[I]f you believe a sport requires eye-hand coordination, intense focus, stamina and a cut-throat sense of competition, you cannot help but call golf a sport.

The hardest of them. If it isn't difficult, then why do so many, even the pros, have such a devil of a time hitting a ball straight that isn't moving? The last time I looked, golf doesn't throw high and tight sliders at you...

Golf is much more physical than, say, softball or bowling, and you never hear those sports' legitimacy being questioned. Or at least you hear them questioned less often."


July 11, 2010 - Tim McDonald 

Mike Gross, Assistant Sports Editor at the Lancaster News, stated the following in his July 20, 2009 article titled "Is Golf a Sport," published at lancasteronline.com:

"Is walking 18 holes or more in 95 degree heat in a U.S. Open less strenuous that playing leftfield in a major-league baseball game? Or being an NFL placekicker? Golf is closer to, say, baseball in strenuousness than baseball is to, say, triathlon…

But if you try to come up with a serious, sensible, honest definition of sport that excludes golf, you can’t do it…

To be a sport, an activity must be 1. inherently competitive, and 2. require, in order to compete, athletic movements. Many things (ballroom dancing, for example) are athletic and not sports, and many things (poker, chess) are competitive and not sports. Have to be both.

There are a few tough judgment calls – auto racing, gymnastics (I’m inclined to say yes on both) – but golf isn’t close to being one of them…

The golf swing is obviously an athletic movement, and the game is among the more inherently competitive activities created by mankind. End of argument.


Of course, golf is a sport. Come on, people." 

July 20, 2009 - Mike Gross 

William Tucker, golf blogger for the Times Union, stated the following in his Aug. 25, 2012 article titled "Is Golf a Sport?," published at timesunion.com:

"So is golf a game or a sport? A pastime or an athletic event? The American Heritage Dictionary calls it a game, but Wikipedia calls it a sport. O bother!...

Golf is obviously then, an amalgam of sports and games. On the one hand, you have to walk five miles up and down hills. Stamina is required.

You must marry a tiny point on a clubhead, six feet from your body, traveling at about 100 miles per hour, with a precise point on a ball. You must do this on a perfect swing plane using 22 muscle groups.

Physical finesse is required. You must determine the routing of the ball according to the hole layout, your lie, the wind and other factors such as that nasty tree on No. 6.

You must ignore the head games of your opponents, especially if you play with the miscreants I am burdened with on a regular basis.

So golf requires mental sharpness and the ability to take a number of factors, process them and make the wrong decision. I think we can say with unequivocal preciseness that golf is a mental/physical game/sport."


Aug. 25, 2012 - William Tucker 

Ty Votaw, JD, Executive Vice President of Communications & International Affairs for the PGA Tour, stated the following as quoted in an Oct. 9, 2009 press release titled "Golf Approved For 2016 Olympic Program On Vote By International Olympic Committee Membership," available at internationalgolffederation.org:
"We are elated that the IOC membership has accepted golf as an Olympic sport, and look forward to seeing the world’s best golfers compete for gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro... We strongly believed that golf deserved to be added to the Olympic Program and felt that we presented a compelling case to the IOC... We also stressed the universal nature of golf, with 60 million people playing the sport in more than 120 countries."

Oct. 9, 2009 - Ty Votaw, JD 

Sebasten Jost, Head of Coaching at the Royal Jersey Golf Club, stated the following in his article titled "An Ideal Sport for the Young," published in the 2011 issue of 20/20 magazine:
"Is golf a sport? Yes, golf most definitely is a sport! Learning to play golf will develop many skills such as: Hand and Eye Coordination, Speed, Flexibility, Balance, Rhythm, Aiming/Accuracy and that all important ingredient Concentration."

2011 - Sebastien Jost 

Mike Freeman, National Columnist at CBSSports.com, stated the following in his July 20, 2009 article titled "Old-man Watson Proves Golf Is Far from Legitimate Sport," published on cbssports.com:
"Golf isn't a sport. The amount of athleticism required to play golf is about the same as it is to be a good bowler.

