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Golf: An Olympic Sport?

What's good for business isn't necessarily great for the sport...

Posted Aug 14, 2009 by Iestyn George

olympic rings

This week's debate whether the sport deserved to be shortlisted for the 2016 Olympics ahead of squash, baseball, softball, karate and roller sports has run along parallel lines. Those in favour see a fit between what Jack Nicklaus calls "the inherent ideals" of golf and the Olympic spirit. Those against see nothing more than a bunch of non-entities (and Tiger Woods) who are already well-rewarded for their endeavour.

At the risk of upsetting the majority of you reading this blog, I have to confess I'm with the nay-sayers and the conspiracy theorists on this one. Granted, the level of criticism aimed at a very well-conducted campaign by golf's governing bodies has bordered on puerile. That 'fat blokes in chinos' argument against golf is pathetic. And Jack is right, as he is most of the time -  there are fundamental similarities between the principles of the game established by a bunch of bearded Scotsmen over a century and a half ago and the modern Olympics of Pierre de Coubertin and his cohorts a few decades later.

My question is simply: what's the point? Is it going to make golf a better sport and/or The Olympics a more compelling spectacle? I'm not certain it will. People may be right to suspect a whiff or corporate collusion between the International Olympic Committee and the governing bodies of golf. Let's face the facts, golf is far more likely to generate revenue for The Olympics than roller-hockey.

And what if Tiger Woods was just another tour player and Kenny Perry was World No 1 - would the IOC have encouraged golf's bid? I doubt it, somehow. Tiger Woods' elevation to Olympic poster-boy is further evidence that the future welfare of the game is in his hands. But don't worry, I'm not heading down the 'Tiger Woods is bad for golf' cul de sac. He's clearly one of the best things to happen to the sport for decades. I'm just not sure he needs to make space in his trophy cabinet for an Olympic medal.

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