Is Golf a Sport – Arguments for and Against (I Know What I Think)

Out of all of the sports, I really can’t think of a more controversial “sport” than golf.  The game is not respected up to other sports like basketball, soccer, football, and other popular sports.

In this post, I am going to take a very unbiased look at both sides of the argument and let you decide for yourself.  I will also include my opinion at the very end just in case you would like to see my view on the popular topic.

First Off, What is a Sport?  The Official Definition

Before we can dissect the popular debate, we have to check out the official definition of what a sport is.

According to, a sport is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.

So, to paraphrase, to be a sport we must have these two boxes checked: requiring skill/physical activity and has a competitive nature.

Why don’t we start it off with arguments that are against golf being considered a sport?

Arguments Against Golf Being a Sport

There are certainly several valid reasons why golf is not viable to be considered a sport, and here is an unbiased analysis of each argument.

1. No Athleticism Required

A point that a lot of people that do not consider golf a sport love to make is that golfers are not athletic.  Do not misunderstand that comment and think that no golfers are athletic.  Certainly, people like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are athletic.  But there are certainly people who are good at golf and not athletic.

It is a valid point because when casual golf fans turn on the television, they might see golfers that are very out of shape and do not look impressive in their physique or body composition.

While that does not mean that they are not athletic, it does make someone who is not super familiar with golf think that the game is full of people who are not true athletes.

2. No Competitive Aspect

With golf there are basically two different settings that the game is played in.  There are tournaments and there are casual golf rounds.

When talking about casual golf rounds, many people argue that golf is not a sport after referring to the true definition of what a sport is.  Remember that there needs to be a competition in most cases for something to be considered a sport.

Well, when you are out playing golf with friends and not playing skins or a tournament, then there is no competitive aspect theoretically.  Of course, in your head you might be competing against your previous scores, but there is no set in stone competition.

3. No Competition Between Players

The final major argument involves all sides of golf, whether it is in a competitive tournament or in a casual golf round.

Although there is nothing about this point in the definition, some people think that since golfers do not have an impact on others’ scores, then it is not a sport. Basically, they are referring to other sports and how there is defense or a strategy to stop other players.

In golf, that does not exist.  Another player can’t do anything really to hinder your performance and you are mainly just playing against the course and seeing how your scores stack up to others.

Arguments for Why Golf is a Sport

Now I will break down why golf is indeed a sport and the evidence to back up this side of the debate.

1. There is Skill Involved

For something to be considered, there must be skill involved according to almost all of the definitions floating around the web.

If there is no skill involved, then that means that the whole game of golf would be based around luck and someone who just started golfing would have the same chances as an expert of shooting under par.

That clearly is not the case because the skill level of a golfer does matter in his/her scores out on the course!

2. It is Competitive

A major aspect of golf is the tournament side of the game.  Golf is certainly a competition because you are always competing with the course and yourself.

If you add in a tournament, then it is very competitive because you are not only competing with the course and yourself, but also the scores of other golfers on the same course.

There are other minor things for why golf is a sport and why it is not in certain people’s eyes, but those are the major topics that are constantly tossed around.

3. Popularity

According to WorldAtlas (source), golf is the 10th most popular sport in the world, with over 450 million people following the game from across the globe. With this kind of popularity, it’s hard to argue against golf being a sport.

4. Fitness

There is no doubt that you need a good level of fitness to play golf. Sure, there are golf carts and aids to reduce the strain, but imagine playing and walking 18-holes multiple times per week. Heck, some players play a round EVERY DAY.

Combine that with carrying a bag full of clubs and balls on your back, with the constant movement of swinging the club (or looking for your ball in the rough) and you’ve got a sport with some attractive health benefits.

Is Golf a Sport?

In my opinion, there really is no question of whether or not golf is a sport. There is physical exertion involved with twisting and creating a fluid motion to hit the golf ball.

There is competition because you can compete with other golfers in various types of tournaments and formats such as match play. There is skill involved because you can obviously improve at the game and luck is only a very small percentage of the end result.

All of those aspects are exactly what makes a sport, so I can rest my case.

Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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