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Since when has golf been an Olympic sport and why?

Ahead of the golf tournament at Tokyo 2020, we reflect back on the history of the sport as an event at the Olympic Games.

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Since when is golf an olympic sport and why?
Mike Ehrmann Getty Images

Thursday 29 July 2021 sees the start of the Olympic Games Men's Golf Competition, which is being held at the Kasumigaseki Country Club's East Course, located about 35 miles outside downtown Tokyo. But how often has the sport featured at the Games? We dust off our history books and have a look…

Golf’s 112-year wait for Olympic return

Rio de Janeiro saw golf make its return to the Games in 2016 after a 112-year absence. And although 35 countries are going to be represented by at least one player this week, none of the three medalists from Brazil’s tournament - namely Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar - have qualified for this year's event.

Out of the 60-player field on the men's side, top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain was forced to withdraw due to a positive covid-19 test while No. 2 Dustin Johnson chose not to compete, leaving The Open champion Collin Morikawa as the pre-event favourite. The United States is the only country that had four players qualify (Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau), but DeChambeau was replaced by Patrick Reed after joining Rahm on the covid-19 out list. Reed is the only American to play in each of the past two Olympics but due to the late change and testing protocols, he has not had any practice time on the course.

The event format is four rounds of stroke play, with the top-3 finishers winning medals.

Team USA: women's golf at Tokyo 2020

Four players will also represent the US in the women's golf competition, as Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda push for glory on behalf of Team USA.

The 22-year-old Korda is currently the No. 1 player in the latest world gold rankings and is hotly tipped for medal success in Tokyo. The American will face fierce competition however from the South Korean pair of Inbee Park and Sei Young Kim.

Olympic golf in 1900

Way back at the start of the 20th century, the Games of Paris, France, including golf as one of its 19 different sports. Both men and women’s competitions were held with Charles Sands representing the USA picking up the gold medal ahead of two British players. In the women’s shorter competition, notable that it was the first time women had been included in the Olympics, it was also gold for the USA thanks to Margaret Abbott.

Four years later, in 1904, small flags were carefully placed in 18 chosen holes in St. Louis, Missouri, but this time it was only men that were included in the event schedule. Canada’s George Lyon finished in front of Chandler Egan and Burt McKinne (both from the US) to win individual gold, however, all three medals in the team competition were won by the USA.