“One lesson you better learn if you want to be in politics is that you never go out on a golf course and beat the president.” — Former President Lyndon B. Johnson
A "Seinfeld" rerun got me thinking about presidential golf habits. On the show, Elaine had purchased JFK's golf clubs at an auction. She placed the clubs in Jerry's car, which was immediately stolen. Kramer and Newman happened to see the stolen vehicle, and they gave chase. The car thief, realizing he was being followed, began to throw the clubs at the two would-be heroes. The result was the clubs and bag were broken and damaged. What clicked with me is that I recall seeing pictures of President Kennedy playing golf.
I know that presidents have come under criticism for playing golf (after all, Nero fiddled while Rome burned) but I was interested in finding out which chief executives played golf — and did they “have game”?
William Howard Taft was the first chief executive to play golf. According to reports, he had some “game.” I remember in the movie, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," Francis Ouimet's caddy, Eddie Lowry, turned to Ouimet and asked “Who's the fat guy?” Ouimet responded, “That's President Taft.”
President Woodrow Wilson played many rounds of golf (estimates are 1,200-1,600 rounds) while in office. The last two years of his administration, Wilson was rarely seen due to health issues.
Harding, Coolidge and Hoover played, but of the three, Harding was the better player. He is also the only president who has a course named for him, Harding Park in San Francisco.
FDR played and had a good game, but when crippled by polio he was forced to give up golf.
Eisenhower was a golf fanatic. He not only had a putting green installed on the White House lawn, but every afternoon he would hit around 300 balls with his eight-iron in the back of the residence.
Eisenhower was a member of Augusta National Golf Course and had a tree named for him. It seems that the tree interfered with Ike's drive. At a meeting to discuss course changes, Eisenhower insisted the tree be removed. He was told that, despite being a five-star general and former president, he would need to be quiet. The tree remained.
Eisenhower was criticized by the press and his detractors for the amount of time he devoted to golf. One of his detractors was the senator from Massachusetts, JFK.
During the presidential campaign, Kennedy attacked Eisenhower for playing so much golf. Kennedy might have been the best golfer of all the presidents. He was athletic and had a smooth swing. But he was aware of the perception of golf being an “elitist sport” and played golf sparingly.
His successor, LBJ, used golf to make deals and would buttonhole his playing companions to get votes for his favored legislation. Nixon played golf only to gain Eisenhower's approval. However, after retiring, Nixon became an enthusiastic player, and some friends even built him a three-hole course on his property.
Gerald Ford's time in the Oval Office was short-lived, and he only played occasionally. When he retired, Ford became a fixture on the pro-am circuit and would play with the finest players on tour. He had a good game but would become a punch line for comedian Bob Hope. The “Gipper,” Ronald Reagan, did not play regularly. It was reported he could have been a good player but chose other activities.
Not so for the Bush family. Both Bush I and Bush II were good golfers. The first President Bush was known for his “speed of play.” The Bush family had a connection to one of the most famous tournaments and its trophy, the Walker Cup. George Herbert Walker was the president of the USGA when the Walker Match was created. This is an amateur event between the U.S. And Great Britain. Walker was the grandfather of George W. Bush and the great-grandfather of George H.W. Bush.
President H.W. Bush played golf only 29 times during his two-term administration. He deployed service men and women to a war zone and felt it was inappropriate for the president to be playing golf while they put their lives on the line.
Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump all enjoy their time on the course. President Clinton carried a 10-handicap when he was playing regularly. It was said when a Clinton shot went awry, the ball would find its way back to the fairway. Apparently, the Secret Service did not want their charge venturing too far from the fairway.
President Obama played over 300 rounds while in office. His handicap was at 18. He was a great ambassador for golf.
President Trump is a fine player. At one time he carried a single-digit handicap.
All three of these men have been taken to task for the time they have spent on the golf course. But if you look back all the way to President Wilson, our leaders have all recognized that time on the links provides a great release for a tough job. Wouldn't it be fun to see some of these guys out on the links together without anyone to report outcomes or conversations?
North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: The Fall Member/Member is scheduled for Sept. 16. Sign-up for this competitive event has begun. The Mixed Best Ball will take place Sept. 23. A Ryder Cup event will be played Sept. 28-29. This tournament will mirror the Ryder Cup played by the pros. Two teams will compete for bragging rights. The matches are competitive with players getting a feel of playing for a team. This Saturday, Michelle Zaydon from Titleist, will be at the practice facility for a Demo Day from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. She is one of the top club fitters and will be available for fittings. The newest of the Titleist line will be available for players to try.
Wentworth Golf Club, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: The 2018 Pro Days was held last weekend for four days. There were many players who managed to walk away with prizes in both gross and net play. In the Ladies’ Division, winning first gross, were Jane Goulart and Maryann Lowry. On the net side it was Lori Cote and Beth Ellis. For the Men's Division, first gross went to Roger LeBlanc and Jack Rowe. First net went to Jerry Ellis, Don Macumber, Scott Cote and Mike Goulart.
Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: The first week of the Fall Don Ho League finds the Divot Kings, Jackson Six and Six Styxx tied for first at -5. One shot back are the Sod Removers, Free Spirits and the Sink or Swim teams. Jeff Roden got closest to the pin. Long drive honors went to Nicki Lynn, Mary Hansel, John Vallee, and Seth Stone. PGA Pro Bob McGraw will be offering a short swing clinic on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Bob will be covering the fundamentals needed when pitching and hitting bunker shots. The cost is $20 per player, and the class is limited to six students.
Finally, best wishes to Pro Shop Assistant Adam Mosston. Adam will be leaving to a new position at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. His helpful manner will be missed.
Hale's Location, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: We may be entering the fall season, but Nine, Wine and Dine continues at Hale's. For $59 per player, you get nine holes of golf with a cart, a full dinner, and a glass of wine. Call the hotel to make a reservation (603-356-7100) and the pro shop (603-356-2140) to make a tee time.
Lake Kezar Country Club, Route 5, Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-2462: If you are looking for a round of golf, why not play in the Fryeburg Rec Tournament which is being held at LKCC this weekend? This event has three tee times: 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday. The entry fee is $50. Contact Vincent Osgood at (603) 630-2558 to sign up. The 13th Annual Senior Open Tournament will be played Sept. 19. This event has a 9 a.m. start. Call the clubhouse to register.
19th Hole: The media has great influence on the leaders of today. One former leader who didn't allow the press to bother his, was our first golfing president, William H. Taft. The Connecticut Avenue bridge opened during his term in office, and Taft celebrated the event. The bridge allowed him a quick trip to the Chevy Chase Country Club, where he could partake in afternoon rounds of golf. Today's press would have roasted him! The times, they have changed. Enjoy the weekend.
Joe Soraghan may be reached at email@example.com.