Is Golf A Sport? 6 Arguments For (and Against) Considering Golf as a Sport

We’ve all heard it before. “Is golf a sport?” comes the question time and time again and, while most of us would probably agree, the question does bring up some surprising responses.

For anyone definitively on either side of the fence on this issue, hopefully, this article should clear things up a bit or at least make you reconsider your point of view. 

While I’m not going to make any claims to finally settle the debate once and for all, it’s also important to question why this particular question of “Is golf a sport?” comes up so often. 

Like a lot of sports, watching someone play golf can sometimes make you think “Well, I could do that!”. 

Maybe you’ve had an especially good day at your local mini-golf course and thought that golf was just a simple game of luck?

Whatever it is about golf, this question needs to be discussed, and in this article, we’re going to do just that.

Is golf a sport? A golf tee in the foreground and golfer taking a swing in the background

Is Golf a Sport? 

Yes, golf is indeed a sport: it is a physical activity involving a competition. 

This answer might be fairly self-explanatory but let’s unpack it anyway. 

While golf might not be the most strenuous activity, it can still be used as a great form of exercise if done correctly. 

Golf involves a huge amount of finesse and skill. That kind of skill can only come from years of training. It’s quite similar to gymnastics in that regard, you train for years and years to do something incredibly difficult and make it look easy!

One golfer holds the flag while another makes a putt

However, as golf is a game that you can leisurely play at your own pace whenever you feel like it, as opposed to sports like football or rugby where the pace of play is dictated by the nature of the game, some people would say that golf doesn’t qualify. 

But it’s quite simple really. It’s a physical game, it requires the use of your muscles to complete a task in a set framework of rules and guidelines. Unlike a game like chess, where you’re only really using your brain, so it’s therefore not a sport (but let’s not open that can of worms!)

#1: No, It Doesn’t require Strenuous Physical Activity

This point may directly refute the point above, but it’s worth investigating. 

While this sort of behaviour has been left in the past, many professional golfers were known for smoking or drinking while playing in tournaments. 

Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Fuzzy Zoeller just to name a few, and who could forget John Daly

A golfer watches his ball frly through the air with other golfers in the background

I think, even at the time, you would be hard-pressed to find any other sport where you can get away with drinking alcohol throughout the game. 

While the antics of these pros might just be exceptions to the general rule, it does suggest something about the game of golf. 

One of the best things about playing golf is that it is a fun and engaging form of low-impact exercise, like taking a hike with skill-based tasks along the way. 

As Mark Twain famously said: “Golf is a good walk spoiled!”

But many athletes in other sports would be shocked at the idea of drinking or smoking while playing their sport. In golf, while we don’t encourage it, it’s possible, and that has led a lot of people to believe that golf is not a sport. 

#2: Yes, Professional Golfers are Considered Athletes

Few athletes are lauded for their, seemingly, intrinsic skill as Tiger Woods. And athletes are people who have dedicated their lives to their sport. So, therefore, golf is a sport!

Okay, it might not be that simple, but it is true. 

A group of golfers smile together

Part of what makes any sport interesting is watching those at the top of their game play. While you don’t have to be in the best shape to play the sport of golf, if you watch the pros, it’s clear that it at least helps. 

Athletes set a precedent for the rest of the amateur players to follow. They set a standard for how the sport can be played and push it further than the average player can. 

To play great golf, you have to spend years practicing and playing as much as possible. Becoming a scratch golfer is no easy feat, and the road to becoming a professional is even more difficult. 

#3: No, Because Golf is not Inherently Competitive. 

While some golfers with a particularly pronounced competitive streak may disagree, you can play a round of golf on your own just fine and never tell anyone your scores or compete against anyone. 

When I’ve got some time to kill, I love nothing more than heading to my local Par 3 and turning on my iPod. Sometimes, I don’t even bother charting my scores, I just keep a mental note of how I’m doing. 

Two golfers drive their buggy along the course

Just because there are huge competitions with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake doesn’t mean that competing against others is the only way to play the game. 

Some golfers will prefer to spend all their time in the driving range rather than out on the course. Companies like Top Golf have capitalised on that and turned the driving range into a social meeting place.  While you might be competing against the other members of your party for the glory of the longest shot, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re playing a sport. 

Golf is a game best played for the pure enjoyment of it. There’s nothing better than getting out in the good weather and playing a leisurely round with some buddies. 

You may disagree, and love the competitive aspect of golf, and that’s great, but it’s also not necessary. 

#4: Yes, Because it is in the Olympics.

While they might seem like strange bedfellows, as of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Skateboarding and Golf now have something key in common. They’re both in the Olympics. 

Of course, Golf was actually reintroduced to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio after it was removed from the competition in 1921. 

A golfer jumps in celebration of a good shot

For many, having your sport be recognised in the Olympics is a sign of importance and a recognition of the hard work and skill necessary for that particular sport.

The Olympics is like the benchmark of sports, and if the Olympics recognises horse jumping as a sport, surely golf fits the bill. For example, have you ever asked if any other events at the Olympics could be classified as sports?

#5: No, Because one Golfer’s play does not affect another’s. 

This one is especially dicey as different golfers will have different responses to it, however, it is one of the main reasons why many non-golfers will ask “is golf a sport?”. 

Essentially, the idea is that golfers aren’t pitted against each other in the way they are in other sports, like football for example. There’s no tackling in golf, and you never actually need to go anywhere near to another golfer. 

A golfer smiles on the putting green

Just because you’re playing a round with a few buddies doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re playing a round against a few buddies. 

Golf is a game you play against yourself more than anything. The goal is to improve consistently and play well, not stop others from doing that. 

However, that’s not to say that the way someone else is playing doesn’t affect your own play. 

I’m sure every golfer, including you,  has noticed your friend playing especially well and started to get frustrated that you aren’t playing as well, which has led to an increase in tension in your swing, or a mis-hit that requires a tricky recovery shot

Two golfers smile in their golf buggy

We’ve all been there! Some golfers may claim to take no notice of how anyone else is playing, but I’m not so sure about that. 

So, Is Golf A Sport?

Golf, while sharing many qualities and requirements for the title with other sports, does also fit the bill more closely of a game. 

What is perhaps the most important question here is, why does it matter whether or not golf is a sport?

I personally believe that golf is a sport, but I understand why there are those who would disagree. However, fundamentally, it’s not the most important thing in the world whether or not golf is classed as a sport or a game. 

That being said, the argument for golf not being a sport does seem to undermine the hard work and years of training that goes into becoming a scratch or professional golfing.

Playing golf well is no easy feat, it takes dedication and thousands of hours of practice. 

A group of golfers talk around a golf buggy

Whether or not you believe golf is a sport, that status doesn’t mean that golf can’t still be used for exercise, for social events, or just as a great hobby to keep up to keep healthy. 

We here at Golf Guidebook obviously think golf is the best sport there is, and one of the big reasons for that is it’s accessibility, which is also why many believe that golf is not a sport. 

People assume that just because you can comfortably play golf your entire life and because it doesn’t require intense physical expenditure every time you play, it must not be a sport. 

But at the end of the day, only you know whether or not that matters to you, and the only thing you need to think about is your own style of play and how you can improve. 

So why not check out some more ways to improve below!

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Adam is a writer and lifelong golfer who probably spends more time talking about golf than he does playing it nowadays!

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