- - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Presidents play golf. It’s that simple. They have since George Washington hit a 3 hybrid over the Delaware River to within six feet of the pin, and they will when George Bush XII hits a virtual 6 iron into the hole on the new Mars International Links in the year 2274.

There are tons of stories about presidential golfers. Take John F. Kennedy. He used to sneak out of the White House and head out to Fauquier Springs Country Club in my neck of the woods. He’d jump on hole 2, play till hole 17, then alert the press that he was heading to Middleburg, Virginia. He’d change his clothes in the limo and arrive just as the media was showing up.

President William Howard Taft, who tipped the scales at 300+ pounds, was the White House’s first big fan (although Teddy Roosevelt played, he, like Kennedy, only golfed secretly because the sport was considered a rich man’s game). He’d pop right up Connecticut Ave. to the Chevy Chase Club for a round, and once told Congress that he’d be on the course until they got their act together. He later became a founding member of the world-renowned Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, while serving as the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who oversaw the creation of the country’s interstate road system, also pushed for the widening of River Road, which took him straight to his beloved club, Burning Tree. He spent so much time there, a hotline from the White House was installed in the pro shop. (And another fun fact: The club bans women, and when a woman pilot crashed her small plane on the grounds, she was kept outside until authorities arrived.)

Lyndon Johnson played, but only as a means to an end: He liked holding lawmakers captive on the course, where he’d pressure them for four hours about an upcoming vote. Nixon played but quit the game (sounds about right). Gerald Ford, one of the most athletic presidents ever, was best known for beaning spectators (but he once outdrove both Arnold Palmer and Gary Player in an exhibition).

Bill Clinton was famous for his mulligans (he wishes he could take one on Monica), and George W. Bush, like his father, was known to play golf so fast his partners called it “cart polo” (he decided to quit the game when he felt that it was unbecoming for a president to be puttering around a golf course while American boys died overseas).

Then there was Barack Obama, who truly loves the game. He’s terrible at it (although he claimed an “honest 13” handicap), but he loves it. Just listen to the expert commentary in this video of his golf swing for an honesty take on his form. 

Obama played 306 rounds as president, the most since Eisenhower. And he took endless heat for it. It seems that while everyone is allowed to take a little break from time to time (like two days off for every five days worked), the president should never have a moment to himself.

Now comes Donald Trump, perhaps the best golfer to ever inhabit the White House. Even at age 70, he’s said to play to a 2.8 handicap (that means he’s pretty close to shooting even par every time he plays). He’s known as a nifty putter and a skilled player from inside 100 yards. And he can pound some drives (listen to the oohs and ahhs when he hits one at a pro-am tournament). 

But Trump, like Obama, is taking heat for playing golf as president. Some of that’s on him. He did, after all, tweet 26 times criticizing Obama for playing, so it makes sense he’s now getting grief. “Trump Has Gone to a Golf Course at Least 13 Times in Nine-Week Presidency,” wrote Slate. “Fox News Tweets That Trump Was at the White House When He Was Actually at His Golf Course,” said New York magazine.

Here’s the thing: Democrat or Republican, the president never gets a day off. The world’s biggest problems reach him no matter where he is (even faster now with the internet), so he’s never out of touch. Sure, Taft may have been unreachable on the links, but Obama wasn’t — and Trump sure isn’t.

And more: Obama supporters bristled at criticism of the commander in chief taking a couple of hours for himself on the golf course. Now they’re the ones throwing shade at Trump for doing the same thing.

So let’s all agree on these three things: 1) Presidents, Democrat or Republican, play golf; 2) Presidents of both parties never have a day off — and never will; 3) Golf is the greatest game known to man.

We can disagree about that last point, but can’t we all agree on the other two?

• Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He also ran the Drudge Report as morning editor for four years. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter via @josephcurl.

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