Golf not a Sport? Really?

Growing up in a golfing family, I never once thought of golf as less than a sport. Larry Atkins, a freelance journalist, liberal columnist, lawyer, and university journalism professor, wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune titled Sorry, golf is not a sport. From the title, it’s obvious that Atkins is arguing against golf as a sport. He feels that golf is more a skill than a sport, that “real” sports consist of running and jumping, and golfers are too serious about their sport.

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 Atkins states that, “Golf isn’t a sport; it’s a skill much like bowling, billiards, darts, auto racing, curling, shuffleboard and pinochle” (Atkins). Sure golf takes some skill, but it has a whole other element to it than most of the “skills” that Atkins lists above. Endurance is a big part of playing golf (McCleery). Bowling, billiards, curling, etc. are all short compact games. They are all played within a limited space whereas golf is located outdoors on a 150 acre golf course. When walking 18 holes, it takes about 4.5 hours, while driving a cart takes about 4 hours. If you are walking 9 holes it takes roughly 1.5 hours and driving a cart for 9 holes takes about an hour. Therefore, in order to have a consistent score throughout a round of golf, you have to be able to maintain the same amount of energy from the 1st hole to the last. Another measure in sports is to look at the amount of calories burned. Neil Wolkodoff conducted a study focusing on how well golfers played and the amount of calories burned during a round; walking and carrying their bag (721 calories), walking with a push cart (718), walking with a caddie (621), and riding in a cart (411) (Pennington). The study was completed on a 9 hole course, so it’s safe to assume that multiplying the calories by two will give you a fair idea of how many calories are burned on an 18 hole course. To compare, athletes who run a 6 mile per hour pace can burn up to 557 calories in an hour. Golf burns close to the same amount of calories as most sports and takes endurance to finish the round with a consistent score.

In this article, Atkins argues that “real” sports consist of running and jumping, and that if walking is considered a sport “maybe they should give 1st place medals to those who finish first in the Easter Day parade” (Atkins).  Walking is a part of our everyday lives and it may not seem like a tiring task, but if you have to walk and remain standing for seven or more hours it can make you fatigued if you’re not in shape. According to the Olympics, speed walking is considered a sport. The event takes place on a track with the men walking a 50 km (31.069 miles) race and the women walking a 20 km (12.427 miles) race (Rosenbaum). If vigorous walking is considered a sport to the Olympics Committee, then why shouldn’t golf (which consists of mostly walking) be considered a sport too? Swinging a golf club uses just about every muscle group, just like jumping or running. Neil Wolkodoff said that, “we know [the golf swing] uses a pretty significant amount of energy-not as much as running a 10K but more than people think” (Pennington). Because the golf swing uses almost the same amount of muscles as running and jumping, golf should be considered more than just a game.

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Atkins goes on to criticize about how “Pro golfers take themselves and their sport way too seriously” and spectators of the game have to be silent when watching (Atkins). “Sure, golf takes concentration, but so does taking a foul shot in basketball” Atkins’ states (Atkins). It’s the difference in the atmospheres of the games that make this statement invalid to compare. Basketball is located in an enclosed arena that is noisy with a lot of cheering, but golf is unique in that it is located outside in a quiet atmosphere. It’s respectful to the players when the spectators are silent and quietly clap to congratulate a good shot. Being quiet allows the player to concentrate on each individual shot. Many people don’t realize that golfers have to be thinking about the shot they are walking up to. Thus, the players are constantly focusing on the next shot. Having that quietness helps the players stay focused and hopefully play well. Golf is also very much an independent sport like track and field, swimming, speed skating, and surfing. There is no comparison between golf and basketball because they are two completely different types of sports. Atkins’ argument would have been more valid if he used an independent sport to compare golf too.

Atkins argues against golf as being considered a sport. He claims that it is more a skill and not considered a “real” sport because there is no running or jumping involved. He also believes golfers are too serious and the sport is too quiet. However, his arguments can be refuted with facts and statistics. Golf should be considered a sport. The definition of sport according to the Webster Dictionary is “physical activity engaged in for pleasure: a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in” (Merriam-Webster). Golf accurately fits the definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It also fits the definition from “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” ( Wolkodoff states that, “one significant measure of a sport is whether physical training improves your ability to perform, and I think that’s been proven in golf,” and I completely agree (Pennington).

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Works Cited

Atkins, Larry. “Sorry, Golf Is Not a Sport.” Chicago Tribune. Pub, 19 Apr. 2002. Web. 25 Apr.  2016.

McCleery, Peter. “Are Golfers Really Athletes?” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 2 May 2007. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 07 May 2016.

Pennington, Bill. “Study Supports Argument That Golf Is a Sport.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pub, 8 Apr. 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

Rosenbaum, Mike. “Olympic Race Walking Rules.” Sports. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

“The Definition of Sport.” Web. 07 May 2016.