Presidents from Taft to Obama have looked to the golf course as both a refuge and a remote office, both escaping the pressures of the presidency and securing handshake deals on the links. But as popular as golf has been among America’s presidents, we’ve never had a president play on his very own golf course … until now.
President-elect Donald Trump’s connection to the world of golf is well-known; he owns 17 courses across the world. His holdings include Turnberry, which has hosted four Open Championships, though none since Trump acquired it in 2014, with none scheduled until at least 2020. Trump also claims a personal handicap of 3, which, if accurate, would place him among the top seven percent of amateur golfers in the United States.
Trump is the latest in a long line of presidential golfers stretching all the way back to William Howard Taft. Like many other presidents, Taft possessed more enthusiasm than skill, and once took 12 shots to get out of a sand trap. His playing partners encouraged him to write a lower score on his card, but Taft remained scrupulously honest.
Woodrow Wilson played more than a thousand rounds of golf, but to little beneficial effect, as he rarely broke 100. He even painted his golf balls black so he could play in the snow. Trump won’t be the only president to have a course with his name on it—TPC Harding Park in San Francisco is named for Warren G. Harding, who used to get his dog Laddie Boy to fetch balls from the White House lawn. Calvin Coolidge, by contrast, cared little for the game, and even left his clubs behind when he left the White House for good.
Dwight D. Eisenhower might be the most famous presidential golfer, not just for his frequent playing partner—a guy by the name of Arnold Palmer—but for the cabin and pond at Augusta National that still bear his name. While playing at Augusta, Eisenhower hit a loblolly pine beside the 17th hole so many times that he wanted it removed; the club’s chairman refused, and the tree remained until a storm damaged it beyond repair in 2014.
John F. Kennedy, as you’d expect, was quite the golfer, captaining the Harvard team and also claiming a single-digit handicap. His successor, Lyndon Johnson, reportedly secured the final votes he needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the course at Congressional Country Club.
Nixon was, by all accounts, a peculiar golfing partner, ill at ease with small talk, and he gave up the game entirely for political purposes as scandal and war enveloped his administration. Ford, perhaps the best athlete ever to reside in the White House, was the first honorary chairman of the Presidents’ Cup, and reportedly once outdrove both Palmer and Gary Player at a charity event.
Ronald Reagan used to putt down the aisle of Air Force One, and was playing Augusta when a man stormed the club’s gates, took hostages, and demanded an audience with the president before being arrested. George H.W. Bush came from a long line of golf nobility, but that didn’t stop him from shouting “power outage!” every time he left a putt short.
Bill Clinton reinstalled the White House putting green that Nixon had removed. Clinton also remarked that his playing partners offered him a lot fewer gimme putts after he left office. George W. Bush enjoyed time on the links but gave it up after 9/11 for political image purposes. Obama has been a frequent player, once even photobombing the wedding of a couple getting married near the California golf course where he was playing.
So Donald Trump has quite the presidential golf lineage to live up to. But given his passion for the sport—he’s already played a post-election round with Tiger Woods—expect to see him on the links sooner rather than later.