Is golf a sport?

And if it isn’t, does really matter? Would you train differently for a sport then you would a match or skill?

golf sport cffb #1

Everyone has a strong opinion on what is a sport and what is not, and this question has been asked for many years with persuasive arguments coming from both sides.

Lets start by defining what is a sport?

Webster’s dictionary defines a “sport” as, “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.”

An in-depth list of requirements comes from an article posted on Yahoo which proposed a 1 through 6 criterion for defining a sport.

Using criteria that are evident in the upper echelon of athletic activities is one way to develop a tighter definition of what classifies as a sport. Here are those six criteria:

Criteria #1 A physical activity requiring athleticism 
Criteria #2 A competitive athletic activity that directly pits athlete(s) against athlete(s) 
Criteria #3 An objective directly correlates team efforts toward one and only one non-objective outcome (The point system is not left to objective vote or ruling). 
Criteria #4 There is strategic offensive and defensive interaction between opponents 
Criteria #5 Action involves a continuous clock, stopped only by infractions 
Criteria #6 Fouls against the opponent are part of the action but governed by officiated rules 
Criteria #7 Another way to determine what is a sport is to determine what isn’t

This method requires only one criterion: anything that can better is classified as a game, a match, an event, a fight, or a race is objectively not a sport. In order to be more subjective I will use the above criteria to divide the sports from the other activities. For the purposes of this article though, I will not define the other classifications, but rather for your curiosity I will still assign my classification for each other activity represented here.

Some Examples of athletic activities that qualify as a sport (In alphabetical order)


Here are some examples of athletic activities, which may or may not involve an athlete, but would not qualify as a sport. In parentheses is one or more of the criteria not met to be a sport and then the assigned classification of that activity.

Bobsledding (4,6; Event) 
Boxing (3; Fight) 
Chess (1,2,3,6; Game) 
Dancing (Perhaps all, 3,4,5,6; Event) 
Field Events (4,6; Event) 
Figure Skating (3,4,5,6; Event) 
Foosball (1, possibly 3,4,5,6; Game) 
Golf (1,3,4,6; Match) 
Gymnastics (3,4,6; Meet/Match) 
Pool (1,4,5,6; Game) 
Racquetball (5, possibly 3; Match) 
Swimming (4,6; Meet/Match) 
Table Tennis (1, possibly 3,4,5,6; Game) 
Tennis (Possibly 3,4,5,6; Match) 
Track (Possibly 3,5,6; Race) 
Wrestling (3; Match)

By Webster’s definition, golf is a sport as it does burn calories and involve doing something physical. But if going by the criteria listed on Yahoo, golf clearly is a match composed of skill and not a sport.

Whether golf is a sport or match does not take away from the fact that participants can benefit from being strong, better conditioned and more explosive. A solid strength and conditioning base can pay dividends usually reserved from sports played on the field, pitch or ice. Universally, increasing an athlete’s ability to generate force will aid in driving the ball farther as it would decrease a 40 yard sprint time. Creating a strong base and correct posture by placing a heavy barbell on your back during squatting will result in an improved ability to hit the ball as it would to hitting an opponent.

While simple and probably wrong, my cut off for sport and non-sport comes with age and sobriety. Young fit individuals play sports. And if you can improve your ability by consuming alcohol it probably is not a sport. You don’t see 60-year-old accountants in goofy pants padded up playing football on Sundays. If a group of old out of shape men can get together, drink a 12 pack of beer, and play golf, then you have a hard time convincing me it is a sport.

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As Happy Gilmore remarked, “The only thing you need to be good at golf is goofy pants and a fat ass.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Webster’s, Yahoo’s or my definition check out Nick’s progress on the golf course after starting CFFB.

Hey John,

No question today…instead I just want to take minute and thank you for such an amazing job you do with CFFB. What a fantastic resource that continues to delivery results.

I know when you think of power athletes most of you think of Football, Rugby, Hockey Player etc. What about Golfers? I am a professional Golf Instructor who works with PGA, LPGA, and some of the top Junior Golfers in the Country. I noticed something was missing in the game.. Strength!! Golf is all about power and being explosive at the moment of impact. Why can’t I program my body with specific power/strength based workouts, improve my hip drive and see the results in my golf game.

So I decided to try to experiment. I measured the distances of all my clubs, wrote down my body weight, and also a few lifts and metcon scores.. I then started following CFFB’s Programming. First a little background. I have never lifted a day in my life up until a few years ago (I’m 26 years old now). It was frowned up and thought that you would lose your flexibility that you needed to swing a golf club. So I just played golf and got a pretty respectable level. Then I found CrossFit and jumped in headfirst. It was great; I started getting stronger and faster and noticed a difference in my swing speed and raw distance. But something was missing. The program was too random and I didn’t really have a strength base to build a powerful engine around. Then I found CrossFit Football. Finally, a program that offers a Strength bias work out + Power/Explosive conditioning. Two things I believe every golfer needs and should work for if he or she wants to play golf at the next level.

After just three months of CFFB programming, I am excited to see that I have gained 20 YARDS off the tee!! And added another 10 yards to all of irons. Not mention, another 10-15 mph of club head speed! Lifts went up as well. Started out with a 1RM Overhead press of 135lb at a body weight of 185lb and I now have a body weight press, body weight weighted pull up, 2 x body weight squat, and a 300lb split jerk. I added almost 50lbs to my power clean and power snatch and I am easily swinging my 108lb KB overhead for high reps and sets.

I could not be happier with my gains and I will continue to spread the word of CFFB. I am currently working on developing a specific Golf S&C program that uses a lot of the same explosive moves that CFFB uses to help players of all ability levels develop an explosive golf swing.

Thanks again John and everyone at CFFB!!! Keep up the great work.

Nick Covino

David Leadbetter Golf Academy