As the great American pastime, baseball has evolved over the years into one of the biggest and most popular sports in the United States of America. But, while known for attracting world-class athletes, how tough is baseball compared to golf?
While golf and baseball are very different sports, there is enough overlap that it can be said that baseball is the tougher sport. Although baseball may not be as physically demanding as other sports, the mental toughness and physicality make it harder than golf.
“Toughness” is a difficult metric upon which to measure anything due to its subjective nature. While toughness implies physical strength, agility, and raw power, it would be amiss to dismiss the need for mental and strategic toughness.
Let’s dive into the debate of golf vs. baseball and see which sport is tougher.
Golf vs. Baseball – Physical Differences
The length of a baseball game varies depending on the level and league you are playing in. Typically baseball games are broken down as follows:
- Tee-Ball: Five Innings
- Little League: Six Innings
- High School and Babe Ruth: Seven Innings
- Collegiate, Minor League, and Major League: Nine Innings
For our purposes, we will look at the upper echelon of baseball, where games lasting nine innings typically last between 2.5 and 3 hours. There are short breaks between each half-inning during this time, but no half time.
Although approximately three hours with short breaks doesn’t seem like a particularity long time, the nature of baseball is a sport that requires high intensity, explosive power for the entirety of game time.
This requires full-body movement and awareness of all the baseball players on the park, whereby, depending on the player’s position, they will be expected to bat, pitch, catch, jump, dive, sprint, pass, and possibly experience physical contact.
Consequently, baseball players have to be fast, strong, accurate, patient, and agile to perform at the highest level.
Similarly, a round of golf can last for hours depending on the time it takes for a player to complete eighteen holes, but it is a game that encourages a leisurely pace when compared to baseball’s explosive nature.
Along with ample stops, halfway house breaks, easy-to-walk courses, and the quality of life benefits such as caddies to carry golf bags or golf carts to traverse a course, the challenge of golf does not rely on one’s physical prowess.
An exception to the rule is the ban on golf carts in most competitions, but this still does not take away from the fact that, except for some golfers that look for distance off a tee shot, it is not nearly as physically demanding as baseball.
Tougher Sport: Baseball
Golf vs. Baseball – Mental Differences
The challenge with golf as an individual sport is that it is always a game of individuals vs. other individuals, except for some big tournaments (such as the Ryder Cup).
This means that you are essentially always looking to play against yourself as you reduce your strokes over the course of hours and often days during lengthy tournaments.
While including multiple team members for moral support, even team tournaments cannot play or strategize each team member to an individual’s advantage.
Instead, each golfer must complete a full round of golf by themselves, whereafter the scores are tallied up to determine which team won.
Further to the challenges of golf as an individual sport, golf is all about consistency, whether over a lifetime or simply from shot to shot.
A poor shot can ruin a hole, round, or even an entire tournament for a golfer. Consequently, these small mistakes can snowball into flustered players if they cannot handle the pressure of playing golf competitively.
Therefore golfers need to be confident, calm, and precise with every shot they take and the subsequent result from the shot.
While being a team sport, baseball is unique in that, although there may be a team to provide mental support to one another, a lot of the performances in question are individual (particular depending on the position and context).
Furthermore, “failure” is almost part of the game as it is deliberately designed to be as mentally and physically taxing in short spaces of time. Meaning how you deal with these failures is essential to performing individually and as a team.
For example, some of the best batters in the world have a 30% strike rate, meaning 70% of swings are essentially a miss or a failure!
Consequently, while at face value, golf and baseball would not have a lot in common from a mental perspective, there is a lot of overlap and toughness needed in both sports.
Tougher Sport: Golf (albeit marginally)
Golf vs. Baseball – The Swing
When comparing golf and baseball, it would be wrong not to talk about the golf swing vs. the baseball swing.
Both swings have the same essential components of the backswing, downswing, contact, follow-through and crucially, repeatability.
The significant difference is, of course, that in baseball, you’re hitting a moving ball, swinging roughly on a horizontal path to the ground. In golf, the ball is stationary, and you swing on an almost vertical path.
My youngest son, who has played baseball at international youth level, has never had a problem switching to swinging a golf club and has a much more natural draw shape shot. In contrast, my eldest son and I, who have played lots of cricket, play left-handed and always fade!
Tougher Sport: Baseball
Golf vs. Baseball – Strategic Differences
Golf is an incredibly strategic sport, as the various weather conditions, club options, and different courses present multiple challenges for golfers to overcome.
For this reason, top golfers all have professional caddies to help them strategize and determine the best choice of club and stroke for every shot during a tournament – not to mention other professional staff such as coaches and analysts.
However, while numerous dynamics of golf require an on-the-fly strategy, the use of consistent courses and tested shots means that the individual strategies being employed fall squarely on one person who can adjust their game.
On the other hand, baseball is a team sport, whereby whole coaching teams need to employ different strategies depending on the style of play they want their team to employ and depending on the supposed strategies of the opposition.
However, unlike the dynamic nature of other team sports, baseball is fairly static. While this may imply that strategies do not ebb and flow like basketball or ice hockey, they still shift throughout a game.
This is of particular importance when considering the roles of coaches and teammates using hand signals for on-the-go team dynamics and what the pitcher should employ during their windup.
In conclusion, while golf is certainly a challenging sport from a strategic perspective, the holistic nature of baseball as a team sport means that it narrowly takes the edge over golf.
Tougher Sport: Baseball (albeit marginally)
Although it is a tight contest that is up for debate, particularly when considering the level each sport is being played at and by whom, the above would suggest that baseball is a marginally tougher sport than golf.
When contemplating the whole golf vs. baseball debate, which sport do you think wins the ‘tough award?’
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