President Trump opened himself up to accusations of hypocrisy by playing golf more often in 2017 than President Barack Obama, but he was also more likely than his predecessor to mix business with pleasure on the links during his first year in office.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump ridiculed Mr. Obama for playing golf too much.
“I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” Mr. Trump told voters at a rally in Virginia in August 2016.
But as president, Mr. Trump has teed off even more frequently than Mr. Obama.
In his first year, Mr. Trump has played at least 39 confirmed rounds of golf, compared with Mr. Obama’s 26 rounds by the same point in his first year.
Mr. Trump probably has played even more golf — another 30 rounds, by some estimates, on occasions when he visited his golf properties but the White House refused to disclose whether he was on the links.
CNN host Don Lemon accused the president of “hypocrisy” this week for golfing 87 times, by the network’s count, after criticizing Mr. Obama for playing while in office. The network’s report also accused the White House of “trying to obscure” its camera shot of Mr. Trump golfing in Florida by parking a white box truck in front of hedges along the golf course at Trump International, a spot where TV cameras had glimpsed him golfing a day earlier.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump spent about five and a half hours at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, but aides would not say whether he played golf.
“The White House has not responded to multiple inquiries about the president’s activities today while he was the club, even after CNN aired footage of the president on the course standing near a golf cart,” wrote a pool reporter accompanying the president.
The White House wouldn’t comment for this story. And while Mr. Trump indisputably has golfed more than Mr. Obama and has tried to hide the frequency of his play, he also has used golf as an opportunity to schmooze with lawmakers and heads of state more than Mr. Obama did in his first year.
Mr. Trump often mixed work with play in 2017.
For example, the president played golf after Christmas at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach with Sen. David Perdue, Georgia Republican. Their playing partners were PGA Tour player Bryson DeChambeau and former pro golfer Dana Quigley.
Mr. Perdue, sponsor of a bill to reduce legal immigration and crack down on “chain migration” of immigrant families, said later that he and the president talked about immigration reform, “ways to fully support our military” and rebuilding U.S. infrastructure, among other issues.
“President Trump is a political outsider and business guy who is listening to the American people,” Mr. Perdue said in a statement. “He is moving at a business pace, not a bureaucratic pace, and as a result our economy is in the midst of a turnaround. Everybody in the country outside of the Washington bubble recognizes that the president’s agenda is beginning to work.”
Mr. Perdue said he is “committed to keeping the president’s agenda on track in the Senate by continuing to work alongside Senator Tom Cotton [Arkansas Republican] to change our archaic immigration system.”
The president also has golfed twice with Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (twice). In happier times, he also played with Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican who has since become highly critical of Mr. Trump. The president has yet to play with a Democrat.
Mr. Graham said after one of his rounds that Mr. Trump shot a 73; par on most courses is 72.
On one of the final days of his holiday vacation in Florida, Mr. Trump also invited more than 60 lucky Coast Guard members to play in a golf tournament. The president hosted the service members from Station Lake Worth Inlet, and other Coast Guard members from across the U.S., to play golf at Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach as a thank-you for their service.
“These brave men and women patrol the waterways near Palm Beach and Mar-a-Lago everyday,” said White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley. “The president wanted to thank these service members personally for their service to this nation.”
The president called it “a little Coast Guard challenge” and thanked the service members especially for their work saving lives during hurricanes last fall in Texas and in Florida.
“It’s an honor to have you at the course,” he told the service members, boasting that he had shot a birdie on one hole earlier in the day.
The president also has played with a several pro golfers, including Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Mr. Obama seemed much more reluctant to use golf as a link to the Hill. For most of his presidency, Mr. Obama preferred to golf with friends or White House staffers.
The first lawmaker to play with Mr. Obama, Democratic Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, said his two outings with the president on Martha’s Vineyard in 2009 and 2010 were largely free of shop talk.
Mr. Obama eventually made an effort to play with Republicans, most notably in 2011 when he and Vice President Joe Biden golfed with the new House speaker, John A. Boehner, and Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.
In 2013, Mr. Obama began his second term with golf outreach to Mr. Corker and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican. By the time he played golf with three House Democrats in July 2015, his sixth year in office, it was only the fifth round he had played with members of Congress.
Mr. Trump also has drawn criticism for golfing exclusively on courses that he owns — in Bedminster, New Jersey, in Sterling, Virginia and in West Palm Beach, Florida. The only time he played golf at a non-Trump course was in November, when he played with Mr. Abe in Japan.
The president has spent at least 112 days at Trump Organization properties during his first year in office, a habit from which he stands to benefit personally due to the publicity that his visits bring. His course in Bedminster also hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in July.
It’s difficult to calculate the full cost of Mr. Trump’s 10 trips to his Mar-a-Lago private club in West Palm Beach during 2017. The conservative group Judicial Watch estimates that each of those trips cost the government about $1 million, but that doesn’t include local law enforcement or military expenses that routinely are necessitated by presidential travel.