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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Olympic Buzz: Is Golf a Sport?

Ty Votaw and the folks at the PGA Tour are very happy. The IOC intends to add a new sport to the Olympics in 2016… and golf is one of the two finalists. (Rugby is the other.) They still have to make a presentation to the Committee in October, but they’re very optimistic. It’s easy to understand why; who wouldn’t want Tiger Woods helping their TV ratings? The Olympic Committee will certainly take that into account.

There is still some debate over whether golf is really a sport. Votaw said in a Golf Channel interview that some countries, like China, view golf as a leisure pastime instead of a sport, and that viewpoint would have to be overcome. Such a debate becomes important when countries have to choose between golf and such a physical sport as rugby.

Personally, I think golf is better compared to another Olympic sport: biathlon. Biathlon is a combination of cross-country skiing and precision target shooting and, according to http://www.biathlon.net/intro.html, “one is an aerobic activity which requires strength, speed, and endurance; the other is a passive activity which requires concentration and a steady hand (difficult after you've been skiing all out!)”. This certainly a good description of golf; although the aerobic aspect isn’t as dramatic as skiing, golf requires more for each shot than simply holding a gun steady while pulling the trigger. In biathlon you either hit or miss the target, then go to the next shot; in golf, each shot sets up the next. There is strategy in planning the shot, hand-eye-body coordination as you try to shape that shot, and then body control as you pump up the heart rate for a few moments before calming yourself to deal with the next shot. The mere length of a round of golf, coupled with the need to make this heart rate adjustment an average of 65-75 times per round, makes this a challenge.

Golf is definitely a sport. Let’s just hope the IOC recognizes its true nature. I mean, if ping pong is a sport...?

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