ARE GOLFERS ATHLETES?

I’ve never taken a survey but I think most of my friends in the sports media would argue that PGA golfers are not athletes.

They’re wrong.

I’ve found that most if not all of the people who make that claim either don’t play golf or shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a golf course.

How could anybody watch Tiger Woods’ second shot on number 16 at Pebble Beach yesterday and not realize that it took a ridiculous amount of athletic ability?

He was 260 yards from the hole and had a tree branch blocking his line. Most players would have tried to punch a low line drive and try to run it up as close to the green as possible.

Woods took out a three wood and sent it out low enough to miss the tree and got it to within 15 feet of the hole.

If that’s not athleticism, what is it?

It took tremendous hand-eye coordination, timing, strength and body control.

The non-believers like to look at guys like John Daly and Craig Stadler and say they’re not athletes because they have 48 inch waists.

They’re not athletes in the same way that Michael Jordan is an athlete, but what they have to do with their hands, arms and hips takes other worldly coordination.

Near the end of NBC’s telecast last night they showed a super slo-mo of  third round leader Dustin Johnson’s swing. Only an idiot woulod suggest that it’s not an athletic thing of beauty.

  • mickey

    athletes yes but the lowest form

    what other sport can you play as a pro while being a senior citizen?

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      OK. But don’t come in here and compare Tiger Woods to Minnesota Fats. That’s absurd.

      • Ochotexto

        I wouldn’t minimize fat guys as athletes either.
        Dont be so fast to dismiss guys like Casey Hamp, Haynesworth, etc…., those guys are oft fast, quick, light on their feet, well coordinated and were prob 3 or 4 sport stars in high school. Way better athletes than Irish guy who won the US Open.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          In a tackle football game I’d pick Hampton. If it’s touch or flag football, he’d be the last guy picked, Tom Watson might be picked ahead of him.

          • Ochotexto

            I hope your kidding. Big Hamp can dunk.
            I’m with my buddy Ken on this one., Babe Ruth may have been the greatest athlete ever. No golfer in the Top 1000. They are their own species.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            If Hamp had been around for a touch football game with my xcrew, he would have been the last guy picked. We didn’t need a slow, fat nose tackle.

          • Ochotexto

            He ain’t slow. And you couldn’t block him using a sledgehammer.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I’m talking about touch football. Different game. He would be useless.

          • Ochotexto

            I give up and will allow you the Walter Mitty moment.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            OK. Sorry. I played in a lot of touch and flag football leagues and never played with or against a 350 pound player. Useless.

  • Ochotexto

    Building a cement wall and painting it requires skill, strength, hand eye, dedication, practice, etc…., no athleticism. I love golf and respect the skill involved ., etc…., I just think they are their own entity. Golf is still a sport .
    Jugglers/ trapeze artists at the circus are athletes ., but don’t participate in sport. Just my humble opinion.
    JS., if you replaced the word “athleticism” with “skill” I’d agree with everything you say.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Trapeze artists are tremendous athletes. The golf swing required to compete at the PGA level requires athleticism. Comparing Tiger Woods hitting a ball 265 yards with a fade off a side hill lie after he had to allow for a tree in front of him is ridiculous.

  • Mike V.

    That chubby one who ruined the course in Caddy Shack didn’t seem that athletic to me.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      How about Adam Sandler…..now that was an athletic swing.

      • Mike V.

        (Scottish accent)…”I said gopher, not golfer!”

        • Ryan

          The only thing I like about golf is Caddyshack. Although if someone put a gun to my head I’d watch golf over soccer. But nobody did so I watched neither this weekend.

  • Paul

    I think there are 2 ends to the athletic spectrum. On one end, you have hand eye coordination (let’s say that’s a 0 just for visual) and the other end has brute strength (10).

    Then I’d say that golf was somewhere around a 1. Weightlifting a 10. Offensive lineman an 8. Hockey a 5- depends on the player though. And I’d go with baseball being a 2 possibly 3.

    I just thought this up a minute ago- hope it makes some kind of sense.

