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Is Golf Really a Sport?

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While watching ESPN recently, I found myself wondering who determines how time slots are divied up throughout the show.  I was excited to see what had happened in the College World Series that day, and I was disappointed to see only a brief highlight of North Carolina’s extra inning defeat of Cal State Fullerton.  The program quickly moved on to other, evidently more appealing sports.  I then sat and watched as a few long minutes of golf highlights were reeled off.  Obviously there must be a larger (or in some other way worthy of ESPN’s marketing efforts) fan base for golf than there is for college baseball, but then again, there’s also likely a larger market for scrapbooking supplies than for college baseball.  But ESPN is for sports, right?  Following this thinking caused me to ask myself a question that I’ve discussed with people on a few occasions before:  Is golf a sport?Okay, lets lay out some criteria for what characterizes a sport.  Wikipedia says that a sport combines physical and mental activity for the purpose of competition, and that there is a scoring system involved.  It would seem that golf is covered under this definition, except that I question whether there is much physical exertion involved.  I’ve played golf a few times – not enough to consider myself more than a beginner, and I’ve watched some golf highlights as a side effect of taking a break to catch up on recent happenings in the baseball, football, basketball, etc. world.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone as much as jog while playing golf, except when, as kids, my friends and I were chased off the local country club’s courses by security personnel.

Basketball Uniforms

Do golfers lift weights or do any specific exercises to improve their game?  Those kinds of habits are good indicators  I imagine that maybe some of the younger generation of golfers have incorporated some kinds of workout routines into their game.  Googling for “tiger woods workout” found this response by Tiger to a fans question about increasing his fitness and strength levels to improve his golf game.  “I’ve always felt that golf is a sport, and you have to train as if it’s a sport.” (from GolfDigest.com)  After making that comment, Woods does mention lifting weights, but his recommendations focus mostly on building hand strength.Asking this question of golf might suppose the need to ask whether other sports are really sports.  Responding to being questioned about his obesity and his smoking habit, John Kruk once told a lady, “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a ballplayer!”  Of course, John Kruk doesn’t exactly set the mold for baseball players, especially nowadays.  I think most would agree that, especially compared to golf, baseball is indeed a sport, and its players are, in most cases, certainly athletes.There are other characteristics of golf that cause me to question its value as a part of SportsCenter and its inclusion as part of the sports world.  Most amateurs play the game to relax and take a break.  Often the game is treated like going to dinner: “Why don’t we talk about this over dinner, or maybe a round of golf?”  I know of businessmen who invite their attorneys to play golf with them as a way to cut down on their legal expenses.  I don’t hear many of those same people inviting any lawyers to play pickup basketball.

I’m sure the people at ESPN have legitimate reasons to include golf highlights in their show. I just wish they wouldn’t spend so much time showing golf, when there are perfectly good highlights from the College World Series or the World Cup that could be shown.  Those are sports.  Golf is a glorified leisure activity.

Next up for consideration?  Is NASCAR really a sport?