Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Golf is not a sport!

Here is something that grinds my gears, people who say that golf is a sport. It is not just golf either; snooker, darts, bowls. These are not sports. The online definition of ‘sport’ is an activity involving serious physical exertion and skill. Now I will start by stating that I am not claiming that these are not technically demanding activities but that alone is not enough to qualify them as sports.

I am tired of stories of these non-sports taking up space on the back pages or on the BBC sport website. Phil Taylor can compare himself to the likes of Roger Federer because he dominates his chosen field but the two are incomparable. The difference is that Roger Federer has not become the all-time greatest Tennis player by sitting down, downing pints while hitting a tennis ball against the pub wall. As far as I am concerned to claim that darts, golf, snooker and the likes are sports would be to discredit actual sports.

You can call them what you like; hobbies, past-times, leisure activities, just not sports. I would give the following criteria for why these things should not be constituted as sports:
1. If you can remain at the top of the respective field over the age of 40.
2. If you can play it in a pub.
3. If you do not need to change your shoes or trousers to play it.
If a hobby meets all of these criteria then I don’t believe that it should be classified as a sport.

Sports-stars are at the pinnacle of their profession. They are the technical and physical elite who can make who are highly trained athletes. To group Lionel Messi, Brian Habana, Usain Bolt or Floyd Mayweather Jr with someone like Raymond van Barneveld or John Daly, who probably have a BMI that would see them considered medically obese, is disrespectful to the former.

I am aware that this view may well be controversial and I, as ever, welcome any opinions or thoughts that people have on the issue. But do not expect me to talk about any of these past-times as part of my blog. They may be difficult to play and I do enjoy watching these games but they are not sports.


  1. Unfortunately Polly's Pause for Sport has drifted into needless pedantry. Why Polly and the world feel it important to constantly classify and reclassify, is a frustrating reality. The reference to Darts, Golf etc. as sport is out of convenience and convention alone. Such is the formation and use of language.

    Does it honestly annoy people how these "leisure activities" pollute the backpages?... maybe we should create a "leisure activity supplement"? Why does it matter if our language has grown to include these "hobbies" under the term 'sport'? Roger Federer is at his house right now beating a punchbag with Phil Taylor's face on it. You are right, the two are incomparable but there is no need for a hierarchy of sport. Is it easy to dominate the darts world? Every sport has a level playing field and yet outstanding players arise in each field. A tennis player's talents lean towards physical capabilities, whereas a darts player's lean towards a different sort of technical ability.

    Words have no fixed definition. Most words evoke subtly different meanings in every individual depending on culture, background, context. At this moment in time, in our society, in our current language, darts, snooker and golf are sports. Maybe in 50 years they won't be and all because of your post but be patient, not pedantic.

  2. Im not sure i agree, i sweat quite profusely any time i play snooker.

  3. As sarcastically amusing as your post was Pardaad it seems you have needless strayed into some sort of social commentary. As I am writing a sports blog my attempt to put across my view of why I would not view these hobbies as sports does not seem to be "needless pedentary" to me. My post was simply to show how the these games are not sports in the true sense of the word. If this is because of the way that word 'evokes a subtly different meaning' within me then surely I am welcome to this view.

    It also appears to me to be ironic to call my post pedantic when your comments excedes my rough attempt define what constitues a sport and goes to talk about the ambiguity of language. Especially considering how you seemed to have deemed the whole subject pointless.

    I did not try and say that this was a hot potato in the sports world but rather that it was something that irritated me and is something that I know evokes debate amongst people, which you have only helped to prove. But yes we can readdress the point in 50 years Pardaad.

  4. I feel inclined to agree with Dom on this one.
    Unfortunately, Pardaad1508's response has drifted needlessly into conjectural philosophical arguments on social conventions of language, and is misdirected at that.

    Why does it matter if our language has grown to include these 'hobbies' under the term sport? It is because it is plain wrong.
    Social convention on word definition may 'change', but not what is intrinsic to the nature of sport. It is simply social misunderstanding on the concept of sport, which contrary Pardaad's belief, allows Polly to rightly vent his anger without the descent into pedentry. As Tyler Burge once argued for social convention and semantic deferrence (and got absolutely merked), so does Pardaad. Just because a woman says she believes she has 'arthritis' in her thigh and in her community refers to all rheumatoid ailments, does not make it the 'arthritis' in reference to the natural kind - that is to say, what arthritis is and always will be regardless of our view on it. She and whoever she has deferred to for definition are simply wrong. Leaving her community to look for a doctor may result in her being viewed as a complete idiot, not unlike to those who see golf or darts as a sport. And the deferrence for definition to her community expert of arthritis maybe alikened to that often the population and newpapers.

