There is a raging debate in modern culture as to whether or not golf is even a sport. Proponents say that the skill required makes it a sport, while detractors call it a game because it is just a way to pass the time. One cannot debate that golf is hugely popular, as millions of people around the world read golf websites, golf magazines, golf blogs, watch golf videos, attend golf lessons, and buy golf gear.In 2015, Forbes stated that the golf industry’s economic impact was reported to be near $70 billion per year. So what is it about knocking a little ball across a meadow into a gopher hole that attracts nearly 25 million people?
A Brief History
The origins of golf are widely disputed. Most agree that golf has been around since the 15th century, and some people even go as far as to say that the origins of the game come from more than a thousand years ago in China. There are recorded games from the Roman empire that have similar properties to golf, as they played by knocking a feather-stuffed ball with club-shaped tree branches into little holes.There are similar stories of the Dutch playing in the 13th century.
As played today, the rules come from Scotland, where in 1457 it was played with such fervor that it had to be banned by the Scots Parliament of James II because it was taking away from time that needed to be spent on military training such as archery and troop movements. Not until the signing of the Treaty of Glasgow in 1502 would the ban be lifted. Immediately upon lifting the ban, James IV made the first recorded purchase of golf equipment, buying a set of golf clubs from a bow maker.
By the mid-1500’s, golf had taken back its popularity, and commoners were playing golf at St. Andrews. This is not just a man’s game, Mary Queen of Scots was even known to spend an afternoon on the links, making her the first recorded female golfer.
As people are like to do, golf became an international competition in 1682, when Scotland beat England in a match played in Leith. In 1754, the official rules of golf were announced by The St. Andrew’s Golfers.
Jumping the pond, golf came to America, and in 1786, The South Carolina Golf Club was the first organization created outside the UK. By the late 19th century, golf courses were being built around the world, as global popularity increased. In 1916, the PGA of America was created.
Equipment developed slowly through the ages, moving from wooden clubs to the graphite shafts we see today. The golf ball has seen many improvements from the original feather-stuffed balls to the current form. In the 1930’s the Americans were the first to set standards and weight restrictions for the golf ball, stating that the ball could not have an initial velocity of more than 250 feet per second, a standard that is still kept today.
In 1947, golf broke into the world of television when the US Open was televised live from St. Louis. Officially shattering the legend that golf was an acronym for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden,” the LPGA was formed in 1950. Golf took one small leap from Earth, and one giant leap to the stars as astronaut Alan Shepard used a 6 iron to pop a few shots on the moon in 1970. Leave it to the Americans to take a competition born in the Scottish bogs and lowlands, to the moon.
So is it a Sport or a Game?
Sport: [spawrt, spohrt]
- 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.
- a particular form of this, especially in the out of doors.
- sports, (used with a singular verb) such athletic activities collectively: Sports is important in my life.
Though that should clear the air, there are those who would agree that golf requires little physical prowess and therefore is more suiting to be considered a game.
Game: [geym] noun
- an amusement or pastime: children's games.
- the material or equipment used in playing certain games: a store selling toys and games.
- a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.
Some agree that golf lacks physical exertion because the players either walk or ride a cart from shot to shot, though anyone who has swung a club might tell you that it is easy enough to break a sweat. Walking an 18-hole golf course is often the equivalent of 4 or more miles, and burning an average of 350 calories an hour. With all that, how can there be such old, overweight pro-golfers?
One sticking point that game golfers had was to say that golf was not an Olympic sport. Starting in 2016, they lost this argument. Golf was selected by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion as a sport.
Does it matter if golf is a sport or a game? How does the difference affect your strategy? If you are enjoying your time on the links, then it probably does not. Golf can be as demanding or relaxing as you; the player allows it to be. So whether you are practicing every night after work and watching golf instruction videos, or enjoying a tasty adult beverage and a cigar while swapping golf tips with your friends between greens, golf is keeping you active, and that is what matters most!
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