When Golf was announced as returning to the Olympics after over a hundred years away we didn’t think it would cause this much controversy. The IOC is handing a Holy Grail to Golf to expand interest and participation, but it seems some pros are split about whether it is a good idea. Golf will definitely be part of the Olympics for Rio and Tokyo, and for the first time since 1904 eyes will be focused on the Campo Olímpico de Golfe.
The mens field has faced soome controversy in the last few weeks with the dropping out of soome of the biggest stars such as Adam Scott. The biggest country affected is South Africa whose arguably two top golfers have anbnounced they will not play in Rio. Louis Oosthuizen and Charles Schwartzel announced that their schedule and personal issues will not allow for them to compete. Their Olympic captain Gary Player has championed Golf at the Olympics and feels his players are letting the sport down. Adam Scott got a less than courteous reception when he ruled himself out from former Aussie Olympian Swimmer Dawn Fraser on twitter.
Another Olympic Swimmer David Wilkie thinks it makes no sense to have Golf in the Olympics to increase appeal that is already there. He also doesn’t think Golf is the right choice for some nations. “You just have to go to those underdeveloped countries in terms of golf and look at the amount of money it would take to build a golf course and the destruction it would cause to forests. It’s utter rubbish to pretend that, by making golf part of the Olympic Games, you’re going to attract a poor guy in India to play. They just can’t afford it. Golf doesn’t need any stimulation. It doesn’t need a wider audience and, if people in these countries are going to play golf, it’ll never, ever filter down to the poorer people. So I think what they’re saying is absolute bulls**t.”
While the arguments continue in the men’s game the Women’s looks far more calm and healthy, although one nation seems to dominate. South Korea will have the maximum 4 players in the tournament and all four will be from the world’s top eight. Americas two will likely be Lexi thompson and Stacy Lewis. It is 19 year old Lydia Ko though that is expected to take home the first Women’s Golf gold medal. The Olympics has already had a positive effect on the women’s place in the sport especially. While the men fight over whether Olympics are worth more than professional money the women’s game has benefited in that Augusta and the R&A are no longer single sex clubs in direct actions due to Golf being at Rio.
Golf is hoping to emulate Tennis which has a similiar season of four majors but every 4 years a fifth is now played for. Federer and Andy Murray in London proved that they take it seriously and the impact on Tennis can be seen. Since its inclusion in Seoul in 1988 the Davis Cup has increased from 74 nations to 135!
At least the course seems to be ready with Rio’s coastal winds likely to make an interesting competition. The course which was designed by Gil Hange has received positive reviews and compared to the Royal Melbourne Course. Unfortunately professional greed has meant that not all the world’s best will be present, but as long as no more pull out and create a farce, Golf should benefit from the new coverage and the world’s top players will be necessary to create the buzz.