Pros and Cons: Should Golf be an Olympic Sport?


Last week, Adam Scott made headlines with his hardline stance against both competing in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and golf as an Olympic sport in general.

Related: Why Adam Scott is Against Golf as an Olympic Sport

Referring to the Olympics as an “exhibition,” Scott said the following:

“Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I’ve fulfilled my career. It’s nothing I’ve ever aspired to do and I don’t think I ever will. It’s all about the four majors and I think that’s the way it should stay for golf.”

Scott’s comments opened the door for a larger debate that hasn’t happened yet, at least not publicly. Should golf be an Olympic sport, and should it be open to professional golfers or amateur players?


1. Golf Will Truly Become A Global Game

At Rio, golf will return as an Olympic sport after a 112 year absence. There’s no questioning the exposure the Olympics can provide. Close to 220 million Americans tuned into the 2012 games, and billions more around the world. Golf will have an opportunity with a good showing in Rio to become an even more international sport than it currently is.

“I think the Olympic Games is the pinnacle of sport. It’s the ultimate achievement for a sportsman and athlete. Nothing will internationalize the game more than golf being part of the Olympics and bringing the game to underdeveloped parts of the world, bringing golfers to this great sport that we all love. I don’t think the timing could be more perfect. We’re all very, very excited and very passionate to be part of it.” – Graeme McDowell, 2015 IGF Olympic Golf Forum at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 21: Panelists speak to attendees of the Olympic Golf Forum, presented by OMEGA, during the 62nd PGA Merchandise Show, held at the Orange County Convention Center, on January 21, 2015 in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Matthew Harris/The PGA of America)

2. The Olympics Turn Stars Into Superstars

Mark Spitz. Bruce Jenner. Mary Lou Retton. Carl Lewis. Michael Phelps. Five athletes who all competed in sports (Swimming, Track & Field, Gymnastics) that wouldn’t necessarily be considered ‘mainstream.’ Yet all five became some of the most famous American athletes of the past half-century because of their Olympic achievements. They transcended sports to become American icons. Movies. Commercials. Wheaties cereal. You name it. It’s too early to speculate whether a gold medal in golf would have this kind of impact, but it surely couldn’t hurt the popularity of the winning athlete.

Here’s Rickie Fowler back in January, when asked about the prospect of becoming an Olympian:

3. The Players Want It…Bad

Minus Scott’s comments, the overwhelming sentiment from the players is that they wanted golf as an Olympic sport, and are excited that it will be. Back in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee voted 63-27 to reinstitute golf, many of the sports biggest stars voiced their support.

“There are millions of young golfers worldwide who would be proud to represent their country. It would be an honor for anyone who plays this game to become an Olympian.” – Tiger Woods

The impact is going to be felt all over the world, which is what I’ve always felt about the game. The game is a mature game in many countries, but it never had the opportunity to grow in many others. People of all walks of life will be inspired to play the game of golf, and play for sports’ highest recognition. For all sports, that has been a gold medal.” – Jack Nicklaus

“I can dream about doing something that neither Tiger nor Ernie [Els] have ever done, and that is to make the final putt to win an Olympic gold medal. If this dream comes true, somewhere in the world there will be another 4-year-old who sees me on that podium and perhaps starts her own Olympic dream.” – Michelle Wie


1. Killing The Environment?

The golf course is being built on a section of land that was formerly part of the Marapendi Municipal Natural Park. The more than 610 acre park is used for leisure and environmental education – which is where the issues come in. According to Occupy Golf, a Brazilian organization that’s led protests for the courses construction, there are more than 300 endangered species that live on the park’s land., a nonprofit organization, published an in-depth article last summer that also dove into some of the environmental concerns.

“There is a very great opposition between what the laws say and the practice here in Brazil in the area of environmental protection,” says Brazilian Professor Fernando Walcacer. “The real estate and contracting industries have always been economically powerful [in Rio]. They are very important when it comes to financing political campaigns.”


2. Insane Financial Costs!

“Golf Olympico,” the working title for the now complete 7,350 yard par-71 course also came with great financial costs.

Joaquim Monteiro, President of Brazil’s Municipal Olympic Committee points to the fact that, “sixty percent of the budget comes from the private sector, so we are saving public money.”

But after the games, the golf course will be turned into a luxury development. The golf course itself will be public — in the sense that you don’t have to be a member to play there — but you will have to pay for access. Occupy Golf cites a lack of transparency and shady back-room dealing as one of its biggest concerns.

“The golf course scheme is just one more project that is imposed on the society here without any discussion, with no transparency,” says Orlando Santos, a professor of urban planning and management at Rio de Janeiro Federal University.


3. The Format Is Boring & Scheduling Concerns

This is where the amateur vs. professional argument comes in to play. Here’s more on Adam Scott’s comments from earlier:

“I’m not definitely ruling it out but certainly I’m not planning my schedule around playing the Olympics,” Scott said. “I’m planning my schedule around playing majors the best I can. If I can fit going to the Olympics into that, it might be a bit of fun, then lucky me if I qualify.”

What Scott says is not untrue. The Olympics are never going to be on the same level as the four major championships. Scott also went on to describe how he thinks amateurs should get a chance to compete, which in it of itself is an interesting debate – but not one that is likely to go anywhere.

The format itself could also be described as ‘nothing new.’ Both events will have 60 players competing in a 72-hole stroke play format competition for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. According to federation rules, the 60 players will be determined by an Olympic Golf Ranking list to be published on the IGF website and is based on a player’s official World Golf Ranking.

That means no interesting format (a la the Ryder Cup) or team competition. Just regular stroke play, like it’s seen week in and week out on the PGA/LPGA/European Tour. This could change for 2020, sure, but it’s locked into place for Rio next summer.


Your Voice

You’ve read our pros and cons. Now we want to know what you think. Should golf be an Olympic sport, and if so, should it be open to professional athletes or to amateurs? Do you like the stroke play format, or should it be something unique or team oriented?

What do you think of the local protests in Rio? Do you share their concerns, or do you chalk this up to the usual dissent that comes with the territory of hosting an Olympic Games?

Leave a comment below, write us on social media, or upload a video to your channel with your opinion!


1. 2016 Rio Olympic Games Qualifying Rules
2. International Golf Federation
3. Olympic Golf Course Makes Rio Greener But Turns Some Residents Red
4. Occupy Golf Website
5. World Golf Rankings – Men | Women


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