The suggestion that golf is not a sport is abhorrent to many golfers, but does it really matter?
I am cautious about talking golf at dinner parties. Like religion and politics, it has the potential to bring with it complete silence, anger or perhaps more worryingly, a fervour of golf anecdotes and stories from a golf fanatic who has been waiting for someone to raise the sport at dinner parties for years.
Golf is religion and politics though. We’ve all heard the joke about the golfer who couldn’t forfeit his weekly game of golf to attend his wife’s funeral, and if you’ve spent any time in the bowels of golf course administration, you could be forgiven for thinking the club was running the country.
If by some chance you’ve landed yourself in a golf conversation at a dinner party with a bunch of non-golfers, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “I hate golf” a few times. It is soon often followed by the non sequitur, “Golf is not a sport”. Of course it has no bearing on whether golf is enjoyable or not. It actually has no bearing on even whether golf exists or not and even less relevance on my love for the game.
But let’s say for arguments sake, that tomorrow someone with impeccable sporting prowess, experience and enough respect on the global stage, gets up and tells the world that golf is no longer a sport. Billy Birmingham, for example.
What exactly would happen?
There may be some implications at the Olympic level. Golf is set to return to the Olympic stage in Brazil in 2016 and if it was no longer considered a sport, the ever so honest and prudent IOC may need to reassess its inclusion in the two-week extravaganza. Although without naming any, one only needs to quickly scan the other events, to see that golf probably doesn’t have a lot to worry about.
John Daly, Craig Parry, Duffy Waldorf and countless numbers of large boned amateur golfers would breathe a sigh of relief if golf was announced as no longer a sport. These guys could no longer be used in arguments by those who question the athleticism of the game, and they could just get on with it without the fear of being mistaken for a sportsperson.
Golf would obviously be moved from the sport pages of the newspaper. We wouldn’t have to then flip over a few pages to catch a few words on Tiger Woods, but it would be nestled in topics of high importance to your average citizen. Just after the World News items or perhaps its own pull-out section on a Friday.
Sports journalists would be pulled from covering golf in favour of more hard-hitting journos who have cut their teeth on the frontlines of civil war or in the power plays of Canberra politics. Forget media tents or post-round interviews, we would see reporters hiding in bunkers and a genre devoted to golf Wikileaks.
Perhaps once the sport shackles are off, we would begin to see golf exactly for what it is. Not a sport but a religion, full of drama, politics and passion. A mirror by which humans could relate to the problems and wonders of the world.
This is completely ridiculous of course, but no more so than the argument that golf is not a sport.
The closest analogy we can make would be like the day Pluto was not a planet, Milli Vanilli were not singing or the day Greg Norman was not a US Masters winner. There may be tears, stunned dispositions and much wailing, but we will all move on. Apart from Milli Vanilli maybe.
I’m really not bothered if some dinner party guest decides golf is not a sport. In fact, if they truly deemed it nothing more than just a past time, hobby or gardening adventure, I’d gladly accept the notion and kick them out after dessert, telling them I’ve got an early tee time in the morning.
This article originally appeared in Inside Golf where Michael Green writes a monthly column.