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What’s with golf and US presidents?

Jack Nicklaus’ recent endorsement of Donald Trump further illustrates the bond between the greens and the White House.

October 31, 2020 / 04:16 PM IST
Donald Trump. (AP Photo)

Donald Trump. (AP Photo)

The relationship US presidents have with China or Russia may keep changing but they have always had strong ties to golf. No POTUS ever said to his caddy, “Due to the Doklam standoff and rising price of crude oil, our game is off.”

Recently, Jack Nicklaus, the winner of a record 18 golf majors, tweeted his support for Donald Trump. It reminded the world of the bond between golf and the White House.

Trump is the 16th of the last 19 US presidents to play golf, according to data. And he is good at it, despite the mini-McDonalds around his waist. Golf Digest rated him as the best of all the US presidents. As of 2016, Trump also owned 17 courses in the US and overseas.

Critics have seen Trump’s fairway outings as negligence of duty. In August 2016, when Trump was running for office, he had gotten carried away and said, “If I win I may never see my property— I may never see these places again. Because I'm going to be working for you, I'm not going to have time to go golfing, believe me. Believe me, folks."

Folks did not believe him and they were right. There are entire websites that log presidential golf activity, like rangers track bear movements. (Be careful, Donald, your caddy might be a CNN reporter in disguise.) And by now it is obvious Trump has played far more while in office than Barack Obama, the very man he criticized for the frequency of his golfing escapes.


According to Golf Digest, Obama played more than 330 rounds during his eight years as the leader of the golfing world. But CNN reported that by May 2020, just three years into his presidency, Trump had already made 266 trips to the greens. Trump did not deny that he likes his golf but said he played shorter durations than Obama.

Neither Trump nor Obama, however, come close to Woodrow Wilson. According to records, Wilson played more than 1,000 rounds in six years as the president (1913-1919). Wilson would even play in the snow, with balls painted red or black for easy identification.

It was just as well because the poor man was not that good, despite all the hours he spent on the game. Caddies and secret service agents would therefore have to retrieve balls from wherever their boss mishit them, including from the feet of bellowing dinosaurs, considering this was the early 20th century.

The man who is credited with making golf the president’s game is Dwight Eisenhower. He played every morning and had a putting green in his office, from where he would give dictation to his secretary. Eisenhower was also friends with golfing great Arnold Palmer. According to CNN, this grew the popularity of the sport in the country.

Trump would raise his 9-iron to that and say, “Make America Golf Again.”
Akshay Sawai
first published: Oct 31, 2020 04:16 pm
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