DEAR International Olympic Committee,

I write on behalf of tour professionals the world over.

What did you expect? Seriously, after giving golf the cold shoulder for 112 years did you really think every top pro golfer on the planet would want to drop everything and jet off to a place far away where they had to frantically purpose-build a golf course good enough to hold a tournament?

According to the official Rio 2016 website, that’s exactly what you thought.

“In Rio, the world’s best golfers will be part of the Olympic Games for the first time in more than a century, and the lure of a gold medal is sure to attract the sport’s biggest names,” you declare on

Don’t be so sure. World No.7 Adam Scott has no interest. Never did. World No.13 Louis Oosthuizen pulled the pin early too, while fellow South African Charl Schwartzel also publicly declined the honour. Even 53-year-old Fijian legend Vijay Singh – a man whose resume has just about everything except Olympic gold – has withdrawn from the Games. So just how strong is this lure of gold you mentioned? For the above four – three of which have won green jackets and the other desperately unlucky not to have – it’s anything but.

It’s great that golf is back in the Olympics. It really is. When you look at the globalisation of the sport, particularly in southeast Asia over the past decade, golf certainly merits involvement on the world’s biggest sporting stage.

It’s just unfortunate that there have been some notable flaws in its re-entry. But, while too late to amend before August, valuable lessons can still be learnt for Tokyo 2020. Here are some points for consideration:

1. Not the time, nor the place

Greg Norman was spot on when he expressed his concern at golf being reintroduced in a country not overly familiar with the sport. The fact they had to purpose-build a course specifically for the Games was the first red flag. Running commentary suggesting it may not be ready in time was another. Those who have seen the final product rate Gil Hanse’s design work highly, but holding off for another four years so golf-crazed Japan could take the lead, or better yet, teeing off at London in 2012 on a famed British Open rota course would have been far more appropriate.

The August scheduling is also a horror show, not that there’s much you can do about that. But the demand for players to cram three Majors, the Olympics and the Ryder Cup inside four months is unrealistic and could prove to be a catalyst for further withdrawals.

2. The format’s a fizzer with non-golfers

You guys have missed a golden opportunity to create Olympic drama by not enforcing matchplay as the tournament format. If the Ryder Cup has told us anything, it’s that matchplay golf – and the international camaraderie, passion and pressure it evokes – keeps viewers, golf lovers or not, enthralled in the action. The traditional 72-hole strokeplay format is largely unappealing and tiresome for sports fans not addicted to golf, and should be left to the tours.

3. Follow boxing’s lead

We don’t see Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao going toe-to-toe in the boxing ring for gold because, in boxing, nothing compares to the numerous world championship belts on offer. It’s the same with golf. Our athletes have grown up watching their heroes don the green jacket, lift the Auld Claret Jug and drink from the US Open and Wanamaker trophies. As such they have never aspired to be Olympians. So what’s the solution here?  It’s simple – let the world’s best amateur golfers vie for Olympic gold and throw in the ultimate sweetener – a ticket to every Major championship the following year for both the men’s and women’s gold medallists. It would be a landmark move for amateur golf – and would give both the participants and IOC a better understanding of why pro golfers like Scott don’t put the Olympics on the same podium as golf’s ‘Big Four’.

Ultimately, what you need to understand is the lure of representing your country holds no value for athletes who do it 365 days a year. Unlike a lot Olympic sports, golf has no domestic competition at the elite level. It’s purely you versus the world. It’s why we have the flag or abbreviation of each player’s country next to their name on leaderboards every week.

Following the latest player withdrawal announcements, International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson tried to counter, saying, “Real history will be made at this year’s Olympic competitions, and it is our belief that the unique experience of competing will live forever with athletes that take part.”

Perhaps that premise is still up for debate.
Yours sincerely,

Brad Clifton

Editor-in-Chief, Australian Golf Digest