  • Chuck

    What about if that ran after their ball instead of walking to the next shot? Would they be considered athletes then?

    At that level, I don’t care if they are 300 pounds. If they can swing and hit the golf ball 300-plus yards with accuracy, they are athletes.

  • Ken

    I think people tend to think “athlete” and they think only “run, jump, throw.” Different sports require different skill sets. Golf requires hand-eye coordination, balance, muscle control. Golf is a sport, it’s participants are athletes in their own right.

    A lot of athletes from other sports are fine golfers. We see that because there are such things as celebrity tournaments and you see Mario and Rick Rhoden and Tony Romo putting up respectable scores.. However, a lot of pro golfers also were good at other sports as well, sometimes playing them in college (Hale Irwin was a defensive back in college). Golfers may play pickup basketball or other sports, but unlike celebrity golf, the public doesnt see that.

    A lot of skills translate between sports, and pro athlete are often good at more than just the sport that they’re known for.

    Charles Barkley is an athlete. Ever see him try to play golf? It’s pathetic. But a lot of the PGA guys, particularly the younger ones, can probably play basketball without utterly embarassing themselves.

    Golf has a particular skill set. But so does cycling or running. Bicyclists and runners do one thing really well. If they’re athletes, so are golfers.

  • http://sh Carl Marx

    That beautiful athletic swing did’t do so well for Dustin Johnson on sunday…CHOKE!

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      One of the all time gags. That athletic swing is a fragile thing.

  • Matt

    They are no less athletes than baseball players.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I disagree with that, too. John Daly is not as good an athlete as Andrew McCutchen. Sorry. But that’s not the point. I’m not comparing golfers to other athletes. I’m saying that a good golf swing, the kind that’s required to play on the PGA tour requires athleticism.

      • Ryan

        What has always driven me nuts is when golf and tennis are considered to be similar. The athleticism shown by pro tennis players is 100 times that of a pro golfer. The hand/eye coordination of somebody hitting a stationary golf ball and somebody hitting a tennis ball at 100 MPH is not even close. All pro tennis players are great athletes. Golfers are just golfers.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          Tennis players should consider themselves fortunate that the great athletes who play baseball, football and basketball didn’t choose tennis Tennis at a high level takes tremendous athletic ability. That doesn’t change the fact that golf at a high level requires athletic ability.

          • Ryan

            I think my frustration also comes from when I was growing up. Some golfers I knew actually called tennis a “sissy sport”. I still can’t believe that!

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            They never played it. Just as the people who discount the athleticsm needed for high level golf have either never played it or are incapable of hitting a ball 100 yards in a straight line.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com Rob H.

            Couldn’t the same thing be said about hockey?

      • Matt

        Is John Kruk has much of an athlete as Tiger? What about Cecil Fielder? Babe Ruth? Hitting a baseball and a golf ball are both similar “skills” that don’t necessarily require the actor to be any more athletic than the mechanics of the swing.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          Nothing is more ridiculous than to suggest that the fact that the ball is not moving makes golf easier. Athleticism aside, no sport is as hard to play at the highest level than golf. Those guys who played Pebble this weekend have mastered their game better than any players in any other sport. In my humble opinion, of course.

        • Ken

          Babe Ruth gets a bad rap because we only see him in grainy old videos and because not many people are alive that saw him play.

          He gained weight later in his career, but he wasn’t fat until the tail end of it, He did have kind of a barrel-chested physique.

          The fact is, he was a tremendous athlete. He wasn’t just some fat guy who could hit a ball. He was a hall-of-fame caliber pitcher before he moved to the outfield so that he could play and hit every day. He could run and was a fine outfielder.

          If you’re thinking that he looked anything like John Goodman did when he played Ruth in a movie, you’re way off.

        • saneman

          Kruk could only hit. The fact that he wasn’t athletic enough hurt him overall as a baseball player in areas such as running, or even defense. While fat guys can play decent defense in baseball, I am sure they can play better defense if they lost weight.

