I, identify an activity as a sport when it has competition with a rival, requires a set of physical skills, and has a certain set of rules. For the very nature of golf, it is often looked down upon as a sport. It requires minimal physical movement and is not as aggressive as other sports that we generally enjoy. Despite all that, is golf an Olympic sport?
The answer is yes, and it has been a part of the 2016 summer Olympics after a long interval of 122 years. Golf is a niche sport. Despite that, more than 40 countries will participate in the 2020 Olympics from two events- men and women’s events.
Golf: Why increased popularity
Golf is a sport that is less popular among common people but I have all heard of this sport and many of us even know the rules of this sport. Why the fascination around this sport, despite it being inaccessible for many of us?
The mainstream media has labeled golf as a rich man’s sport, something a billionaire stock giant or the US president does for pleasure. We know who that, Tiger Woods is and what a golf club is. Golf has been globally expanded and popularized for the past few decades and has received a lot of appeals.
Then why it has not been part of the Olympics for such a long time? Because a number of steps must be taken and conditions must be fulfilled for a sport to be included in the Olympics including the admission as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), filing of an eligibility petition by International Sports Federation (IF) and so on.
How golf became a part of the Olympics again?
From 1900 to 1904 golf had been an Olympic sport until it was discontinued in 1904. So, is golf an Olympic sport now and how? After more than a century, in 2016, out of rapid expansion and popularity, IOC declared golf an Olympic sport.
To be included in the Olympics, a sport must be identified by IOC. The initiative was primarily taken by Ty Votaw. He was the vice president of the International Golf Federation. Several pro-golfers came in his support and finally in a 2009 session in Copenhagen, IOC reinstated golf for Olympics sport. Several golf legends namely Pádraig Harrington, Michelle Wie, Suzann Petterson were the four players that came forward and put their effort into making golf part of the Olympics.
Then, the International Sports Foundation provided golf with a set of rules and an anti-doping code along with regular tests. Then, IOC admitted golf as an event. An event in the Olympics is a distinctive competition with discipline. From 2016 Olympics, golf featured 2 particular events for both the gender.
Qualification process of golf Olympics players
The qualification process for player selection in the Olympics in the case of golf is unique. The first fifteen players of each gender in the distinctive Official World Golf Ranking can participate in the Olympics each year. But there is an exception to the rule.
The total golf player participating in the Olympics from each country can’t be more than four (combined both men and women participants). Also that players that are not ranked in the top fifteen but have empty slots in their nation’s quota can participate.
IGF also ensured that they would allow at least one golfer from each geographical nation whether they are in the top fifteen rankings or not. This rule ensures the scope of participation in more countries. Golf can also be more popularized through this process.
An exception to this rule is the USA. As it is a bigger country with many prominent golf players, a total of seven players got the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Olympics.
Golf 2016 Summer Olympics
Brazil built a new golf course to organize the 2016 summer Olympics in Reserva de Marapendi. Gill Hanse designed this particular golf course by collaborating with the World Golf Hall. In 2016, the head of the organizing committee, Carlos Arthur stated that he is much happy to organize golf Olympics events in Brazil as these events would have marked the beginning of a new era for golf.
Golf had returned to the Olympics after more than a century and the establishment of this unique golf course was the perfect way to commemorate that. The authority expects that this course would be a prominent facility to develop golf and inspire many new players to pursue golf. This course has now been turned into a public facility.
The Olympics committee wanted to promote environmentally sustainable sports through these golf events. For that reason, they even selected the grass keeping water use in mind.
While the government of Brazil was allowing massive deforestation that led to one of the most destructive rainforest fires in 2020, their organizing committee was using environment sustainability as a marketing stunt. So the credibility of this sustainability motto is questionable.
Furthermore, a total of 420 players participated in golf in the 2016 summer Olympics. Before that in 1904 seventy-two players participated in the Summer Olympics. An interesting fact is that several golfers withdrew from the events because of the epidemic caused by the Zika virus.
More male golfers withdrew than female golfers showing that reason as this virus is mostly spread through semen than blood.
Golf Records in Olympics
The USA has achieved the most medals and currently holds most records in the history of golf Olympics. The USA has a total of seven medals that they have required throughout history. In 2016, they also acquired the bronze medal for the male event. Justin Rose from Great Britain and Inbee Park from South Korea has acquired gold medals.
Henrik Stenson from Sweden and Lydia Ko from Newzealand have acquired the silver medals. The bronze medal for women’s event was presented to Shanshan Feng from China. No country has dominated this sport in this Olympics.
Golf 2020 Summer Olympics: Postponed?
The 2020 summer Olympics will also organize two separate events for golf in the Kasumigaseki Country Club venue. A total of 118 golfers are to participate in these events from July 30. But due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic situation, the president of ICO, Thomas Bach has postponed the Olympics to 2021.
People considered golf to be a niche game earlier but it has slowly expanded and attained an appeal from mass people. People all over the world now started to like golf and giving it the appeal of a prominent game. Still, playing golf is restricted by resources to the richer portion of society.
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