Ever since the 2009 announcement that golf will be re-introduced into the summer games the outspoken golf community has been debating if golf needs the Olympics.
Let’s face it, the committee that re-introduced golf and chose Rio as the first Olympics in 112-years to host golf didn’t do the sport any favors.
I don’t think I have to bring up the multifarious reasons Rio was a bad choice to include golf into the Olympics. Maybe the first clue it was a bad location is the fact that a championship course didn’t even exist in 2009. Now we have all the media drama when the top ranked golfers in many countries decided to forego Rio.
It is hard not to debate the mistakes that the committee and organizers have made, or for that matter, why ranked golfers have choose not to accept their invitation into the Olympics, but the #GolfChat topic is: Does Golf Need the Olympics?
The Short Answer
The short answer is “No.”
Golf is already an international sport (Sport or Game? Another debatable topic) that has a foothold in most or all developed countries. The 2016 Games will have 34 countries represented in both the men’s and women’s tournaments; 41 countries in all will participate in Olympic golf.
For a full run down you can check out the Golf at the 2016 Olympics on Wikipedia.
That is a lot of countries, considering that only 23 countries are represented in soccer. I realize qualifying is different, but still golf has a high participation percentage.
Golf isn’t like a lot of other sports such as track & field, swimming, and of course solo synchronized swimming (yeah, that’s a thing as well as an oxymoron) where the Olympics are considered one of, if not, the most important event in the sport.
Golf has a long history of major championships. One could argue that The Open Championship, Women’s British Open and both the women’s and Men’s U.S. Open are like annual Olympics due to their world-wide qualifying events. Many would say that golf doesn’t need another marquee event.
Since golf is already well represented internationally and has open qualifying for major tournaments, I don’t think the Olympics will make or break championship golf.
The Real Answer
What does it hurt?
Even if the Olympics introduces one new person to golf it is good. I can’t see how the Olympics is detrimental to the game of golf in any way.
I understand that it might not draw the biggest names due to security, conflicted schedules, and personal goals.
But to some people, the dream of standing on the Olympic platform listening to their national anthem might be the same as sinking the winning putt at a major championship.
I know it would be an honor for me to be that person standing on the podium listening to The Star Spangled Banner.
Golf in the Olympics might also spur a national Olympic committee to develop a youth program for golf.
I think it is unlikely, due to the time it takes to develop a player to professional level. And the fear the committee would have that a player of that caliber would most likely chase the money instead. But one never knows.
In the end, any interest that the Olympics brings to the game will be good for golf.
We have all heard the stories of how one particular player grabbed the attention of a kid at the right time and motivated them try the game. It isn’t that far flung that the attention golf will get at the Olympics could have the same effect on someone.
Time Will Tell
I don’t see how the current Olympic format (both qualifying & format) will really help golf in the short-term. The long-term effects will only be beneficial if golf remains an Olympic event. The longer golf stays in the Olympics the greater the chance that it will motivate a national olympic committee or an individual to commit the time it takes to become great.
If the Olympic committee could be convinced to exclude professionals from competing and add team events the game of golf could possibility benefit. I don’t see this happening, but one could wish.
How well golf in the Olympics is perceived will depend on the Olympians, the competition, the course, weather, and the press coverage.
A person isn’t going to fall in love with golf if the weather sucks, the tournament is a blow-out, the commentators and media aren’t enthusiastic toward the event, and mostly it will come down to how well the medal winners promote the Olympics and their win afterward.
We Need to do Our Part
Read the articles from mainstream media, the headlines in the daily internet golf rags that come into your inbox, look at your twitter feed, what do you see?
The headlines are full of the players that aren’t playing, they’re greedy, spoiled, entitled, they don’t care about the Olympics, people aren’t going to watch, the majority of news is negative.
With perceptions like that there is no way Olympic golf is going to help grow the game.
Please do your part to help the game of golf and give the Olympics a chance. If you’re in the media, write positive stories. I realize writing about the big names give you readership, but maybe a positive piece on the Olympics will too.
Be positive in social media, root for your favorite golfer playing in the Olympics instead of commenting you wish someone else was playing. Do your part for the game.
Golf doesn’t need the Olympics and that is a good thing. That means golf already has an international presence, it has important, meaningful tournaments, and millions of people play the game, but just because golf doesn’t need the Olympics doesn’t mean it won’t help grow the game.
Follow Todd Marsh on Twitter @todd_fitness
Todd Marsh is the blogger and golf fitness expert behind Todd Marsh Fitness. Todd’s online training courses and blog has helped golfers throughout the world improve their golf performance. When not on the golf course, Todd can be found hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.
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