What, you have probably been asking yourself, do 16 out of the last 19 presidents have most in common?
The answer lies in one four-letter word: Golf!
Yes. It isn’t called the game of presidents for nothing. It is called that because the avid pursuit of a little white ball from one hole to another takes place outdoors on beautiful grounds that the Secret Service can easily close to the public. Nobody knows the president’s score unless he wishes. Mulligans are accepted. Conversation is light-hearted and never recorded. And what takes place on the 19th hole stays on the 19th hole.
There are whole books written and published about presidents and golf, not one of which I have read or will ever read. However, in my decades of following presidents around the world in my old reporting days, I have been on more golf outings with presidents than I have fingers and toes, several times over.
From Ballybunion to St. Andrews to multiple courses in Hawaii and the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, I have waited for presidents to tee off and play through. Even with gorgeous scenery, it inevitably becomes extremely boring.
But now, according to Golf Digest, we have a president who is really good at golf. He won 19 club championships. In fact, Golf Digest dubbed Donald Trump “golfer in chief” and ranks him as the top golfer out of all of the presidents who played. Finally! Something the fawning members of the Trump Cabinet can really praise him lavishly for without choking on bile.
Trump is better than President Obama, whom Trump constantly tried to ridicule for playing the game although Trump plays twice as much as Obama did. Trump’s even better than John F. Kennedy, who had been ranked No. 1 of all the presidents despite his bad back but who now is No. 2. Trump has played about one out of every five days since taking office.
Golf Digest’s Jaime Diaz wrote of playing with Trump: “(His) swing is imperfect but grooved, and it soon engenders a certainty that nothing really bad is going to happen to his golf ball. He has a flat takeaway well to the inside and loads hard onto his right side. Before starting down, his shoulder plane raises into what at first looks like a duffer’s over-the-top move. But Trump simultaneously unleashes the kind of aggressive opening of the left hip that is rarely seen in older amateurs, clearing the way for the club to release from an inside path.”
Gosh. If only nothing bad would happen to the country on Trump’s watch.
Trump, as everyone knows, owns golf courses all over the world. They are the best, most beautiful, most perfectly designed, best maintained, most incredible courses ever built. Of course. The PGA must think so; it just held its spring tournament at the president’s Virginia course 25 miles from Washington. The U.S. Women’s Open is being held at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., course.
Trump’s 16 courses (with three more under construction in Indonesia and Dubai), like his businesses and hotels around the globe, make him hundreds of millions of dollars even though he is president and conflicts of interest are rampant. The fees Trump charges for membership in his clubs range from $10,000 to $300,000. Trump’s 2016 financial disclosure said just one course, the one in Virginia, generated $17.5 million in revenue. But unless Trump reveals his tax returns, which is unlikely unless the courts force it, Americans have no idea how much profit he makes.
Trump’s son Eric, who manages the golf business for his dad, says his father is a “golf fanatic.” Eric raises money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, although the charity now pays the Trump empire $322,000 in expenses for hosting its one-day charity tournament, according to Forbes magazine. The magazine reported that the event also funnels thousands of dollars of revenue into the Trump organization.
But even though Trump mocked Obama for playing golf, it seems churlish to begrudge some playtime to a hard-working man like Trump, who is, believe me, focused on repealing Obamacare and consumer and environmental regulations and generating a tax cut for the rich members of his golf clubs.
The more time Trump spends on the links, away from the Oval Office, the better.
And he rarely tweets while golfing.