Olympic Golf: Too soon to judge success

2016 08 Olympic Golf

Take the headlines at face value and you’ll be led to believe that Olympic golf has been a massive success and that the sport belongs in the Games

Some, though, are forgetting that it’s been over 100 years since it was a part of the programme - hardly a reason to get all excited about its ‘return’.

Read more -> Justin Rose strikes gold for Team GB

But therein lies the problem with the sport venturing into new ground. I’m not against it trying something new to try and grow and modernise itself. I just utterly detest it doing so via the Olympics.
I have zero interest in cycling, rowing, judo, hockey, dancing horses... I'm just not interested.

I despise the Olympics. Always have, likely always will. I honestly just can’t fathom why people want to watch it.

Part of my disdain comes from the BBC and its Brit-centric approach to, well, pretty much everything these days. I also have zero interest in cycling, rowing, judo, hockey, dancing horses, archery, Olympic football (don’t make me laugh), swimming, falling into water (read: 'diving'), badminton, male volleyball, fencing (not a sport) table tennis and wrestling. I’m just not interested.


Golf - Olympics: Day 9 Justin Rose won the men's gold medal for Team GB

Throw in John Inverdale and you have a toxic mix of utter boredom that mainstream TV shoves down your throat for two whole weeks.

Headlines such as ‘Team GB Showed Us How To Be Modern Men’ made me want to vomit. Instead, I decamped to Netflix and Amazon Prime. I am, in case you’re interested, already looking forward to Season 2 of Preacher.

Read more -> Inbee Park claims women's golf gold

Even then, I still couldn’t escape the damn thing as our office became worryingly obsessed with all things ‘Team GB’. Not for the first time in my life, I found myself completely ostracised.

That’s when it hit me.

Maybe I’m missing the whole point about golf in the Olympics? Our own resident Olympics enthusiast and Team GB ‘supporter’ Michael McEwan says people like the Olympics “because it’s not full of fame hungry ‘celebrities’, but instead ordinary, talented folk, genuinely trying their hearts out”. Fair point.
In Sweden, more than twenty times as many people watched Henrik Stenson grab a silver medal than a Claret Jug.

Perhaps I should have opened my eyes to the fact that a rowing centre has opened near our office… and that it happens to be extremely busy.


Golf - Olympics: Day 15 The women's Olympic golf medallists: Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng

Perhaps I should have realised that my 13-year-old niece has turned her back on golf and is now mad-keen on netball after attending the opening netball matches of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Read more -> Player calls on IOC to keep golf in Games

Olympic golf was broadcast on the Golf Channel in the States and also on NBC and, judging by early reports, viewing numbers were impressive, more than any analyst had predicted. In Sweden, amazingly, more than twenty times as many people watched Henrik Stenson grab a silver medal than a Claret Jug.

I could be cynical and point out that, in the UK, you had to press the red button to watch the golf, which isn’t presenting the sport to a new audience at all. But that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t actually matter. Golf in the UK isn’t exactly dying, no matter what Jemima Lewis says with her self-proclaimed “insight and sense” in a comment piece for The Telegraph. 'Ignorance and nonsense' might be a more appropriate tagline for her ‘analysis’.
Very simply, golf was played at the Olympics and there were six medallists from six different countries. Job done - for now.

Then landed an email from an industry colleague – who shall remain nameless – which made me chuckle.

“Is there any other Rio event where the spectators are given an immediate opportunity to take up the sport? And with a professional right there to give them a lesson? Perhaps there is, but I cannot think of one…”


Golf Previews - Olympics: Day 4

That, right there, is someone clutching at a straw. Are we that starved of positives for the Olympics that we are resorting to this?

Read more -> Leadbetter roasts Rio 'no-shows'

Very simply, golf was played at the Olympics and there were six medallists from six different countries. That’s what we know. Job done – for now. The real measure of the success of golf’s participation in Rio will come in four years when the world’s best will, yet again, be asked to express an interest in taking part. Its impact will trickle down, not cascade.
If history repeats itself in Tokyo, golf will have failed its Olympic test.

Golf’s leading female professionals showed a very genuine interest in Rio, but you have to question why only four of the ten best male players opted to take part. Zika, busy schedules, tiredness, lack of interest… it doesn’t really matter. They just didn’t want to be part of it.

If history repeats itself in Tokyo in 2020 and golf’s biggest names shun the Games once again, then golf will have failed its Olympic test.

Olympic Golf: Your thoughts...

Did you watch the men's and/or women's Olympic golf events? What did you think of them? Are you for or against golf in the Games? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.

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