How else do you explain that a man who is nearly 60 [Tom Watson] came extremely close to winning a golf major?

This story might be inspirational but for the sport of golf it should also be mortifying. Actually, it's a tad embarrassing.

What does it say about a sport when it takes a playoff round to finally beat Watson despite Watson's age?

It says golf isn't a sport, that's what it says...

There are no 59-year-old running backs, outfielders or point guards because the level of athleticism is so extreme in those sports that if someone Watson's age tried to play them they'd get broken into tiny pieces...

The athleticism required to play golf is so minimal it's negligible."


July 20, 2009 - Mike Freeman 

Dave Hollander, JD, author and sports columnist, stated the following in his May 12, 2008 article titled "Is Golf A Sport? Seriously.," published on the Huffington Post website:
"Golf does not even rise to the level of 'a good walk spoiled' [quote attributed t Mark Twain] because the primary action of walking is not required. So says PGA Tour v. Martin (2001) where the Supreme Court ordered the PGA to allow disabled golfer Casey Martin to use a golf cart in between holes rather than walk... How can you call something a sport where being ambulatory is not a basic minimum physical requirement?

A 'sport' requires athleticism. Athletes are people who demonstrate superior physical skill in the areas of strength, agility and stamina... There's got to be at least some running to call it a sport. I'd prefer some contact, too. But 'no walking required'? You call that a sport?

Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's a sport. Computer programming and brain surgery are difficult. They are not sports. Just because you compete doesn't make it a sport either. Pretzel vendors compete. Art galleries compete. Hell, a spelling bee is a competition. Golf is recreation--something to pass the time. It is no more a sport than marbles or cat's cradle."


May 12, 2008 - Dave Hollander, JD 

Oliver Herford, a 19th and 20th century American humorist, writer, and illustrator, stated the following in his Aug. 6, 1913 article titled "The Sport of the Masses," published in Harper's Weekly:

"Golf is not a sport. Golf is something between a vice and an obsession lacking withal the elegance of the one, the imagination of the other, and the amenability to treatment of both."


Aug. 6, 1913 - Oliver Herford 

Dan Jansen, former Olympic speedskater, stated the following in an article by Peter McCleery titled "Are Golfers Really Athletes?," published May 2, 2007 in Golf Digest:
"At the risk of offending golfers, which is not what I want to do, I don't know that it is a sport. The difference is, you can smoke a cigarette while doing it. But it is a game, and it's the hardest game I've ever played.''

May 2, 2007 - Dan Jansen 

Michael Graham, a talk radio host on 96.9 FM Boston Talks and GOP political consultant, stated the following in his 2002 book Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War:
"In an athletic competition, all other factors being equal, athleticism will determine the outcome. Which is why, by the way, golf is not a sport. Put down the putter, Tiger, and calm down. I'm not saying golf is bad, or that it's not a worthwhile game. I'm simply pointing out that any activity in which John Daly can be a champion is clearly not a competition among athletes."

2002 - Michael Graham 

Greg Couch, national general columnist at FoxSports.com, stated the following in a list titled "Golf Isn't a Sport," published in the 2011 book Golf List Mania!: The Most Authoritative and Opinionated Rankings of the Best and Worst of the Game by Len Shapiro and Ed Sherman:
"Tom Watson. When he almost won the British Open in 2009, it was thrilling. I was there. Imagine a 59-year old winning a major championship in a sport. No, I can’t imagine it, either. Watson nearly buried the golf-is-a-sport argument, a year after old Greg Norman nearly won. No way can a 59-year old beat the young guys at the highest level of a sport.

Larry Bird is in his early- to mid-50s. You think he could play in the NBA today?...

