So Does the Fact That Donald Trump Is Very Casual About the Rules of Golf Say Something About His Presidency

A Friday post about President Donald Trump and his golf game said he is “gregarious, convivial, and generous” on the course and quoted a Golf magazine writer, who played a round with Trump—then just a real estate developer—as saying Trump was “a downright pleasure as a playing partner.” A friend mentioned that the story also said that Trump tended to be quick to concede four-foot putts, both for himself and his playing partners, suggesting he’s very casual about the rules of golf just like he’s indifferent to conducting himself the way many people think a president should act.

As for the golf part of it, he’s behaving just fine. The rules of golf are many, and if you watch a professional golf tournament, you might see rules officials all over the course, ready to tell players what they can and can’t do. In non-tournament golf, which is what people play 99 percent of the time, the rules are more informal.

Most golf games involve four players competing against one another as two-man teams. The goal is to have one player shoot the lowest score on the hole, and that two-man team then wins the hole. If you win more holes than the opposing team, you win the match.

Short putts almost always are conceded in the interests of saving time. An understanding develops on how short a putt has to be—usually about three feet—to be conceded. Trump’s four-footers are a little generous but as long as each player is treated the same, everyone is happy.

The goal of non-tournament golf is to compete but have some fun. Golf is a hard game. It may look simple watching the pros but for the average golfer hitting a golf  ball where you want it to go is very unpredictable. There are lots of less than perfect or even good shots. And how players react to those less than good  shots says something about what kind of person that golfer is.

Some golfers, after a bad shot, will whine about the weather—the wind blew it off line. Some will blame the condition of the course—these greens are bumpy. Some berate themselves too loudly and for too long, sometimes throwing a club. Those are not great people to play with.

A little temper is okay but don’t overdo it—nobody’s perfect. Accept bad shots as part of the game and try to learn from what happened. One of our daughters played college golf and she said the important thing she learned was when you get into trouble, figure out how to get out of trouble quickly and with the least damage. A good life lesson.

The way President Trump’s game is described suggests that one, he is a good golfer, and two, he’d probably be fun to play with. He is different in that he’s described as liking to play very fast—as President Bush 41 did—and he likes to play with a couple of thousand dollars at stake. In most golf games where there’s money involved, you might lose $10 on a bad day. But as long as everyone in the foursome is comfortable with the stakes and how the rules are followed, the game can be very enjoyable.

For male golfers, it’s a way to get some exercise, have some fun, and make some noise. If you know the guys you’re playing with, there is often needling back and forth. The classic insult when a man leaves a putt five feet short is “Nice putt, Alice.” My wife plays golf with other women and reports that they never needle one another. For men, the golf course is one of the few places they can behave a little like Rodney Dangerfield and get away with it.

President Trump gets a lot of flak for playing too much golf. Given his temperament I like to see him playing often. Let him blow off steam and enjoy himself.

What would be scary is if he was in the Oval Office 14 hours a day, giving orders and pushing buttons.


  1. Neta Ogami says

    Jack Limpert Has that man ever really played on a level playing field to all the rules?

  2. His golf game suggests he likes to bend the rules, to push things past what most people would do, to look better than he is. But in the context of non-tournament golf, the golf most people play, he’s fine as long as he plays fair, which he seems to. And apparently he’s enjoyable to play with. I thought it was worth saying again that his detractors should accept that President Trump playing a lot of golf is not a bad thing.

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