Ignore the Tweeters, Mr. President—Playing Golf Is Good for You and the Country

By Jack Limpert

Judging from Twitter, many journalists dislike golf. They see it as a game played mostly by rich people at country clubs.

Judging from Twitter, many journalists dislike President Trump.

Put the two together and you get a Twitter feed full of President Trump playing too much golf.

CNN‏
Trump, who railed against Obama for golfing while in office, notched his 13th golf course visit as president

Nick Bilton‏
While Trump was golfing (again) this weekend, his ratings fell another 4 points to a new record low 36% approval, 57% disapproval.

The Hill
Trump dines at DC hotel after spending day at Trump golf course

The Boston Globe
Did Trump golf this weekend? The White House won’t say.

Golf is easy to criticize—too expensive, too elite. But it’s a good sport, especially as you get older. I played basketball until age 45, tennis until 60, and for 20 years have been playing golf. One of the journalists I worked with got me into the game and I enjoy it. Almost all golf courses, even the low-cost municipal courses, are restful, pretty places, often with lots of trees and water and wildlife. A good break from the pressure of the office.

Golf allows a lot of walking and conversation with your playing partners. After you hit a shot, you usually have to walk a couple of minutes with the opportunity for lots of talk. It’s why golf is popular in business. If you walk and talk for four hours with three other people and then have a drink or a meal with them, it’s a very good way to get to know them.

It’s a hard game—few players hit nothing but good shots. Golf balls often end up in the water or lost in the woods, How people react to adversity says something about who they are. After a round with a stranger, you often feel you have a clue to what they’d be like when things go wrong in the office or at home.

So I’d argue that President Trump getting away from the White House and playing golf is good for him and the country. If he can blow off steam by hitting golf balls and having a good time with his partners, that’s a plus. And it’s not much different from President Obama getting out of the Oval Office to play pickup basketball or golf (he played 333 rounds as President).
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What’s it like to play golf with President Trump?

The spring issue of GolfStyles, a magazine about golf in the mid-Atlantic region, estimates President Trump’s golf handicap is a seven, which means he’ll usually shoot about 79 on a par 72 golf course. (It estimates President Obama was a 16, which means he’ll shoot about 88).

Writer Jeff Thoreson went out to Trump National Golf Club, just outside Washington along the Potomac River, to talk with people who’ve played with President Trump. Some snippets from his story:

On the golf course he is not the churlish neophyte politician that critics so easily lampoon. As a golfer and the club’s owner, the guy is gregarious, convivial, generous, and a downright pleasure as a playing partner.

He does have a huge personality and a massive ego. But underneath the bluster, Trump, members say, wants to be like every other golfer. He wants to be better than he is. He gets down when he’s not playing well. He gets nervous at big moments, and most of all, he enjoys the camaraderie of the foursome.

“From a guy standpoint, he wants to be one of the boys,” [Pete] Robison says. “When you’re playing golf with him, he’s a back-slapper and he’ll heckle. He enjoys all that.”

As for his game, members agree that it is solid, way more so than most 70-year-olds. He hits the driver well, and while he may have been able at one time to hit it 285 yards like he claimed in the exchange about the size of his hands with Sen. Mario Rubio during the campaign, members say now he’s closer to 230 or 240 yards. His irons are crisp, reasonably straight and reliable, and he’s a very good putter. The president’s greatest weakness on the course is chipping.

Inside a Trump foursome, the new president is usually a little blustery for the first hour or so—close to his television persona—but when everything settles in, he’s just another guy. He takes an interest in others, engages in small talk and the witty banter of any foursome as the bad shots and lucky shots unfold. He isn’t shy with the expletives.

In a casual round Trump will bump a ball out of a divot or give himself a four-foot putt, but he’ll also bump your ball out of a divot and give you a four-foot putt. “There’s no malicious intent in the way he bends the rules,” says [Michael] Muehr. “He’s not trying to beat you when he does something like rake a putt or roll the ball. He just wants to be better maybe than he is.”


From Jeff Thoreson, writer of the GolfStyles story: “I started writing the Trump story thinking it would be negative and members would say he cheats and is obnoxious, but it turned out totally different; couldn’t find anyone who had anything bad to say about him as a golfer/club owner.”

 

Comments

  1. Michael Keating says:

    Mr. Limpert,
    Hope your golf game is well and, if I recall correctly, you’d need only a stroke or two per side to compete with President Trump. As publisher of GolfStyles, and from the predictable raft of you know what I get any time the magazine and politics intersect, I was a little nervous waiting for Jeff to submit his Trump story. What I learned most is that D.C. “journalists” could glean a thing or two from Jeff’s piece. He left his preconceptions at the door and went where the story took him rather than seek the answers he wanted to hear in order to write the story he’d already conceived.

    Yes, it’s just golf, but as you note, a lot of so-called media professionals can’t leave the snide aspersions/innuendo out of just about any story about Trump playing golf. Jeff and I have political differences and he’s no fan of Trump, but I’d sure prefer him giving the “news” on CNN, et al, as opposed to what masquerades as honest reporting these days.

    Incidentally, I agree with your post. GolfStyles made note of Obama’s 40+ rounds annually, but only to note the hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle when it comes to presidents playing golf. If anything, I wish all the House and Senate would play as much as the presidents. We’d probably all find Washington a little less disagreeable.

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