The Presidents Tee Off

At the recent Republican National Convention, Marco Rubio joked of President Obama, “By all accounts, he is a good husband, a good father…and thanks to lots of practice, a pretty good golfer.” Obama is not alone as nearly every president over the past century has been a golfer. The exceptions since Taft (1912) were Truman, Hoover and Carter. Woodrow Wilson, whose health generally was poor, golfed regularly as president for exercise on the recommendation of his physician, “but took little pleasure in the game he defined as ‘an ineffectual attempt to put an elusive ball into an obscure hole with implements ill-adapted to that purpose.’” His average for 18 holes was about 115. Teddy Roosevelt, concerned that golf appeared elite to many voters, cautioned his protégée Taft in 1908, “never to be photographed playing golf.” Truman, a poker player, also believed that golf “was a political noose.” Nixon, a sharp poker player, played golf in the low 90’s. According to McCatchy News reporter Steven Thomma, “Reagan played once a year, whereas Clinton played often – and inflated his skills on his scorecard.”

Often accused by his political opponents as neglecting his duties, Eisenhower was “the most devoted golfer, playing roughly 800 times in his eight years as president, averaging in the 80’s” The U.S. Golf Association installed a putting green for him near the White House Rose Garden. Kennedy, despite a chronically ailing back, was a superb golfer, averaging in the high 70’s or low 80’s. Johnson, who enjoyed taking guests on 90-mph rides around his ranch in his Lincoln Continental, also golfed, but unlike his two immediate predecessors (Kennedy and Eisenhower), kept his score secret. Both Bushes played golf, however, George W. said that he gave up golf in time of war in 2003, “in solidarity with the families of soldiers who were dying in Iraq.” Although Harding played golf twice a week, his more enjoyable activities included poker in the White House with his “Ohio Gang,” and “sneaking off to a burlesque house in Washington, where he hid behind a curtain so the public would not see him.”

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