Golf gets a bad reputation in this day and age. The major complaint hurled at the sport is that it’s “the game of old, rich white men.” Many see golf as a game that’s too boring to watch and too frustrating to play. Considering a full 18-hole round can take four to five hours to complete makes golf seem like an overall waste.
Admittedly, the game originated as a game for the wealthy, famously played by royalty as a sport of leisure. The sport was widely popular among both men and women, however. Golf’s popularity rose greatly in the 16th century thanks to its endorsement by King Charles I in England and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who introduced the sport to France. In fact, the term “caddie” stems from the name Mary gave to her escorts, who were French Military officers, known as cadets.
After the proliferation of golf courses and the first Open Championship in 1860, women started forming their own lady’s clubs to develop their own courses and tournaments. Golf was not only a leisure sport, but was particularly useful for women looking to meet possible suitors. Still, a decent number of women took golf very seriously. In fact, golf is almost the oldest major sport games to host women’s championships, losing only to tennis. The Ladies Golf Union organized the first British Ladies Championship in 1893.
While golf still remains a leisure sport, leisure no longer belongs only to the rich. People who claim that golf is too time-consuming to learn have simply never given it any serious consideration. What makes golf a sport that’s irritating to play while something like baseball or soccer isn’t? The reason we perceive golf as irritating is because you play against yourself. Every mistake is entirely your own fault, and your punishment is spent trying to correct it. Scoring is literally a count of every chance you missed to get the ball in the hole. In this sense, golf is a brutally irritating sport.
Yet if you consider the amount of time it takes to learn how to play golf, it’s much easier to improve quickly as opposed to any team-based sport. That’s because golf is not nearly as exclusive in terms of physical ability. Even if I practiced football or basketball every day, starting today, I simply could not get into those sports at even a semiprofessional level. The physical requirements already exclude people who aren’t tall, fast or strong enough. But golf is a sport entirely of technique. Body size is hardly a consideration, as what drives the ball is the motion of the body. People think golf is about arm strength, but this is simply not true. Getting yourself all buffed out can actually ruin your golf game. Golf is a game of body momentum, control and timing. Even if you can’t drive a ball past 200 yards, you can still play extremely well if you make up for distance with accuracy. The strength in your shoulders, stomach and legs is just as important as the strength in your arms and wrists.
When you go to any golf course you’re bound to see mostly rich old white men playing a round. But you’d never notice it when in the middle of the game. When you’re out on the golf course, regardless of who you’re playing with, you’re out there by yourself. Despite all the team-based sports we see on television, we still tend to focus simply on the actions of one player. Team-based effort is something that seemingly goes unnoticed on television. That’s why athletes are always stressing how crucial teamwork was in interviews. Golf perhaps is boring to watch because it’s only the action of a single player. But I think it’s much more interesting to see what you’re made of when you can’t rely on teammates.
Golf will be played at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 112 years.