Trump is not alone. For presidents, golf has always been political.
President Donald Trump — who embarked this weekend on a 17-day “working vacation” to his summer White House in Bedminster, New Jersey — loves golf.
He loves playing it. He loves watching it. He loves driving golf carts on the dang green.
But even though Trump may be the “golfer-in-chief,” he’s far from the first president to enjoy hitting the links. In fact, according to Golf Advisor, 15 other presidents, dating back to William Taft in the early 1900s, played the game — with varying degrees of ability, and varying degrees of visibility.
John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford were all regarded as strong golfers. Kennedy, for instance, nearly recorded a hole-in-one during a round at Cypress Point Golf Club a few days before the Democratic National Convention in 1960.
However, Kennedy — who had criticized Eisenhower’s frequent trips to the links — also famously downplayed his affinity for the game, concerned that it painted him as an out-of-touch elitist.
“If that ball had gone into that hole,” Kennedy said of his near hole-in-one to a playing partner, “in less than an hour the word would be out to the nation that another golfer was trying to get into the White House.”
Golf has been a similarly contentious political symbol for other presidents.
George W. Bush — whose father is said to have been an above-average golfer — was frequently called out for taking golf trips, and once famously delivered tough remarks on terrorism to reporters from a tee box before telling them to “watch this drive.”
Bush would later come to the defense of another presidential golfer, Barack Obama, when his successor came under fire for his time spent on the course.
“I think he ought to play golf,” Bush said in 2013. “I know the pressures of the job, and to be able to get outside and play golf with some of your pals is important for the president. It does give you an outlet.”
One person who didn’t believe Obama should be getting outside and playing golf with his pals was Trump, who repeatedly criticized him for golfing amid “all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S.”
“I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again,” Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. “I don’t think I’d ever see many of the places that I have. I don’t ever think I’d see anything — I just wanna stay in the White House and work my ass off, make great deals, right?”
Of course, Trump has seen a lot of those places, playing almost twice as often as Obama during his short time as president and facing criticism for his frequent trips to the properties he owns.
In a revealing profile this week, Sports Illustrated reported that Trump told club members that he spends so much time at his properties because the White House is a “real dump.”
According to the profile, Trump — apparently an excellent golfer, but one who frequently cheats — “finds respite on the course and at his properties.”
“[Trump was] so relaxed, he was having so much fun,” Eric Trump told the magazine after his father left the U.S. Women’s Open at Bedminster in July. “It was nice for him to be outside of Washington, D.C.”