A LOOK AT GOLF’S ATHLETICISM & COMPETITIVENESS

By Art Stevens

I love golf. You may not believe that statement as you read on, but you would be wrong. This paper is not meant to put down golf as a competitive sport, but rather, to show that the lack of defense against each golf shot removes the athletic competition that we see in all of the other major sports. Think about it. If there were to be any defense against each golf shot, it would then be similar to baseball, football, etc., all of which have a very high degree of athleticism and competitiveness. Let’s take them one at a time.

Athleticism in golf? Surely you can’t be serious. Any one of us can be put into the golfers position and be just as athletic. The difference is in the skill they have accumulated in developing their game, and they have done that on a level that equals or exceeds most players in the other major sports.

Competitiveness? Yes, certainly there is competitiveness in golf, but to my way of thinking, there are different levels of competitiveness. What I am trying to get across is the degree of that competitiveness that includes the players’ ability to dominate the game by inflicting his own play directly against his opponent. In golf, that is impossible. You play your game to the best of your ability; your opponent does the same; the lowest score wins. Is there ANY competitiveness in golf? Sure there is, but it’s all mental i.e. ‘I’m better than that guy; I’ll make this shot; I can beat him.’ Well, that’s all true, but the fact is: there’s nothing you can do about your opponents play. Just sit back and watch. You can’t do anything to beat him, except to finish the round with fewer strokes. What you are really fighting out there is yourself; your ability to make your shots; and the golf course. Yes, you may think of your opponent throughout the round, but he will not affect your final score. That comes from you, and you alone.

The lack of direct interaction against a live opponent leaves only the result of each shot as the finished product of yours and your opponent’s efforts. This very thought links golf to games such as poker, and, (though not a competitive sport), horse (in basketball.) Any competitiveness in golf is of a psychological nature, and even that is within yourself, and has nothing to do with your opponent. I’ve laid out a chart (below) in which I list what I think would be the ratings for skill, athleticism, and competitiveness for each of the sports with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best (feel free to inject your own numbers.) There is not a single sport listed below (in the upper group) that would fall into the description I’ve made above.

SPORT SKILL ATHLETICISM COMPETITIVENESS

SPORT

SKILL

ATHLETICISM

COMPETITIVENESS

Baseball

5

5

5

Football

5

5

5

Basketball

5

5

5

Soccer

5

5

5

Hockey

5

5

5

Tennis

5

5

5

Golf

5

2

4

Poker

3

0

0

Pool

4

1

0

Tiddlywinks

2

0

0

 

The only difference between poker and golf (and I certainly think it is a significant difference), is that in golf you are outdoors, and have to walk (unimpeded), three or four miles from hole to hole (therefore, the low degree of athleticism), and then think out and execute each shot (therefore, the high degree of skill.) But, given all of that; at the end, in golf as in poker, you show your results and you win or you lose. There is never a direct interaction against an opponent.

This qualifies golf as great entertainment, and lots of fun to play, and (for some) to watch… as does poker. But it certainly disqualifies it and it’s players in relation to athleticism and competitiveness. The direct point being made is the head to head (direct) interaction between a player and his opponent. In baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, and others, the player physically reacts to his opponent. In golf, the player takes a shot… takes another shot… takes another shot. They are all taken with a great degree of skill. No opponent… except in his head.

In conclusion, please understand that when the major tournaments are played, I am glued to my plasma, enjoying the spectacular picture and the great skill on display. The professional golfer is a very gifted sportsman that has honed his skill in hitting a golf ball with precision. That is to be commended, as there are very few people with that special skill. However, this should in no way be construed as meaning that the golfer is an athlete in the true sense of the word. Please don’t let me see a golfer, as great as he may be in his sport, being considered as the athlete of the year. To be considered an athlete, the player must have a physical opponent and have direct interaction against him.

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