Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters

On a lighter side:

Presidents who cheat at golf? What's next? A Washington correspondent for the New York Times, Van Natta has the inside scoop on presidential golfers both then and now: who has game, who doesn't and who should lay down his clubs in deference to those who appreciate fair play. From the best (John Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt) to the worst (Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan), to the cheaters (Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnson), Van Natta shares insights about our nation's leaders and their passion for the game. Lyndon Johnson used golf to intimidate political opponents. Woodrow Wilson played every day, often during political crises. JFK feared the implications of public knowledge of his prowess. The public had not appreciated Eisenhnower's obsession (played as many as 100 times per year), since golf was still seen as a "rich man's game," and not an appropriate activity for the "champion of the people." Van Natta's research is impressive and his writing style is engaging, but the text feels a bit like a one-trick pony. Filled with anecdotal bits and pieces, there is more of interest here to historians than to serious golfers.


For the record Obama has a 16 handicap.


  1. Everyone who has ever played golf has"cheated" at some point and cheating in golf is pretty harmless,moving a ball a little,a do over etc. as long as it's not in the pro ranks.Griffith Park in L.A. has a "Wilson" course I assume named after him.I don't recall many pics of JFK on the links but I certainly recall many of Ike in the papers during my halycon youth.The thought of LBJ with a club in hand is scary.Robert could tell us if HH golfed but I do recall a day or so after he lost to Nixon he went duck hunting outside Rochester N.Y. at the estate of James P. Wilmot who made his fortune in shopping centers and later Page Avjet.The place does have a nine hole course though.

  2. Interesting that Democrats have proven to be better golfers than Republicans. As little as Obama plays, he has almost the same handicap as Pere and Dubya Bush, who are frequent players. One golf pundit says that Obama can get his hc down to 10 with a little practice, as he has a good swing.