Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Idea of Golf in the Olympics

The author of this article brings up great points. The first thing I thought when I read the title was "wait, this game has one of the most well-respected code of ethics and conduct, golfers are honest people and play by the rules without supervision."

But the more I realized that the article tied to the Olympic bid, I realized that he was making a different point entirely.

I agree that golf is very elitist. I think most of that comes from the cost to play. Think about what it costs just to start playing golf: clubs are a few hundred bucks, cleats, a glove, acceptable clothing... and you haven't even paid to get onto the course yet. It just favors the more well-off (as do some other sports, like lacrosse, sailing, snowboarding...all those sports with huge startup costs and little public funding as opposed to say the high school football or track teams, both of which have high costs, but are offset by some public monies and pooled spectator revenue).

With that high cost comes the attitude, that the author mentions. If you've ever been golfing, it's like stepping into another world. Everything (at least at most courses in CA) is so nice, fancy and ornate to the point where you don't feel like you belong if you don't have enough money to drop $100 on brand new balls for the day out on the links. And the people also reflect that high society attitude as well. Because it takes all that money to get into it, those that do fork it over usually have plenty left over to show it off with other purchases (golf can also be one of these purchases).

Ultimately, golf just doesn't FEEL like an Olympic sport to me. Olypmic sports (in my mind) are basic, elemental tests of strength and skill. Stuff like track & field, gymnastics, rowing, shooting, swimming and the like. These sports don't get much attention from the mainstream sports avenue, so the Olympics is a perfect showcase for them. Some other Olympic sports have so much history behind the relationship that we are used to them being included (though they don't really fit because of the aforementioned definition). Stuff like basketball, baseball, hockey, volleyball... we're just used to seeing them there. And still other sports completely don't belong because it doesn't end up being a penultimate accomplishment to win there because there are bigger competitions elsewhere (think soccer) so the competition becomes diluted and not a true example of the world's best athletes.

As for golf? I don't think it belongs in the Olympics, not only for the reasons that the author mentioned but also because it misses out on all the reasons I just threw out: it's not a basic athletic test, it has NO Olympic history and the best competition is elsewhere. It just doesn't SEEM like an Olympic sport, y'know?

BTW, I don't buy that Augusta National is wrong for being an only male course. In fact, I think it's great that men can have their own private haven spending money how they want doing something they love. I think women have similar opportunities where businesses are typically female-dominated and no one complains. I think the reason most do complain about Augusta though, is because that male-only thing has historical ties to elitism and ugly segregation, which I realize it's kinda naive to think that it's such an "innocent" policy to be male-only. But there's also a kind of historical charm to it, y'know? Kind of a, "we've been doing business this way since 1xxx and we're not gonna stop now just because the times have changed." I think it's absolutely awesome and it's kind of a way to step back in time and feel a little old-fashioned.