Cricket and golf are radically different sports, each having unique challenges and fitness requirements. While golf is an individual sport that can be played in teams, cricket is a team sport with many individual facets. This raises the question, which sport is tougher, golf or cricket?
Cricket is tougher than golf as batting, bowling, and fielding require more physical stamina, endurance, and mental concentration than golf. While golf also has high mental demands, cricket has a consistently higher game speed and intensity than golf.
This question is intriguing for me as I genuinely have a foot in both camps. I have a passion for golf and am at a decent standard, but I played cricket to an even higher standard.
Nonetheless, to get a better insight into why cricket is harder than golf, we need to compare the various aspects of each game like fitness, concentration, ball speeds, injuries, and strength required to play so they can be measured and weighed objectively.
So, let’s dive into the debate of golf vs. cricket and see which sport is tougher.
Golf vs. Cricket – Let’s Talk Balls!
If you have ever played cricket and faced a 5.5oz leather cannonball coming at you at 90mph, it can be pretty scary, as if it hits you, it will hurt. Unlike baseball hitting the batter with the ball is absolutely legal!
Bruises and other ball-impact injuries are common. Even relatively slow bowling can be painful if the ball hits you in certain places, which usually causes much amusement in the crowd.
Plus, batters are taught from an early age to ‘show no pain’ and rolling on the floor faining injury soccer style is fraught upon!
Not only that, but the cricket ball can swing in the air and deviate off the pitch as it bounces, depending on the bowler’s skills, leaving you very little time to react and either hit it with the bat or move out of the way.
The golf ball is much smaller, and the primary difference is that the golf ball is standing still. Unless you are downrange or unlucky enough to be standing in the crowd on the fairway and get hit, you are most unlikely to be struck by a golf ball in a lifetime of playing.
Verdict: When it comes to ball-striking, cricket is tougher than golf.
Golf vs. Cricket – Fitness
Walking 18 holes with a golf bag on a pushcart, an average person would burn between 2000-2500 calories per round and maybe a little more, depending on how straight you hit the ball. You will walk about 5 miles at a leisurely pace without ever running, unless from an alligator or a sudden storm!
Compared to a 50 over cricket match, a player will burn around 400-500 calories per hour, an 8-hour event. So, in terms of effort and energy burned, cricket expends about 3200-4000 calories per game vs. golf at 2000-2500 calories per round.
The main reason for this contrast in exertion is that cricketers must execute movements like running, fielding, and throwing at pace, while golf, although classed as exercise, is less strenuous.
With golf, you are never constantly in motion or executing the swing. It is an occasional occurrence, with about a 3-minute gap between each swing. While you may complete practice swings relative to the actions of bowling, batting, or fielding, the golf swing is relatively benign from an effort viewpoint.
For example, each cricket pitch length is 22 yards, and batsmen often cross twice or three times for a 44 yard or even 66-yard run and all of that at full pace with the helmet, leg pads, bat, arm, and thigh guards attached.
How tired would you get if you had to run to your golf ball after hitting it some 200 or so yards away? Golf would be a four-hole sport if that were the case!
Verdict: From a fitness perspective, cricket is tougher than golf.
Golf vs. Cricket – Flexibility & Strength
Being able to swing a golf club properly requires flexibility. Still, since the action is performed in a stationary position, the level of flexibility needed is not the same as that in cricket.
You do need muscle strength and core strength for golf and good lower body stability to execute the golf swing consistently and accurately.
Swinging a much heavier cricket bat and explosive running with the weight of the protective gear for batters requires both strength and flexibility.
Bowling requires shoulder strength and core and overall body strength. Fast bowlers typically ‘run up’ 15-20 yds before bowling the ball.
While fielding is about reaction times, coordination to pick up a moving ball while running, and then balance to throw on the move.
Verdict: For flexibility and strength, cricket is tougher than golf.
Golf vs. Cricket – The Mental Game
This is probably the one area where these two games are similar. Unlike other sports like rugby or soccer, golf and cricket are not continuous. They have pauses and breaks. This allows the players to mentally switch off and refocus when the next shot or ball is due.
In golf, there is a break between each stroke or swing, and in cricket, the breaks come between each ball being bowled and the overs being completed.
From a mental focus aspect, golf requires excellent concentration and planning in hole and course management.
Plus, executing the golf swing requires a singular focus and an ability to recover from poor shots or scores on a hole. Anyone who has played golf is intimately familiar with this. The pros invest a lot of time developing strong focus and mental skills. There is no doubt golf is a mental game.
Cricket is the same as the level of mental focus and hand-eye coordination to play a ball coming at you at 90mph, or the ability to throw and catch accurately takes great powers of concentration, especially at the professional level.
Verdict: On the mental level, golf and cricket are even.
Golf vs. Cricket – Injuries
Whether pro or amateur, almost every golfer will suffer some injury during their playing career. While lower back injuries are the most frequent, injuries to the elbow, shoulder, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles also occur.
This is primarily due to poor technique and overexertion during the swing and requires time off from the game for recovery.
Injuries in cricket are caused mainly by either being hit by the ball or hamstring and calf injuries from running while batting or fielding. Bowlers will often experience shoulder, wrist, elbow injuries, plus impact injuries to knees are also commonplace, caused by bowling action.
A cricket ball bowled at a high pace can be struck on the helmet, causing a concussion, or an unprotected part of the body can cause fractures, bruising, and even broken fingers and toes. At the same time, it is highly improbable that golfers will ever be at risk for such damage.
From an injury perspective, conditioning in cricket reduces the risk of injury, but nothing can prevent impact injuries which are a part of the game.
Verdict: In this category, cricket is tougher than golf.
Cricket and golf are equally challenging sports, but as you can see from the above comparisons, cricket is a tougher sport than golf, requiring greater fitness, stamina, strength, and conditioning.
The mental elements of each game are equal in terms of concentration. However, there is no question that cricket is a tougher game to play than golf as an overall sport.
So, when contemplating the whole golf vs. cricket debate, which sport do you think wins the ‘tough award?’
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