Is Trump the best presidential golfer? Is Tiger Woods the best golfer ever?
Ahead of the inauguration, Golf Digest magazine ranked Donald Trump the best of the past 16 golfer presidents. And judging from his first six months in office, when he spent about 20 percent of his time at one of his golf clubs, he could set the record for total rounds played by a president if he manages to serve two terms. Then again, there’s no official Trump tally, because the White House press office won’t say when he plays.
As for his skill level, his claim of having a 2.8 handicap index — meaning he’d generally shoot in the mid-70s on a par 72 course — surely qualifies as serious fake news. According to a recent story in Sports Illustrated, Trump’s handicap index is artificially low, mostly because (surprise, surprise) he doesn’t always play by the rules. “Trump will sometimes respond to a shot he duffed [hit poorly] by simply playing a second ball and carrying on as if the first shot never happened,” according to SI writer Alan Shipnuck. “In the parlance of the game, Trump takes floating mulligans, usually more than one during a round. Because of them it is impossible to say what he has actually shot on any given day, according to 18 people who have teed it up with Trump over the last decade.” In the same article, four-time major championship winner Ernie Els, who has known Trump for many years, estimated that he’s closer to an 8- or 9-handicapper, usually shooting in the respectable low 80s.
By comparison, John F. Kennedy shot in the high 70s and low 80s, despite back problems that limited his swing and participation. He didn’t play much after being elected in 1960, because his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, came under criticism for too many days on the course.
Ike may have been the most passionate presidential golfer. He scored in the high 80s, played an estimated 800 rounds, was a member of Augusta National Golf Club and frequently teed it up with his friend Palmer. Golf promoter Fred Corcoran said that Eisenhower was “the greatest thing that ever happened to the game,” helping to double the number of Americans who played. Trump, a significantly less popular president, is unlikely to have the same impact, however much he promotes his courses.