General Question

essieness's avatar

Is golf a sport or a game?

Asked by essieness (7698points) May 14th, 2009

Sport: an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition.

Game: a contest with rules to determine a winner

Are there any other activities that may fall in this gray area?

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55 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

It’s subjective. I’d say, like darts, it’s a game, but many golfers and golf fans would disagree with me.

Darwin's avatar

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Likeradar's avatar

I think bowling falls under the same vague category. I say physical game, my bowling-league-addict father says sport.

Darwin's avatar

Actually both golf and bowling do require some physical stamina and hand-eye coordination, as well as proper form and so on. Hence they do actually fall into the realm of sport. Tiger Woods had to have an arthroscopic repair to his knee this past year so he couldn’t golf, and I have known bowlers who have injured their shoulders from bowling. Even without carrying your own clubs, golf is more physical that it seems at first glance.

essieness's avatar

Depending on how much beer drinking you’re doing whilst golfing or bowling. ;)

Darwin's avatar

The really good ones don’t. It’s the amateurs that imbibe whilst ostensibly bowling or golfing.

Ivan's avatar

Anyone who says golf doesn’t require physical ability has most assuredly never golfed.

cak's avatar

I go with sport. I’ve played for over 20 years, and believe me, to be good, it takes a lot of effort. Practice, dedication an mental ability, as well.

kevbo's avatar

Golf is a sport. A round of golf is a game.

DarkScribe's avatar

Not unless you can regard Billiards as a sport. Tormenting a small white ball at a leisurely walking pace isn’t a sport.

YARNLADY's avatar

The way Tiger Woods plays it, it’s a sport. The way most weekenders do it, it’s a game.

BookReader's avatar

…it can make for a very funny but tasteless joke- unless you are trying to win, and they beat the pants off of you- you can quickly become the joke…total serious sport that can be as fun as all get go!!!

upholstry's avatar

Technically, by your defs, it’s both, since golf requires physical exertion and it is a competition (or contest). However, there are multiple definitions for both terms. I like to think its a sport if and only if it’s a physical competition that you spend a great deal of time and energy in improving yourself. So, like @YARNLADY says, basically.

@kevbo makes an interesting distinction, though. You play one game of football, but football as a whole is a sport.

Hoelio's avatar

I would consider it both

_bob's avatar

Yeah, as @upholstry, your definitions are not mutually exclusive.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I play it like a game. I’m not good enough to compete in any sort of professional capacity so I can’t call my golfing, a sport. If it was a sport to me, I’d probably enjoy it less. Sometimes it’s just fun to take a club and knock a ball 200 yards.

reverie's avatar

I’m not sure, but I think I’d call it a sport.

Another example is curling. Curling teams participate in the Olympic Games, which is a sporting contest… but then it doesn’t involve physical exertion in the same way as other sports do. Sport or game? Hmm.

I’m not really comfortable with physical exertion being the litmus test for whether something is a game or a sport, or how much dedication, practice and expertise it requires (for example, I would say chess is a game, but to be an excellent chess player, it requires a high degree of skill, ability, practice and so on… it’s not trivial, so seriousness/triviality can’t really be the defining characteristic either).

I’m interested to see more answers!

MrItty's avatar

“Sport”, in my mind, requires defined offense and defense. Your performance in the competition has to directly affect, and be affected by, your opponent’s performance. The outcome – whether you win or lose – can not be soley based on whether or not your opponent had a bad day. That you can do exactly as well one day as the next, but you face two different opponents of two different skill levels, can by itself determine whether you “win” or “lose”, makes it not a sport. That the luck of the draw of which lane/group/pairing you’re on can determine if you “win” or “lose” makes it not a sport.

By this definition, Bowling, Golf, Sprints, Gymnastics, etc, are all not sports. They’re activities, they’re competitions, they’re games, but they’re not sports.