Beer gut. John Daly is the poster child. Craig Stadler used to be. Too many others to name. Daly used to be fat, but now isn’t. No matter how much golf he played, he couldn’t lose the weight. He needed Lap-band surgery...

Golf is not a sport. Whatever you call it, though, that doesn't change what’s required. It takes coordination, flexibility, some strength — or girth — and the ability to tip the servant carrying your bag, cleaning your shoes, giving you sandwiches during battle."


2011 - Greg Couch 

John McEnroe, former professional tennis player, stated the following as quoted in the "Sports et cetera" column of The Milwaukee Journal on Feb. 17, 1985:
"Golf is not a sport -- it's an artistic exercise like ballet. You can be a fat slob and still play golf."

Feb. 17, 1985 - John McEnroe 

Michael Lewis, MA, author of Moneyball and columnist for Bloomberg News, stated the following in his June 24, 2008 article titled "Tiger Woods Is Suffering for Golf's Big, Bad Lie: Michael Lewis," posted on Bloomberg.com:

"One of the amazing things about golf is how many people have been fooled into believing it is actually a real sport. All over the world people now talk and think about golf as if it's more like football or basketball than, say, bird- watching...

The striking thing about the recent U.S. Open wasn't that Tiger Woods won it playing on a broken leg. The striking thing was how much he -- and the golfing world -- clearly relished the idea of Tiger Woods playing on a broken leg...

Well, you can get hurt playing darts, too. Or hiking. Bowling can be seriously hazardous, if you don't know what you're doing. Play with enough passion and you can even injure yourself in a spirited game of Monopoly."


June 24, 2008 - Michael Lewis, MA 

Brian McNamee, MS, former trainer for MLB baseball players, including Roger Clemens, stated the following in a Jan. 23, 2009 video posted by SportsImproper.com titled "Brian McNamee - Is Golf a Sport or No Sport?," available on YouTube.com:
"As far as my definition of sport, golf is not a sport. It's an athletic activity maybe, they might be an athlete, but it's not a sport... Nowadays most [golfers] are, with the training and nutrition aspect of it, they're definitely athletes, but they're not playing in a sport... It's an individual thing. If they lose, they lose to themselves, they don't lose to a competitor... "

Jan. 23, 2009 - Brian McNamee, MS 

Rob Tong, contributer to the Chicago Tribune, stated the following in a May 5, 2006 article titled "So Tell Me Again Why Golf Is a Sport?," posted on chicagotribune.com:

"In order to settle this dispute, I wanted first to nail down the definition of a sport and then see if golf fits the definition...

You would think the dispute could be settled by checking the dictionary, but my dictionary defines sport as 'physical activity engaged in for pleasure' Sorry, Webster, but that can't be right. If it were, then 'Duck-Duck-Goose' would be a sport, as would miming, which would make Justin Timberlake an athlete based on his, uh, 'dancing...'

Mark Giangreco, primary sports anchor at ABC's Ch. 7, also gave me two criteria for a sport. 'You have to have some degree of athleticism,' Giangreco said. 'So you sorta, hafta break a sweat. And you need to have hand-eye coordination' when playing it.

According to Giangreco, golf and bowling are sports, poker is not. When I mentioned that foosball could fit his criteria, he added a third criteria: If you can drink a beer while doing it, it's not a sport...

And I'm still not convinced golf is a sport."


May 5, 2006 - Rob Tong 

John Welbourn, MA, former NFL offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, stated the following in his Apr. 13, 2012 blog entry titled "Golf, Sport & CFFB," posted on his website talktomejohnnie.com:

"While simple and probably wrong, my cut off for sport and non-sport comes with age and sobriety. Young fit individuals play sports. And if you can improve your ability by consuming alcohol it probably is not a sport. You don't see 60-year-old accountants in goofy pants padded up playing football on Sundays. If a group of old out of shape men can get together, drink a 12 pack of beer, and play golf, then you have a hard time convincing me it is a sport."


Apr. 15, 2012 - John Welbourn, MA 

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