Is Golf a Sport or a Game – What’s the Verdict?

is golf a sport

7 minutes

Last Updated: November 17, 2022


In the last two decades, golf has become extremely popular with those who are looking for an activity that can at the same time give them stress relief and allow them to socialize.

Millions of people around the world see it as the ultimate hobby and use every chance they get to head out to the nearest golf course.

But it seems that even the sudden popularity of this activity has not settled one of the questions that people new to golf often ask.

Is golf a sport or a game?

In this article we will try to provide some answers and clarifications.

What Is Considered Under the Term Game?

Before we jump into explaining whether golf is a sport, let’s first take a look at what activities fall under the term game.

If you Google the word “game,” one of the first definitions that will come up is:

Game is an activity that one engages in for amusement or fun.

While this definition is correct, it is too simplified to be applied in answering is golf a game or a sport. Hence, let’s look at a more detailed description of the term “game.”

A game is a physical or a mental activity or a contest that has set rules, and in which people engage for pleasure or fun.”

Now, this is a significantly longer definition of the term “game,” and, more importantly, one that is much more adequate for this debate.

Note that there are several more definitions of this term. However, none of them is what we are looking for as they describe the word game from unrelated perspectives.

What Is Considered Under the Term Sport?

Sport is one of the most popular human activities, so the definitions for this term are much clearer and leave nothing unanswered.

With this said, one of the most popular definitions states the following:

Sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against other individuals or teams for entertainment.

As you can see, the definition of the word game and the word sport are very similar, so it is no wonder that some people believe golf to be a game while others consider it a sport.

With that said, there is one point that we would like to address before we continue.

is golf a sport or a game

The main difference between a game and a sport is that games include both mental and physical activities while (according to some) sports include only physical activities.

And while it’s true that sports include more physical than mental effort, it is simply not true that athletes only exert physical effort when they play sports.

Why Should Golf Be Considered a Sport?

Now that we know what is considered under the term sport, it is time to see which of these attributes golf has.

Playing Golf Requires Physical Exertion

Depending on whether a golfer uses a cart while playing or not, they can burn a significant number of calories similar to that of people playing table tennis.

If we take into account that professional golfers are active a significant number of hours each day and that tournaments can last for several days, it is quite clear that golf requires significant physical exertion.

Another thing that supports this claim is the injuries that golf players sustain when playing. These include hand, elbow, shoulder, wrist, and back injuries, among others.

Statistics show that 6 out of 10 amateur golfers and 8 out of 10 professional golfers sustain some kind of golf-related injury each year.

Researches show that professional golf players usually have long periods of low physical extortion, which are disrupted by high-speed movements (hitting the ball). In addition to this, golfers are required to have fine motor skills to be able to adapt to different conditions.

Finally, playing golf has a lot of the same benefits as playing other sports, this includes enhanced endurance, increased flexibility and core stability, and improved fitness.

Playing Golf Requires Skill

According to research published in the British Medical Journal, to make a single golf swing, golfers are required to synchronize the movement of their extremities with the movement of their abdomen and backs which means that with each swing of the club, golfers activate at least 17 muscle groups.

Hence, in order to perform a swing successfully, golfers are required to have the skill to synchronize the movement of most of their body, and, at the same, time control their breathing after a long walk.

should golf be considered a sport

In addition to this, just like in other sports, physical training leads to increased physical endurance which leads to an increase in performance.

In other words, the more they train, the better they become at golf, which is another thing that golf has in common with other sports.

Finally, most studies done on golf show that this is one of the most difficult sports to play, or at least to play well. On average only 10 out of every 100 golfers break 80 on a regular basis, while only 3 in every 100 golfers excel at the game.

Golf Is Competitive

The third reason why most people considered golf a sport is its competitiveness. Just like in any other sport, golfers play against other players to prove who is better at the game.

Whether it be professional or weekend golf players, there is no denying that one of the most attractive things about golf is the opportunity to beat your friends or opponents and prove your superiority at the game.

Why Should Golf Be Considered a Game?

We have listed all the most important things that people use when trying to qualify golf as a sport. Now, let’s look at the same arguments but from the perspective of those who consider golf more a game than a sport.

Playing Golf Does Not Require Too Much Physical Exertion

Those who consider golf a game do not deny that it requires physical exertion. Instead, they point out that the activity does not require enough of it to be considered a sport.

If we take a look at the calorie count that golfers burn during the activity, we can see that it is nowhere near other professional sports. In fact, on average, golfers burn two to three times fewer calories than basketball or football players.

Furthermore, research shows that golfers burn most of their calories while walking the course and carrying their equipment, and walking is not considered an essential part of golf.

Golfers have the option of using golf carts and thus reducing their calorie burn count even more.

Finally, as we often witness, because golf does not have any cardiovascular activity, even professional players can be out of shape

In addition to this, they often smoke and drink while playing, which is something that would highly affect their performance in other sports of high physical intensity.

Playing Golf Does Not Require Enough Skill

The second reason why golf should not be considered a sport is a fact that luck plays a bigger role than skill.

Golf is notorious as one of the activities in which luck plays a major role since there are many factors that impact the game outside of players’ control.

For example, weather conditions, wild animals, and unlucky bounces are an integral part of the game.

Players can’t do anything about them, no matter how good at the game they are.

One of the main testaments to this is the fact that more than 60% of professional golf players who have won a major once never won it again. And this is hardly a coincidence when the sample is over 220 players.

Golf Is Not Competitive Enough

People that consider golf a game do not argue that golf is not competitive from time to time but rather that is not consistently competitive.

The main problem with competitiveness in golf is that it is closer to games like poker and darts than to sports like basketball or football.

is golf a dying game

Professional golf players are able to stay relevant in the game even with their physical condition being far below that of other professional athletes.

Two of the often-mentioned examples of this are Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, Watson was 59 when he almost won the British Open, while Nicklaus won almost two-thirds of his titles after turning 30.

Is Golf a Sport – The Verdict

It seems that there will never be a definitive answer to this question as there are arguments for both sides. One thing that is clear is that the answer to this question absolutely depends on the perspective.

If we examine golf in a vacuum, there is no denying that it is a sport.

However, if we compare it to other sports, it seems that golf can only be classified as a game as it is miles behind other professional sports in every major category used to qualify an activity as a sport!

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