There are two types of people in this world. Those who appreciate the game of golf and those who are too naive to appreciate it. These people scoff at the notion of golf even being considered a sport. Golf is without doubt a sport–in fact it is the hardest sport there is.
While golf may not be the most physically demanding sport, it is the most mentally and technically challenging. Golfers have to stay focused for upwards of five hours straight to finish a round of golf. Golf tournaments are carried out over four days, so golfers are faced with the challenge of staying consistent for around twenty hours.
Even if a player can stay perfectly focused for twenty-plus hours over the course of the tournament (which is obviously near impossible) it does not necessarily mean that they will end up with a good score. The difference between a good and a bad shot is quite literally millimeters on either side of the sweet spot. If the club is pointing as little as one degree to the left or right it can send the ball flying off line. Millimeters and degrees are hardly noticeable by the human eye—not to mention the club is going over 100 miles per hour during the swing. Controlling the club at this speed with such minute accuracy makes the golf swing the most difficult movement in sport.
Not only is it easy to mess up, but there are also a lot of opportunities to mess up. The best players in the world take around 70 shots to play 18 holes and 280 total in a four round tournament. One bad shot or one bad hole can spell disaster for a golfer’s score. One mistake is all it takes.
Golf is the only sport in which the playing field is not the same each time you play. The majority of golf holes vary anywhere from 100 yards to 600 yards. Some would say golf is played on 18 completely different fields. Basketball, soccer, football and tennis for example are always played on a field that is X wide by Y long. Players in these sports don’t have to adjust to a new field every time they play. Imagine how much harder these sports would be if the size of the field was constantly changing. Players essentially only have to master one setup for their sport. No matter when or where these sports are played, the playing field is the same size.
In golf no two courses, no two holes, no two shots are ever the same. Golfers could play the same course two days in a row and basically be playing a completely different course. Besides the natural changes like wind direction, wind speed, and temperature, golf courses change the hole locations and tee locations every day. A slight change in wind direction is enough to make every single hole play very differently.
Another thing that makes golf hard is that there are so many skills within the game. Driving, iron play, chipping, and putting are all completely different and each skill has its own challenges. A weakness in one area can be very limiting to a golfer’s score. Therefore golfers must be well rounded and skilled in each aspect. Not to mention that they have to be able to use 14 clubs efficiently. Once again, even just one weak club will cause golfers endless problems.
Perhaps the hardest part of golf is that it is an individual sport. There is nobody to cover mistakes and nobody to blame other than yourself.
All these things that make golf so difficult make comparisons to other sports even more impressive. The shortest golf holes are usually no shorter than about 120 yards. A home run in baseball is about the same depending on the angle. Yet a home run is quite the feat while a 120 yard golf shot is just a short pitch. Hitting a home run with a golf club and a golf ball would be a piece of cake for most golfers.
The longest field goal of all time is 66 yards. The longest drive? That would be a whopping 515 yards. (Almost 8 times the length of the record field goal.) The fact that it is even possible to get a little white ball in a 4.25 inch hole that is over 500 yards away with multiple obstacles in between is impressive. A golf hole is only about 1/4 the size of a basketball hoop.
A five hour round is over three times the length of a soccer game so endurance and fitness is a bigger deal than most people think. Golf is an entire body sport. The golf swing activates muscles from head to toe in order to be so consistent. This is what allows PGA tour players to swing the club over 110 miles per hour. The average bat speed in the MLB is around 70 miles per hour. The average professional golfer swings the club 50 miles per hour faster than a baseball player swings their bat. A golf club is usually slightly lighter than a bat, but the amount of rotation and flexibility needed to swing even a twig that fast is still considerable.
The fastest pitch ever recorded in the MLB is 105 miles per hour. The fastest ball speed ever recorded from a golf shot is 225 miles per hour. That is more than double the speed the ball came out of the pitcher’s hand. People recognize just how impressive a 100 mile per hour fastball is but fail to appreciate how fast a golf ball is going in relation. For true perspective, a Lamborghini’s top speed is surprisingly comparable at somewhere around 217 miles per hour.