Golf Reveals Much About a Man

As Craig Morrison looks into most of the First Golfers of The United States of America, from JFK to The Donald, golf, as we know, reveals much about a man

He loves to golf, does the President of The United States of America.

It’s reckoned President Taft was the 1st First Golfer. His predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, may have played the game too, but it was Taft who first came out, who first openly played it, who first extolled it.

"You know my tendency to golf,” he once wrote, “my sympathy with anybody who wants to play it, and my desire to spread a love for the game whenever I can. Golf is a splendid recreation which can be enjoyed with profit by the young and the old. It is in the interest of good health and good manners. It promotes self-restraint, and, as one of its devotees has well said, affords a chance to play the man and act the gentleman. It is the game of all classes, not a mere plaything for faddists, nor, as many suppose, a game for the rich man only.”

And with those words, he teed it up for countless other commanders-in-chief to walk the fairways.

Woodrow Wilson, who followed him into The White House, was very keen but less than useful. His scores were high despite a dedication to the sport that saw him notch up estimated 1,200 rounds while in office. After him, Harding played, almost equally enthusiastically. In fact, Warren G had Harding Park in San Francisco named after him. Next up, Calvin Coolidge golfed. Then there was Herbert Hoover: not a golfer. But FDR was useful before he contracted polio. As a student, he won the club championship at Campobello Island Golf Club beside his family's summer home in New Brunswick up in Canada. As President, he brought in the great public works projects which included Bethpage Park in New York, home to some of the nation’s finest municipal courses. And there’s a course in his name in Philly too.

Truman didn’t play. But then came Eisenhower who was famously into golf. He had the putting green built at The White House, was a member at Augusta and, when back in Washington, played regularly on another Alister Mackenzie course at The Burning Tree Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

JFK - one of the most skilful Presidential golfers - played at ‘The Tree’ too. So, did LBJ, Nixon and Ford. Carter wasn’t a golfer. But Reagan and then George H.W. Bush played, often at Burning Tree. But that club didn’t do it for more recent Presidents, presumably because it aggressively excludes women and the world has, mostly, changed.

Clinton golfed. George W. as well, but in troubled times he learned to stay off the course as his critics found it convenient ammunition against him. Post 9/11, fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, it just didn’t look good on him.


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