President Obama’s approval ratings may be stuck in a sand trap, but that has not deterred him from sticking to his weekly round of golf.
After teeing off Saturday at the private course in Florida where the movie “Caddyshack” was filmed, Mr. Obama hit the milestone number of 150 golf rounds in less than five years in the White House.
The Secret Service loaded Mr. Obama’s golf bag emblazoned with the presidential seal into the motorcade Saturday morning to head to the private Grande Oaks Golf Club in Davie. Sporting a blue polo shirt, tan slacks and a cap, Mr. Obama spent five hours on the private course with former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, friend Cyrus Walker and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
Mr. Obama wasn’t much of a golfer before he ran for president. His regularity on the greens started April 26, 2009. He played 27 times that first year in office, including seven rounds during his vacations on Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii.
In his second year as president, Mr. Obama played a little more — 31 rounds. He included a woman for only the second time when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined on Oct. 10, 2010.
Perhaps time on the links gave them time to discuss all the people they knew who would lose their insurance when Obamacare was implemented. Mrs. Sebelius also joined the president on the golf course May 18 this year.
After 58 rounds in 19 months, Mr. Obama’s golf game improved. At the private Mid Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on Dec. 28, 2010, the club’s golf pro, Mark Sousa, remarked to reporters that the president’s “swing looks a lot better this year.”
The president played even more in his third year in office — 34 rounds. Throughout his presidency, he has most frequently used courses at nearby Andrews Air Force Base and Fort Belvoir.
White House trip director Marvin Nicholson, who has an eight handicap according to Golf Digest, plays with the president almost every week. The only times Mr. Nicholson is not on the course with the commander in chief is during the Christmas vacations in Hawaii.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who had a handicap of 6.3 in 2011, according to Golf Digest, has been invited to tag along with his boss just six times in five years. (The golf magazine estimated Mr. Obama’s handicap at 17 two years ago. )
Other politicians who have played with Mr. Obama during his presidency include House Speaker John A. Boehner, former President Bill Clinton (twice), New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe.
Mr. Obama put aside his weekly golf outings several times while running for re-election in 2012. His annual total fell to 19 rounds, seven of which were in the two months after he won a second term.
Never having to run for office again has given Mr. Obama a free pass to spend every weekend on the golf course. So far in 2013, he already has passed his 2011 record with a total of 39 rounds of golf, as of today. This includes his whopping 27 holes played in one day at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14.
Mr. Obama’s supporters defend the president’s outings, saying everyone needs a break, or comparing the golf outings to President George W. Bush’s time at his Texas ranch.
But the difference in cutting brush in Texas and Mr. Obama’s form of relaxation is that golf is an elitist pastime that few can afford in expense or time, especially in this prolonged economic downturn.
Also, Mr. Bush stopped playing golf in August 2003 out of respect for the families of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Obama has shown no such deference: A comparison of both presidents up to that point in their first terms shows Mr. Obama played three times as much golf as Mr. Bush — 76 rounds to 29 rounds.
The president is fully aware of the optics of his favorite hobby since he always stops the weekly foursome when he is engaged in a budget battle with Congress or nearing an election. Once those moments pass, he goes right back to his nine iron.
Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of the book “Emily Gets Her Gun … But Obama Wants to Take Yours” (Regnery 2013).