MrItty's avatar

(please note that “defined offense and defense” does not alone make a sport. There still must be a physical strength/agility/stamina/athletic component. If not, things like Poker would be sports, and that’s blatantly ridiculous.)

dynamicduo's avatar

I think it depends on your mentality. Those who take it seriously, who train hardcore, who go into simulators that analyze their golf swing so that they can improve every little bit, to me they view it as a sport and train just as a footballer or curler would. Those who go out to the green to get away from their wives, who hit the ball and drive the cart while having fun with friends, those without the mentality of competition, are playing a game.

Similarly, one could call competitive chess a sport. Or poker.

I have to admit, @essieness, I do not include physical exertion in the qualities that make up a sport. That quality would logically make curling not a sport. Or what about polo, where it’s the horse doing most of the work? This is why I like to use one’s mentality, one’s intent while doing the activity, as the criteria for deciding if something is a sport or a game. In this way, people who do activities that are more mental (chess, poker) are included with those who do activities that are more physical, as to me there is no reason why sports have to be physical, nor why mental sports should not be accepted as sports.

MrItty's avatar

@dynamicduo There is most definitely physical exertion in curling. Those stones weigh between 38 and 44 pounds. That’s a hell of a lot heavier than any other sport’s thrown/kicked object. That in itself requires physical exertion to lift, swing, and throw (accurately). Then there’s the runners following after it and sweeping furiously.

Is there a lot of physical exertion involved? No, not compared to say Football or Basketball. But to say there’s none is just wrong.

dynamicduo's avatar

I know, I live in Canada. But you do have to admit that the total amount of energy exerted through the entire game is much more in high contact sports like football than curling. I guess I could have clarified and said “intense and long duration physical exertion”, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, now does it?

rooeytoo's avatar

It’s a game I play when I can’t find anyone to play tennis with!

I like golf but I hate it because I have no consistency, I will hit a couple of beauties and then wiff completely or barely make it off the tee. Drives me crazy. So it’s not sport to me.

I really would rather play tennis.

spresto's avatar

Golf is a game. It would benefit the players to be physically fit, but it is not necessary.

MrItty's avatar

@dynamicduo Yes, as I said, significantly less physical than most other sports. But non-zero. That, to me, is one of the key distinguishing facts between “sport” and “game/hobby/competition/activity”. (The other being the afforementioned offense & defense)

jonsblond's avatar

@MrItty I believe that gymnastics requires physical strength, agility and stamina. I would consider it more of a sport than a game.

MrItty's avatar

@jonsblond I agree that gymnastics requires physical strength, agility, and stamina. I never said that it doesn’t. I did say that those are not my only criteria for what’s a sport. I said a sport must also have defined offense and defense. Competitors in gymnastics are simply trying to do the same thing as their opponents, but do it better.

Now, if there was a “full-contact” option, where you could screw up your opponent’s landing, then I’d agree it’s a sport. :-)

jonsblond's avatar

@MrItty That would be fun to watch! :)

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

On the scale of sport, golf is more of a sport than Nascar. At least with golf you’re not sitting for the duration of the event.

AstroChuck's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic- NASCAR is a lot more phyically demanding than golf.

Knotmyday's avatar

From the greatest golf movie of all time:

Chubbs: “Golf’s no different than hockey. Requires talent and self discipline.” Happy: “Golf requires goofy pants and a fat ass. You should talk to my neighbor the accountant. Probably a great golfer. Huge ass!”
~Happy Gilmore

essieness's avatar

For my definitions, I just did a quick “google define” search, and just for the purposes of helping out the answerers. I have no opinion on the subject either way, just wanted to know what everyone thought :)

SebK's avatar

Neil Wolkodoff, director of the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver, thinks it is a sport, and he has some data to back up his claim. Wokodoff took eight better-than-average golfers and tracked their heart rate, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, and how far they were walking through a few rounds.

