Freedom Swings: Presidents and Their Golf Game

Let’s face it. Obama’s golf game has been in the news lately… almost as much as his foreign policy decisions and health care reform. Some nay-sayers are critiquing the president for being out on the links at some questionable times. In fact, this past Labor Day weekend, Obama was denied tee times at some of the most elite golf courses around New York City. What was their reasoning? Labor Day Weekend is one of the most popular golf weekends for them, and they would not inconvenience paying members by closing down the course, even for the president.

Crazy enough, Obama was not the first president to be denied at some of these courses either! Bill Clinton and the king of Morocco were both turned down for tee times, too! Geez! Who do they think they are?!

At this point in his presidency, closing in on six years, Barack Obama has played nearly 200 games of golf and counting– averaging about three games of golf per month. You think that’s a lot? Ha! Dwight D. Eisenhower played roughly 800 games of golf in his eight years as president. That’s about two games every weekend for eight straight years. Ike was notorious for his golf schedule, too. He hit balls every day at 5pm on the White House lawn. Rumor has it he got so fed up and frustrated with Congress, he figured why not just pay golf? I like that solution!

And wouldn’t you have guessed it? One president played even more golf than Eisenhower in their presidency! Woodrow Wilson played 1,200 rounds of golf in office! I mean, I guess golf is better than say, football or rugby. You’d have to really try to get hurt playing golf!

FDR was an avid golfer, too, that is before he contracted polio at age 38. His golf clubs and bags are on display at the FDR Museum in Hyde Park, NY.

George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush both loved the links. Daddy Bush is praised for his speed in playing the game. He spends a ton of time with professional golfers at the President’s Cup each year. Meanwhile, W. gave up golf during the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it just wouldn’t be right to be playing while our troops are overseas. Since his presidency ended, he puts on the Warrior Open Golf Tournament that raises money for wounded veterans.

Did you know that the game of golf used to be viewed as a very republican sport? Yup, back in the mid-twentieth century golf was viewed as a rich, white man’s game (and maybe it still is) so much so that democrats who played often hid the fact that they enjoyed the game. John F. Kennedy was an avid golfer who is praised for his flawless golf swing, but he downplayed his love for the game so he could be seen as “one of the people”. (Because all of that Kennedy money wasn’t enough of a clue that he was, you know, rich).

And it wasn’t always cool to golf (although me and my caveman friend, Scratch, were golfing wayyyy back in the day. We were cool before cool was cool). It took 26 commanders in chief in office before one of them openly admitted to playing golf. William Howard Taft, the 27th president, who served from 1909 to 1913, was the first putting prez.

The game has changed a lot since Taft was president and with new technology and improvements in equipment, the leaders of the free world have taken full advantage of it all. Obama is wearing a new technology gadget that tracks your every shot to give a complete breakdown of your golf game.

Reagan, Ford, and Nixon were all pretty great golfers, too, and were ranked by Golf Digest in the top 15 greatest golfing presidents. JFK landed at number one, followed closely by Eisenhower and Ford who all averaged in the 80s. In fact, 15 of the last 18 presidents were golfers of one kind or another.

Golf is, in many ways, a social game, and has been used as a tool to secure votes, talk politics, and business. But just like the rest of us, golf is used to blow off some steam! I love golf, and I’m sure you do, too, so why don’t we lay off these guys a little bit. They could just be having a “rough” week.


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