    There is a need for a line to be drawn and we can start with a dictionary in it's abundant usage of the words 'physical' and 'active'. Call it instead a game, a non-physical leisure activity(walking and swinging your arms do not count as you develop these abilities as a toddler), or whatever you like. To merge these the category of sports (A) and non-physical activities (B)is to blend them into something new. To label this the same thing as one of it's constituents is to confuse concepts of A, with A+B.

    If the category of sports was allowed to be so broad as to encompass darts because of the 'technical ability' required, I demand that Big Buck Hunter be also recognised to such a level - the requirement of good hand-eye coordination, not to be a retard, and to be in a Pub. Sounds pretty much like the same thing as darts. It doesn't even feel intuitively right classify the blood, sweat and tears of true sportsmen alongside angina and liver cirrhosis.

    Words have a fixed definition and convention may have given it it's meaning. But that does not entail that we can operate in any way we wish once we have adopted the convention. That is just to wrongly apply it such as often is in the case of sport and that is the essence of the article which Polly wrote. It is often done that people use words however they wish, but it does not mean it is done legitimately or within the scope of necessity and reason.

    As far off on a tangent as much of this post may be, it is to give Pardaad time for thought as he seems quick to draw and fire from his philosophical quiver.

  5. I think your argument falls down on the criteria you gave for defining a 'non-sport'. It goes without saying that golf can't be played in a pub. Also, no golfer can be said to have dominated the sport after the age of 40. The only possible exception to this would be Jack Nicklaus but I would draw to you attention to the fact that before he won The Masters at the age of 46, he hadn't won a major for 6 years. Despite being the greatest golfer of all time he won only 1 of his 18 majors after the age of 40 (according to wikipedia). Surely if the game was purely a skill game, someone as exceptionally talented as Nicklaus would have continued to dominate long past this age?

    There is very much a physical aspect to golf and whereas it may not be as physically demanding as some other sports it is as much of a union of physicality and skill as much as many sports. This is one reason why women cant compete on the same level as men. The power and strength combined with the skill and presicion of driving a ball could quite easily be compared to something such as throwing a javelin, pole-vaulting or nearly any other athletics field event.

    You are also required to change your shoes to play golf (and your trousers too unless you dress like a prick all the time).

    I would add to this that your point comparing Barnie and Habana is totally redundant. Different sports require physical attributes. Just look at fat Ronaldo or Darren Gough, neither could be said to belong to the 'physical elite' but both were at the top of their respective professions for a very long time. Even with the examples you used your argument seems ridiculous. No one in their right mind would say Messi is a great footballer because he is a great 'athlete'. Just like a golfer, what makes Messi the greatest footballer in the world is his skill and technique working in union with a basic level of physical fitness. Saying Usain Bolt is a better athlete than John Daly is about as useful as saying a shark is a better swimmer than a giraffe. They have absolutely no relevance to eachother.

  6. The whole reason this question needs raising is because it is a matter for debate and without a certain solid definition. We could easily say there is not really a debate seeing as officially these "games" are all sports. Chess is even officially a sport in some countries. Lyc3162's argument is stubbornly extreme. Please feel free to tell the many authorities, newspapers and players that they are "plain wrong" and that they have been misunderstanding the situation for their whole lives.

    I am not suggesting a world of boundless definitions for the same word. I think your argument has arthiritis. We are not talking about the musings of a maverick sports writer calling these activities sports. We are talking about common usage of the word sport to include these things. Yes, there are very loose ideas and rules that are intrinsic to the definition to the word "sport" but if it was so unchangeably fixed - as it is for your big-buck-hunting self - then why are we even discussing it?

    A sport is not a sport because it is a sport. A sport is a sport because we classify it as a sport, or at least it becomes to be classified so.

  7. Jack, I am not putting these individuals in direct comparison, merely stating that they are the individuals at the top end of their sports. Moreover I did not say dominate their respective field over the age of 40, I said they are still performing at the top end which all those characters are. To use your analogy I was not comparing a shark and a giraffe, more a shark (being a super preditor) and a turtle (also an animal with talents but of a different class).

    Pardaad if you are happy to accept the definitions widely used and accepted, as you correctly noted because of convenince, then that is fine. There is nothing wrong with challenging the common acceptance of these games as sports. If your are to accept and agree that chess is a sport then you are welcome to but I will continue to state that in my personal opinion it is wrong to do so (for the reasons orginally stated).

  8. An arbitrary age is a stretch to uphold, on the whole golf players rarely make a serious impact until mid to late twenties, thus the point that they remain competitive into their forties does not compare to footballers/rugby players who start at shall we say 21 and remain competitive until 35ish. Obviously some start earlier and finish later but if we assume 14 years then further assume golfers start at 27ish then 41ish is still within the bounds of the same age range as footballers. (If you look at major winners the majority are over 30). Obviously there are exceptions such as Tiger but Rooney/Fabregas both started making an impact at 16. Furthermore to pull anther exception out Sir Stanley Matthews was still competitive at 50.

