With a slew of competition for spots at the Olympic games, golf has never had it easy. With so many sporting categories, the Olympic Committee has to go by a number of criteria when choosing the roster, including but not limited to television ratings, spectator interest, and commercial success.
But in Rio 2016, there seems to have been a shift. The game made its comeback after a 100-year absence at the Games, which is news within itself. The interest and excitement surrounding golf in Rio was perhaps surprising to many. Rio had to build a golf course, for one thing, and there was no planned infrastructure for it. Not to mention there seemed to be little interest in the game in that part of the globe up to that point.
Justin Rose, one of Britain’s star golfers and gold medalists in this year’s Olympics, believes the public’s interest in golf was unprecedented by his experience. And Peter Dawson, President if the International Golf Federation says, “Our performance in Rio is just going to help us.” He also mentioned that people on the committee “suddenly realize what a great game golf is and what a show we’ve put on here.” He believes that golf will tick “many, many boxes” when it comes to the Olympic Committee’s cutting room floor.
However, the true nature of golf’s overall boost in popularity at the Olympics may reach beyond the competition. Coverage of the Games on the Golf Channel and NBC ranked as the second-highest rated 90-minute slot of final round golf coverage for the entire year at an average of 8.8 million viewers. It only ranked behind the Masters. The final round of the men’s galleries sold out. In Brazil, where golf is hardly a common sport, that’s a big deal.
Women golfers didn’t shirk on creating further excitement in Rio this year either. The final competition for the silver and bronze medals came down to the last hole.
Though golf has undoubtedly risen in Olympic popularity, a final decision on whether or not it will continue in the Games won’t be made until September of 2017, when the Committee concludes its plans for 2020 and beyond. But its return, and the overall positive reaction to its return, is positive for golf in general, allowing it to reach many people and make them curious about getting involved all over the world.