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Barstool Debate: Is golf a sport or a game?

As long as there have been barstools, there have been men on those barstools arguing about sports, from the big questions all the way down to the minutiae. This week, in light of Tiger Woods’ recent win at the U.S. Open, Anthony Stalter and John Paulsen debate whether or not golf is really a sport.

John: I don’t consider golf a sport. This is not to say that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to master (or to even become good), but the most strenuous thing about it is walking. Walking. A sport is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” There is no physical exertion, so therefore golf is not a sport. Any competition where a 60 year-old can dominate a 25 year-old is a game. Golf is more similar to pool, darts and bowling than it is to basketball, football or tennis.

Anthony: A sport is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Golf has everything but physical exertion, so why wouldn’t it be deemed a sport? You’re still competing against other individuals and there’s arguably more skill involved in golf than pool, darts and bowling. While I agree that golf isn’t on the same level as basketball, football or baseball, it’s still a competition that requires people to have a lot of skill in order to master.

John: Right, but a competition requires skill and physical exertion to be a sport, not just one or the other. Due to all the different types of shots, golf definitely requires more skill than those other games, but it’s still a game.

Anthony: Why can’t it be both? I tend to lean towards calling something a sport if it can be played at a professional level. Of course I say that not truly believing bowling is a sport and that can be played on a professional level. Tiger Woods is a great athlete (as was Jack Nicklaus), so I hate to downplay golf and call it a game instead of a sport.

John: You bring up an interesting point. An athlete is defined as “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of exercise.” Since golf really isn’t sport, one could argue that Tiger Woods is not an athlete at all. I’m not willing to go that far, as I do think all the walking in golf should be considered a form of exercise. But back to your point about a sport being something that can be played on a professional level. Competitive eating is “played” on a professional level, and I doubt you consider that a sport. I will say this – of all the different games out there, golf probably requires the most skill to master.

Anthony: You’re right about competitive eating; that’s why I mentioned that bowling isn’t really a sport even though it can be played on a professional level. Obviously there’s a fine line between calling something a sport, game or activity. I understand the point that golf doesn’t require physical exertion, but after watching Tiger play the U.S. Open recently, it’s hard not to call him an athlete and therefore, one of the best at his sport. This might be putting too much thought into it, but I almost think calling golf a game takes away how good Tiger is. But maybe that’s just me.

John: I’m not trying to diminish how good Tiger is at golf. He is a master of what he does, but I believe he’s a master of a game, not a sport.


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Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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