Does golf really deserve a place in the Olympics?

August 13, 2009

roggePierre de Coubertin must be turning in his grave at the news that golf, surely the globe’s ultimate consumerist, exclusive sport, is set to be played at the 2016 Olympics.

The Frenchman revived the ancient Olympic Games at the end of the 19th century to embrace the spirit of sportsmanship and amateur ideals of a bygone era.

In the opening 80 years of the 20th century, the Games developed into a quadrennial spectacle where the world’s finest athletes — who devoted hours and hours of unpaid sweat and devotion to their cause — pitted their wits against international rivals in a manner typified by the phrase ‘It’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part.’

Yet could any sport be further from this ideal, more exclusive or more removed from the open-to-all ethos that drove de Coubertin to create the modern Games than golf?

It costs a small fortune to buy a bag of even the humblest modern golf clubs and membership to clubs the world over is prohibitively expensive. Augusta, the home of the Masters, still refuses female members.

The rot set in when tennis was introduced to the Games. It simply has no place there and the demeanour and approach of most players, in Beijing last year particularly, said it all about the regard in which an Olympic medal in the event is held.

Ask a hundred sports enthusiasts who won the last three or four men’s 100metres at the Olympics and you would have many correct answers or at least educated guesses. Men’s Olympic tennis singles champion in 2004 anyone?

The lure of Tiger Woods et al playing at the Games seems to have resulted in the IOC being seduced by the idea of even more stratospheric global viewing figures. The likes of Titleist, Ping and Wilson will surely be clinking their champagne flutes the loudest.

Softball and squash strike me as sports far more befitting of the Olympic ideal – strong amateur roots and both terrific, combative spectator sports – but the IOC know otherwise.

Oh, and it was Chile’s Nicolas Massu by the way.

PHOTO: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge speaks at a news conference after an IOC board meeting in Berlin, August 13, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter


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My bag of used clubs cost me $50 and I play on a nice municipal course in Florida for $10 a round. So it is possible to play golf on the cheap.

But…I think you are right on the Olympics and one could even go further and ask the question whether golf is actually a sport in the first place?

After all, everyone loved the Tom Watson story at the British Open this year but surely the fact that a man who turns 60 next month had a chance to win one of the game’s premier events tells you something.There aren’t too many Tom Watson’s in traditional Olympic sports.

Golf is a wonderful game, a great passtime and a nice way for people to keep themselves in some sort of shape by walking around for a few hours.

But Citius, Altius, Fortius?

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

[…] Left field » Blog Archive » Does golf really deserve a place in … […]

Posted by Left field » Blog Archive » Does golf really deserve a place in … | Report as abusive

NO NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO. Not because it’s expensive – have you tried buying a racing yacht or carbon track bike lately – but because golf doesnt need the Olympics.
It has four majors and a Ryder Cup, a flourishing amateur game and millions of pounds sloshing around. Get it out, along with tennis and soccer.

Posted by des | Report as abusive

tennis, football and now golf. what place do they have in the olympics? why not american football? or chess?

Posted by Jayk | Report as abusive


Posted by Noah | Report as abusive

Dear Miles,
just loved your blog sweetie and couldn’t agree more about that horrid sport golf. I’ve always thought it was a dreadful way to ruin a nice walk on one’s estate. But cherub, please, please, please don’t give those riff-raff any more credit than they deserve. I almost spilt my Manhattan cocktail on my steak tartare when you said they were the “ultimate…exclusive club.” Oh darling, you know as well as I do that the equestrian club would never allow a Tiger to join and the last thing you want in the yacht club is a Great White Shark. And I cannot imagine what the fencing club would say if Fuzzy turned up and don’t even get me started darling on what the shooting club would do to that Wild Thing. So sweetie, please don’t lower yourself to their standards. Anyway, toodle-doo and I’ll see you at the fox hunt on Sunday darling.

Posted by betty | Report as abusive

To Simon :
I was a volunteer at the Kaohsiung World Games. And I saw top athletes that would be happy to have 10 dollar extra to something recreational. Karate and Ju Jit Su are cheaper contact sports. The problem is that they are not money making sports so that is why it is more difficult for them to get included in the Olympics.

Posted by Alfredo | Report as abusive