I usually smile when I read something about the golfing US-president. That’s because most of the reports are created either by republican haters or at least by golf magazines which point out how often the president goes golfing during office. And I have to admit that I’m quite jealous as well to see how often Barack Obama can manage to get out on a course in his job. But I guess when you are one of the most powerful people in the world, who would stop you..?
Obviously he’s not playing in regular country clubs down the road, the majority of his golfing time he spends on Air Force or Navy bases which usually offer extensive leisure facilities such as golf courses and are at the same time well secured.
For a list of president Barack Obama’s golf rounds since he took office, please check out this website (www.obamagolfcounter.com) but be reminded that the guy who takes down every round for that page is far from being a democratic golf enthusiast and Obama fan—apparently he’s exactly the opposite.
OK, Barack Obama golfs a lot and even when he’s not on the course, his thoughts seem to involve golf from time to time (as you can see in the picture above). Reportedly the president has around 200 rounds of golf under his belt since taking office. That sounds a lot and you have to assess on your own whether you believe this is too much for a person in his position or not.
Broken down to the 73 months since he took over the presidency from fellow golfer George W. Bush, that makes up to an average of 2.73 rounds per month. And to be honest, I personally try to golf more than that, but I have to pause during winter whereas the Unites States offer sunshine all-year round, just a quick flight from Washington with Air Force One or Marine One I reckon.
Leaving all political arguments aside why this behaviour could be sub-optimal in times of crises, I believe every person on the planet deserves a little bit of enjoyment, be it party, hobbies, etc. As the US-president barely leaves the house without reason or public speech to give, I think he absolutely deserves his rounds of golf (what he does not deserve though is the discussion around it). And just for the records: I would make myself available if he’d ask me to play with him. Especially because I heard he’s not very good at it (that’s at least what Michael Jordan believes) and I could win a dollar or two if we’d throw in some bucks. So Barack, call me, or leave me a message :)
To do some number crunching: 82% or 14 out of 17 presidents played golf during their time in the White House. Some of them were very keen golfers and even as addicted to the game as others who don’t have to run a complete country. Eisenhower played 800 rounds, Wilson even 1,200 rounds of golf during their presidency. And these guys were even allowed to play courses like Augusta National, Cypress Point and others. Eisenhower had even built a putting green in the garden of the White House which still exists and which gives Obama and vice-president Biden a chance to practice some putting and short-game skills.
When I look back and think about all US-presidents which ruled over the last 30 years, I don’t think there was one who didn’t golf at all.
And when US-republican politicians were honest to themselves or their peers, they would love to play golf as much as possible, too. In the end it’s their game… or as Mike Rothschild says: “Whether you agree or disagree with these criticisms is entirely up to you. But the math is clear: many presidents before Obama played golf, with some playing much more and some playing much less. As a hobby goes, this one is about as typical as you can get.”
I’m starting to think about Angela Merkel on a golf course… nah, doesn’t work!
William Taft (1909-13): was a 20 handicap and — to the chagrin of his playing companions — was said to always play out every hole. While in office, Taft celebrated the completion of the Connecticut Avenue bridge over Rock Creek Park because it allowed him quicker access to the Chevy Chase Club.
Woodrow Wilson (1913-21): Under orders of his doctor and playing partner Dr. Cary Grayson, Wilson played as much as possible, logging more than 1,000 rounds while in office. He even had balls painted black so he could play in the snow. But all that golf never helped Wilson improve as he rarely broke 100. Arteriosclerosis limited his game along with two minor strokes, which he suffered before entering office.
Warren G. Harding (1921-23): Played twice a week, but wasn’t very good, often scoring in triple digits. His primary legacy to the game: The outstanding TPC Harding Park golf course in San Francisco, which was named after him.
Calvin Coolidge (1923-29): With golf’s popularity surging during his tenure, Coolidge played out of obligation and his game reflected it as he usually required double-digit shots on each hole. When successor Herbert Hoover moved into the White House, the only thing said to be left behind were Coolidge’s bag of clubs.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45): Before he contracted polio at age 39, Roosevelt was an avid and accomplished golfer. While in college, Roosevelt was the club champion at Campobello Island Golf Club in New Brunswick, Canada, near his family’s summer estate. His greatest legacy to the game was the funding of public-works projects, which included dozens of municipal golf courses including Bethpage State Park in New York and FDR Golf Club in Philadelphia.
Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961): Though he was often criticized for it, his obsession with the sport and his friendship with icon Arnold Palmer help lift golf to new levels of popularity. During his tenure, the number of golfers in America more than doubled. As president, Ike took 29 trips to Augusta, where he was a member. When in D.C., he played nearly every Wednesday at Burning Tree Club. He also installed a putting green on the White House lawn. An athlete good enough to play linebacker at Army, Eisenhower nevertheless struggled with the game he loved, playing to a handicap in the mid-teens.
John Kennedy (1961-63): A bad back and Addison’s disease prevented Kennedy from reaching his enormous potential as a golfer. Video clips reveal a powerful, fluid swing. As a Democrat and an aristocrat, Kennedy was particularly careful to keep his outings on the down low as golf was viewed as a sport for the privileged. There was no better place to do this than at Burning Tree, the most private of clubs in the Washington area, where Kennedy was said to skip around the course, hardly ever playing a round of 18 or even nine holes.
Playing at Cypress Point before he was elected in 1960, Kennedy nearly made a hole-in-one at the famed 16th hole ocean hole, hitting a five-iron that rattled the flagstick and dropped inches from the cup. According to one of his playing partners, Kennedy said, “You’re yelling for that damn ball to go in, and I’m seeing a promising political career coming to an end. If that ball had gone in, the word would be out that another golfer was trying to get to the White House.”
Lyndon Johnson (1963-69): LBJ played with an ulterior motive after realizing golf was the perfect activity for political negotiations. The votes Johnson needed to pass the Civil Right Act of 1964 were secured on the golf course. Johnson’s swing was said to look like he was killing a rattlesnake, and he was no stickler for the rules, as he hit as many shots as it took get one that he liked.
Richard Nixon (1969-74): While serving as Vice President under Eisenhower, Nixon dutifully took up the game and became a solid player, once breaking 80 and playing to a 12 handicap. Even though he had a three-hole course built at his home in San Clemente, Calif., Nixon gave up golf while in his troubled second term.
Gerald Ford (1974-77): A few errant drives in pro-ams contributed to Ford’s reputation as a klutz. But the former Michigan offensive lineman often broke 90 and was long enough off the tee to once out-drive Arnold Palmer and Gary Player on the first hole of an exhibition match at Pinehurst. He became the first president to join the USGA, doing so in a ceremony at the White House and was honorary chairman of the first Presidents Cup (1994).
Ronald Reagan (1981-89): President Reagan did not play much, but had a powerful swing. His most significant golf moment came when playing a round at Augusta Country Club and an armed man crashed the gates, took hostages and demanded to talk to Reagan. The man was soon apprehended. Reagan was one of six presidents — from Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush — who took lessons from Max Elbin, the longtime pro at Burning Tree.
George H.W. Bush (1989-93): No president was born into a family with such rich golf tradition. His maternal grandfather, George Herbert Walker, was president of the USGA and founded the Walker Cup. His father, Prescott Bush, also was a USGA president. It was for his dedication to the game — not his playing ability as an 11-handicap — that Bush was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Bush also was decades ahead of his time on the course, insisting on playing “speed golf.” Any round that wasn’t over in less than three hours was too long for the 41st President.
Bill Clinton (1993-2001): As in life, he often skirted the rules, but there was no denying his positive impact on the game, if for no other reason than he made it look like so much fun. Clinton re-installed the White House putting green that Richard Nixon had removed. His enduring legacy to the game is his role as host of the PGA Tour’s Humana Challenge in Palm Springs. As president in 1995, Clinton joined George H.W. Bush, Bob Hope and Gerald Ford in a pro-am to comprise perhaps the most powerful foursome in golf history.
George W. Bush (2001-2009): Also an excellent athlete, but his dedication to the sport wasn’t as pronounced as that of his father. He played to a 15-handicap before giving up golf at the outbreak of the Second Iraq War. After leaving office, he has returned to the sport, establishing the Warrior Open, which honors U.S. servicemen. And like his dad, Bush favors golf at a fast pace. “We’re not out there throwing grass up in the air, testing the winds,” Bush once said. “We like to bang away.”
Barack Obama (2009-2017): He is the eighth left-hander in the White House but the first to play golf. Obama eschews the perks of the job — and the chance to play the private clubs of the Washington area — favoring military courses at Ft. Belvoir and Andrews Air Force base. He also invited Rory McIlroy to a White House dinner in 2012 when the Northern Irishman was first ranked no. 1 in the world.
In an earlier version of this post, there were pictures displayed which apparently infringed copyrights issues. They were taken down.