The study shows there’s significant energy expenditure in golf, more than bowling and some other sports it’s been compared to,” Wolkodoff said to the AP. ”There are a lot of sports that don’t have this level of energy expenditure.

purplelow's avatar

i think it is both because it requires physical activity and it is a game

CMaz's avatar

I would say more of a joke. I undersand the skill, and the sport like quality. But, just a fancy excuse to drink some beers.

filmfann's avatar

It’s a cry for help.
Teenage girls cut themselves.
Thirty and forty year old men play golf.
Same same.

Dr_C's avatar

Swinging a club har enough to launch a ball over 200 yards using your whole body… walking an average of 6000 yards lugging about 30 pounds of clubs and bag in the sun to me qualifies as physical exertion.

Carts pay a part and make it a lot easier… but i challenge anyone to go to a driving range and hit a large bucket of balls HARD and not get tired.. consider that a relatively good player can achieve club head speeds over 80 mph… pro’s can get over 100….your arms, shoulders, sides and legs will be sore the next day.

As in any sport to be relatively proficient you need some sort of athleticism… and like any other sport anyone can play. So just because your fat uncle golfs doesn’t mean it’s any less of a sport… he ain’t tiger woods. Just like if your fat uncle likes to play hoops.. he ain’t Lebron James.

Sport hands down.

CMaz's avatar

Sometimes hitting the bowl when drunk is not easy. is that a sport?

cak's avatar

@Dr_C – excellent, lurve to you!

YARNLADY's avatar

@ChazMaz When you throw a cheerio in the water and try to hit it, then it’s a sport.

CMaz's avatar

I have don that….

Zen's avatar

I’m with @Ivan. It aint tennis, but it’s certainly a work-out (or is that maybe walk-out?).

AstroChuck's avatar

It’s both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

goldie2's avatar

golf is not a sport .anytime someone in there sixties can almost win a major golf tournament as tom watson almost did a few months ago,proves golf is not a sport.can anyone imagine ali,tyson,kobe,jordan,jerry rice,ray lewis,babe ruth,barry bonds,carl lewis,michael phelps etc etc.serious competing in their sports at the age of sixty plus. NO WAY! their careers are over in their mid thirties because they play real sports that separate the young from the old the male from don’t see professional female boxers or basketball players competing on the same stage with their male counter is not a sport because just like in billards and bowling the old can seriously compete with the young and the female can seriously compete with the male.this is not possible in real sports like football,boxing,track,basketball onceand for all lets call golf what it is. a difficult activity,like chess,poker,cheerleading and spelling bee.take away the ball from golf and all you have is jumping,running,sliding,blocking.hitting,etc. etc. so all you golfers enjoy your difficult activity but don’t call it a sport

Ivan's avatar


Most gymnasts’ careers are over by age 20 because they can’t compete with their younger competitors. By your logic, any activity in which 42 year olds (football) can compete can’t possibly be a sport. Also, women have their own separate tour; they don’t compete directly with men. No woman has ever made a cut in a PGA event. Regardless, what a backwards and offensive way to define a sport. Why, objectively, must men have an inherent advantage at something for it to be called a sport? Your criteria are arbitrary and laughable. By any objective standard, golf is a sport. If you want to set up some very limited definition for sport-hood that excludes golf, fine, but don’t do it in the ridiculous fashion that you have.

dabbler's avatar

Given your definitions, both. But I don’t like your definitions ;-)
I like to define a sport as an activity with as little practical application as possible that is a “game” per your definition, so has rules that can determine a winner.
IMHO both golf and baseball are some of the purest sports around. Most other “sports” have some “practical” application if you extrapolate the activity into life. e.g. Arguably football is pugilist/combative. Tennis or darts could be hunting skills.

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AstroChuck's avatar

It’s a small family car manufactured by Volkswagen.

john65's avatar

golf is kind of game in sports category

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abcbill's avatar

I like the parts of this thread that sorta divided the game of golfing from the sport of golf.

It’s a game if one is playing and relaxing and maybe drinking adult beverages and maybe wagering a buck or two and allowing the occasional mulligan.

It’s a sport if there are some major bucks on the line, sponsorships and promotion money and maybe world-level ranking…

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