    You may look at major winners for golf however it should be noted that they get entry into the tournament as past winners as they might not meet the criteria to qualify via current rankings. Case in point Tom Watson way outside the top 1000 before this years open. These guys are no longer competitive that is why they play the Senior Tour and not the main tour. Incidentally Links golf is perfect for older players to compete for reasons I won't go into here however the game has moved on to the stage where the Masters and US Open, and the PGA are won mostly by players in there 30's. If you are going to look back at Nicklaus then why not also look back at Sir Stanley Matthews, 50 years old and still playing football. Does that suddenly mean that football can't possibly be a sport because he was over 40? Football has moved on since then, so has golf.

    Golf has the possibility for everyone to have a good 4 days, a bit of luck, putts dropping however over the course of a year, looking at the PGA tour rankings the majority of the top 50 fall in the 14 year age gap I have described with a minority outside.

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  10. For the first time in a very long time, I think I'm going to have to agree with Dennis here. For me, golf is definately a sport. Dom's reasons for a sport not being a sport contradict his placement of golf in this category. As Dennis said, there are no golfers at the top of the game over forty. You get the odd veteran major winner but as Dennis said, this does not come around very often and only happens with exceptional talents such as Nicklaus and Watson. You do get the occasional evergreen players still playing professional football after the age of forty such as the aforementioned Sir Stanley Matthews and the current Burton Albion keeper Kevin Poole, still going strong at 46. Secondly, you do have to change your shoes to play golf, and thirdly, I don't think you can play golf in a pub because the last time I tried there were serious consequences that I don't deem appropriate to elaborate on further.

    I would definately not class darts as a sport. I love watching it and the entertainment it brings. However, it works on a similar principle to archery and clay pigeon shooting in having to hit a target which are OLYMPIC events (From my experience on Track and Field). So where would you class them?

    And as for your arthiritis argument Cheung, I don't think it's quite appropriate for this forum. Stick to debating on your Jim Caviezel blogs

  11. YES POLLY!

    A few things: Please at least accept sailing as a sport, despite not always being physically tiring (some roles on the boat involve thinking, not doing, but I could claim that goalies spend the vast majority of their time standing around). In addition, some sailors (Magnus Olson) remain right at the top of the sport into their 50s thanks to ridiculous dedication to rehab and conditioning.


    Next, I would claim that any 'sport' that is primarily judged and scored, as opposed to measured or timed, can not claim a place at the peak of the sporting calendar (the olympics) and it is debatable whether these are in fact sports. For example, what is ice dancing, an entirely subjective activity, doing at the olympics. In an ideal world, I would banish this from Vancouver, whilst the ridiculous charade of ski jumpers being marked for style would end - surely the longest jump should win. Period.

    I know this has been a wee bit ranting, but I'm very hungover. Any chance you could write something about the America's Cup, currently the most frustrating, weird and technically advanced sports event in the world, and happening right now.

  12. I think Polly it's necessary for you to look at sport beyond just it's physical aspects. I think the point people are missing is while success in sport may generally require physical fitness, there's much more to it than fitness alone. For example while a Marathon runner may be incredibly fit, they would be useless in a pro football team. Skill, passion, mental strength, and concentration all come in beside's physical fitness in varying degree's. Strength in these other area's is what allows older athletes to exceed past their physical peak.

    I don't think age can really enter the subject as while generally it is accepted that most humans peak physically in their mid 20's, so many past example's of athletes performing at the highest level in later years have made this distinction less and less defined.

    If you take boxing as an example. It rely's on judges decision's so perhaps doesn't deserve a place in Hamish's Olympics, but in my experience is one of the most physical sports available. Yet again Look at Ray Leonard or George Foreman regaining a heavyweight title from retirement at age 45. They weren't as fit as their younger opponents but possessed the superior experience and mental strength perhaps to ultimately come through. The sport also often takes place in a pub environment with none specific clothing so definitely questions your definition of a sport.

    Where do you draw the line? Golf in my opinion whilst equally skilful is less physical than Cricket for example, which in turn is less physical than football. There's no obvious distinction between a sport and a hobby, leisure activity (whatever you want to call it)

    Consider each sport for that which it demands from it's athletes. It's a generic word which has perhaps been mis-used for competitive, organised yet non-physical activities.

    I wouldn't look into it further than that myself

  13. Boxing's an interesting one - one point for each hit with the white part of the glove on the torso or head of the opponents. Multiple judges are required only because it's a fast sport. The judges are not subjectively picking a winner, they are simply recording the score. So boxing stays.


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