  • Ochotexto

    I loved the US Open and rooted for the eventual winner Graeme McDowell. A great performance and a deserved champion. That said every guy on the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates are better athletes than him. And so were possibly Sam McDowell, Bishop McDowell, Andi MacDowell, and RoddyMcDowell.

    • saneman

      Are you sure about Iwamura being a better athlete than him? Ohhh I keed!

  • Mike V.

    Golf requires hand/eye coordination. It requires balance. It requires strength. It requires stamina. People compete against one another. It is a sport and it takes athletic ability to play it.

    With that said, I don’t think is is a strenuous sport or more professionals would be hurt playing it.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I didn’t say anything about strenuous.

  • VinceL

    Some golfers,like Tiger, could excel at many sports.No question golf takes some athletic ability but if you took golfers and had them compete in a decathlon against players from other sports I don’t think they would fare well.Athletes or not I can’t sit and watch golf on TV.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I’m not comparing golf to the decathlon. I’m just saying that hitting a 3 wood 265 yards and making it turn either left or right is an athletic move. It ain’t pole vaulting. I agree. I also feel sorry for anybody who can’t enjoy the U.S. Open on TV. The last two days were tremendous.

  • Scootermojo

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree. Golf is a skill but not highly athletic…especially compared to other sports such as hockey, baseball, basketball, track and field, etc. I would put it along the same lines as billiards…a very tough skill. I grew up in my teens and early 20’s playing pool regularly and golfed at least twice a week in my late teens early 20’s for many years and I can honestly say I found pool much tougher…especially playing someone who knew what they were doing. In fact, billiards and golf are basically similar in many regards in that in takes muscle memory and the act of controlling a ball to put it where you want…which highly skilled players in both endeavors do.

    I’m sure if you ask Cheater Woods he’d tell you golf is more athletic than hockey…this coming from the idiot was said he didn’t think anyone watched hockey anymore when asked his opinion of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. How nice is it to see his arrogant ass lose face this past year?

    I think a great deal of people put golf on this pedestal because of Woods and exact same reason Obama gets a free pass on a good bit of criticism he deserves. We all know the reason they both get that free pass but nobody wants to say that reason since we’ll be slapped with a label.

    Nah, I’m just not buying it that golf is highly athletic…I respect the SKILL it takes…but pales in comparison to other sports in terms of athletic ability.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      There is no way you can compare anything done on a pool table to what Woods did on number 16 yesterday.

      • David McGwire

        John is right about not comparing a pool player to a golfer, but something he said in the origional post caught my attention.

        “They’re not athletes in the same way that Michael Jordan is an athlete, but what they have to do with their hands, arms and hips takes other worldly coordination.”

        That made me think of an rock and roll drummer or guitar player. I am now thinking being a good golfer is closer to being an accomplished musician than an athlete. I don’t consider a great drummer an athlete, so for me the same goes for golfers.

        That doesn’t mean all golfers are unathletic….just like all drummers aren’t necessarily unathletic.

        Just a thought

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          There’s no way you can compare what a drummer or a guitar player does to that shot that Woods made on 16. You just can’t. And you can’t compare it to what all of the guys playing at Pebble Beach are doing.

          • Scootermojo

            John, I think it’s an excellent comparison the drummer to golfer thing. I played drums for 15 years, numerous live shows in the local area and recorded 4 full length CD”s…and the reason I gravitated towards drums was because I found it more athletic than other instruments.

            Tell me this isn’t athletic and in the same vein as a golfer…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR8l0koXCcM

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I played some drums and I agree there’s a little ahtleticism there. Not like the kind needed to make that shot Tiger made yesterday.

          • Ochotexto

            Tigers shot was incredible but next week he can get his ass kicked by a 70 yr old.Try and remember the guys on all your high school golf teams.
            They were their own animal., rarely did any of them thrive in other sports or were guys you’d even want on your pick up team. And I’m not diminishing golf or the skill involved., Its a bitch., I just don’t consider it an athletic endeavor. Like in bowling., i know guys who play better the more they drink. Highly skilled performers they are., not athletes. If you were a 13 handicap JS(we know that means 18) ., then Michelle Wie is a superior athlete to you ?

