Is Golf a Real Sport?

The myth: Golf is not a real sport. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

Man playing golf --- Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Photo: Corbis

We're seeing more and more golf in the news recently, thanks to Tiger Woods' comeback and the rise of "Aw, Shucks" Bubba Watson (a self-taught player and self-described hillbilly who swings electric-pink golf clubs). And regardless of whether or not you're a fan, you may have noticed in the highlight reels that today's typical PGA'er isn't some poorly dressed pudge but a seriously shredded athlete in formfitting duds. But even though the players may be dressing sharper and hitting the weight room, an age-old question still remains: Is golf an actual sport?

Well, first of all, walking 18 holes is equivalent to hiking roughly four to five miles. And according to several studies, whether you're carrying your clubs, walking with a caddie, or using a pushcart, a round of golf can burn up to 1,400 calories. Even if you ride in a cart for 18, you're still burning around 900 calories—far higher than a spin class, which burns more like 600, albeit in a shorter period of time. And all the while, mind you, you're battling the heat, your nerves, and your fatigued body as you attempt to maintain the precise and complex mechanics of swinging a golf club—a movement that engages nearly every major muscle.

So, as an activity requiring skill or physical prowess, hitting the links qualifies as a sport by definition.

Still, there is an interesting catch. While golf will burn calories and keep you trim, it will never get you truly fit. That's because your heart rate never gets too elevated (unless you hit a hole in one, perhaps), and to build real fitness, you need to work your ticker. So while golf is a legitimate sport and it can help you shed pounds, the only six-pack it will provide is the one you buy from the beer-cart gal.


— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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