Re: Golf #51 on ESPN's list of hardest sports.The list is obviously a little more slanted toward the casual than the professional level. Because, let's face it, compared to skating or snowboarding or skiing, or even baseball, almost everyone with some semblance of hand-eye coordination can hit a ball sitting still on the ground with a stick. And while it may not be a good hit, at least they hit it. That's more enjoyable than swinging at three thrown baseballs and missing each time, or standing on a surfboard or skateboard and just falling off or yes even not getting the hand of how hard to hit the table tennis ball and constantly having to run after it.
Golf is among the simplest in terms of just picking up some equipment somewhere and trying it out and having at least a modicum of success and enjoyment. Before I got serious about my game, I just plain sucked, I have no qualms about admitting that. But, I enjoyed playing those 1 or 2 times a year that I went out, and that was enough.
The other sports underneath golf are similar. Take bowling for example. I only bowl once or twice a year, don't have my own shoes or balls or towels or anything. And with rented shoes and an alley ball and the lanes after several hours of league play, I can still roll a 150 most of the time, and hit 200 once in a while after I find my groove again. In terms of just picking up the equipment and going out and having fun, bowling is easier than even golf. Billiards/pool is similar. Go out, have a few beers and put some quarters into the poor table and smack a rack around once in a while. No one I know has their own cue or table or anything, but that doesn't stop us from enjoying ourselves on the pool table and hitting some pretty good shots once in a while.
This is how the list is arranged, not in terms of difficulty at the pro/top levels. That would be an interesting discussion. Just to spark some discussion, I'm not sure that the mental game of golf is actually much harder than some other games. Pitching in baseball is largely a product of concentration. And the same sort of things happen: You can hit a good drive in golf, and the ball hits a sprinkler head right in the dead middle of the fairway, the ball takes a large bounce and goes OOB. In baseball, you can make a perfect pitch, get the batter off balance and they just flop their bat out there, and the ball lands between 3 fielders for a single. Both cases perfect execution on the part of the athlete, but just rotten luck. That pitcher has to put that luck out of his mind and concentrate on the next batter, just like the golfer has to concentrate on each shot at hand. A hockey goalie's job is largely about concentration. Same thing for gymnasts, and track and field and ski jumpers and many other sports. Sure, the physical demands are there, but at the top level of the sports the physical differences usually aren't all that big. The concentration levels on executing the task perfectly on time every time is the difference between 1st place and 21st place.