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I was a 13. if I were going to lie I would say I was an 18. Especially since I started my comeback today after a 10 year layoff. Eddie Johnston is 70 and he’s scratch. And I guarantee you he would tell you that it’s ahtleticism that makes him so good. So would Lemieux who’s also scratch. His swing is a thing of beauty.

  • Ochotexto

    I highly respect the great skill and precision possessed by golfers. Anyone that’s played can attest to it’s difficulty. That all said I consider golf a sport but I still don’t think the participants are athletes. They are their own entity somewhat like field goal kickers and some baseball pitchers. Didn’t Tom Watson almost win a major last year at like the age of69? Thats like Terry Bradshaw coming back to play QB.And if golfers are athletes then I guess we’d have toinclude pro bowlers and pool players., no ? Tiger is a freak athlete who happens to golf., the two being mutually exclusive., he could smoke cigarettes and drink beer on the course and still dominate. Many beer bellied golfers in the past thrived., including a young Jack. The current guys are in shape moreso for vanity and sponsorship. Great game., great sport., but until they start running, jumping, hitting moving objects, and throwing they aren’t athletes.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      We disagree. To cpmare hitting a golf ball 350 yards to playing pool is ridiculous. There’s also athleticism involved in bowling. Not a lot, but some. One of the things that makes hitting a golf ball is that it’s not moving. My point is that the size of a guys beer belly is irrelevant. Golf involves hand-eye coordination, and tremendous muscle control. I’ve taken a lot of lessons and never got below a 13 handicap, but I know what a goof golf swing is and when I see PGA guys’ swings in slow-mo, there’s no doubt in my mind that what they are doing is athletic.

      • http://justwatchthegame.com Bobzilla

        When I think of athletic, I think of someone with endurance, grace, speed and agility. Lynn Swann was athletic. Casey Hampton, not so much. Yet both either played or plays football.
        While Tiger Woods may have excelled in another sport, just as Muhammad Ali would have, his current profession doesn’t require him to be particulary graceful, or fast, or quick, or to have an abundance of endurance.
        Minnesota Fats probably was closer to being Casey Hampton than to Lynn Swann.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          I don’t know how anybody who has ever picked up a golf club could not appreciate the ahtleticism of those guys playing this weekend.

  • http://justwatchthegame.com Bobzilla

    Tiger Woods is the exception. He works out (maybe also injects some ‘roids) in order to look good for HIS ladies.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      He’s an exceptional golfer but he’s not the only athlete out there.

  • Jason C

    I agree, i think they are, but heres another question that i like to ask people, are nascar drivers athletes?

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I don’t know.

      • David McGwire

        Being an athlete is hard to define because so many professional athletes aren’t good at anything else athletic besides their chosen sport. So would that be more a skill than being athletic, I don’t know.

        What I mean is….take a look at guys like Lance Armstrong or Carl Lewis….awesome athletes in my opinion….but if you watch video’s of them throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game….they look like your 6 year old sister. They talk about Herschel Walker in the book “Boys Will Be Boys” and say that he wasn’t coordinated enough to dribble a basketball 5 times in a row.

        Does that mean that they weren’t athletes?

        In my opinion, while being athletic certainly helps your golf game it’s not a necessity. So instead of putting all golfers under the umbrella of being athletes, we should talk on a case to case basis.

        One of my best friends is an unbelievable golfer, but outside of golf he’s a complete nerd absent of any sort of athleticism what so ever.

        Also, in regards to athletics and golf….most of my fathers friends (mid 50’s) are better golfers now than they were in their 20’s….How in the world could someone be better at anything considered athletic in their 50’s than they were in their 20’s?

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          All very good points. I know a couple of people who can’t throw a ball 20 feet and are good golfers. I’ve also seen all pro athletes who can’t get a golf ball off the ground. I just came back from the driving range. It’s the first time I’ve hit a golf ball in 10 years. I quit cold turkey in 2000 because of my knee and literally had not hit a ball until an hour ago. I actually hit the ball well. I made the snap decision to “come outof retirement” last night while watching the Open.