Golf and the Olympics

imagesI see Tom Watson was quoted this week saying that he didn’t think golf should be an Olympic sport. 

“I still think of Olympics as track and field and not golf to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t want to pour cold water on it, but I don’t think it should be in the Olympic Games.”

Watson said golf has its four major championships, which remain its pinnacle events.

On one hand, this kinda rubs me the wrong way. You see, back in 2009 I was working for Squash Canada and squash was one of the short listed sports for the 2016 Games. Becoming an Olympic sport was (and still is) pretty much the be all and end all of squash because it doesn’t have the broad appeal to bring in sponsors, ticket sales, etc, without the Olympics. When it was announced that the selected sports were Rugby and Golf, it was in a word, heartbreaking for the international squash community (especially since Squash came so close to getting on the 2012 program as well). To hear a prominent figure in golf come out and say that golf doesn`t need to be in the Olympics, is kind of a slap in the face to a sport like Squash.

On the other hand, I understand his argument. Golf already has a storied tradition of major events and maybe, just maybe, the Olympica doesn`t bring value added to the sport.

While I understand his comments, I don`t necessarily agree with them,

I think we can all agree that the Masters is the most celebrated golf tournament in the world. The number of eye balls that saw the 2012 Masters on TV during the final round was 13.5 million. The average number of viewers that took in NBCs 17 days of Olympic coverage was 31.1 million.  In a nut shell, one could argue that the Olympics brings in more than twice the number of eye balls. Does the PGA Tour need this exposure, maybe, maybe not. Does golf as a sport overall, from grassroots to weekend warrior need this exposure, certainly. We consistently hear that the boom years of golf (aka the Tiger years) are over, rounds are down, money being spent on equipment is down etc. Golf being part of the Olympic movement can only help the growth of the game.

Continuing on the theme of growing the game. Many countries, including Canada fund sports partially based on their Olympic involvement. Without getting into details and by oversimplifying, it is safe to say that being on the Olympic program has the potential for additional funding for the sport of golf in Canada. More money going into the sport, increases Golf Canada`s ability to develop and implement programs intended to grow the game.

Olympic inclusion is pushing countries to invest in golf, which they would not have done without the allure of Olympic medal hopes. Bob Weeks (@bobatscoregolf) had a great article yesterday about how Russia, a non traditional golf market, is working with a Canadian company to train its top players in the hopes of getting them to the Olympic level. Success at the Olympic level, even exposure at the Olympic level has great potential to effect grassroots development of the game.

I believe the other big winner in golf getting into the Olympic will be women`s golf. The LPGA rarely gets the credit it deserves and it hardly ever on TV. Having the women competing in the Olympics has the potential to do wonders for the the women`s game.

Lastly, unlike any of the major golf tours (PGA, European, LPGA), the Olympics will take golf into many non traditional markets. Generally, the professional golf tours go to places where golf, or at least golf courses are already established, the Olympics doesn`t.  Case in point, Brazil is building a golf course for the 2016 Games because they didn`t previously have an adequate one. Taking golf into new markets, where infrastructure will be built provides the world golf bodies the opportunity to develop the game in places where it would have never flourished before.

So Mr Watson, I see where you are coming from, but I must respectively disagree with you,

See you at the turn.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Penn says:

    Sorry but I’m in the Tom Watson camp on this one. Golf has enough premier events on the world stage and inclusion in the Olympics pushes the sport past the point of diminishing returns. I’m thinking it goes the way of Olympic baseball. Thanks for the thought provoking article!

    1. aaronrbruce says:

      Thanks for the comments Brian. It is certainly a good topic for debate.

  2. I agree! I am glad golf is going back to the Olympics! By the way, do you know which country is the reigning golf medalists in golf…you guess it CANADA!

    The Grateful Golfer

  3. Mary says:

    Well said! I hope Mr. Watson reads this too!

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