Is golf a sport? And the answer depends

May 29, 2012

Is golf a sport? Who among us has not had that debate with those who don't play and often present points that are difficult to refute, notably successful tour players known as the Walrus, Lumpy, Porky and Fat Jack.

A website called, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan research organization devoted to critical thinking on controversial issues," is asking that question.


For all the headway Tiger Woods has made in making golfers strive to be more athletic, there is John Daly. Photos by Getty Images

It would be a stretch to call this a controversial issue, but whether golf is a sport is an age-old debate that, temporarily veering from more weighty subject matter (fossil fuels vs. alternative energy) tackles in its typical comprehensive fashion.

In this case, it presents 12 arguments on each side of the issue. Among the 12 is both sides arguing about the dictionary definition of a sport vs. a game. Pro: "Merriam-Webster defines sport as 'physical activity engaged in for pleasure: a particular activity (as an athletic game).'" Con: "Golf better matches the defintion of a game than a sport. Merriam-Webster defines a game as an 'activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.'"

To counter the argument that "the golf swing uses at least 17 muscle groups in the coordinated movement of the hands, wrists, arms, abdomen, and legs according to a study in the British Medical Journal," the Con side cites John Daly. Well, not specifically, but it does say that "if it can be done while drinking and smoking, then it is not a sport." The website does feature a photograph of an overweight Daly hitting a shot with a cigarette in his mouth.

There is more, including the Con side arguing that it isn't a sport if it can be played by a golfer with a broken leg (Tiger Woods in he 2008 U.S. Open), while the Pro side notes the number of injuries incurred by golfers, citing a European Journal of Sports Science study that claims approximately 88 percent of professional golfers suffer injuries each year., itself, does not arrive at conclusions, so one is left to decide for himself. However, it did cite this:

"Popular Science asked the question, Is Tiger Woods proof that golf is a sport, or is John Daly confirmation to the contrary?' and determined that the answer 'probably depends on whether you've got a set of clubs in the garage.'"

*-- John Strege *