The Quick Guide to Presidents and Golf

Happy Presidents Day! To celebrate this nation’s past presidents, we wanted to share some of our favorite trivia regarding presidents and golf! We hope you’re enjoying the day, and if you get the day off – we hope you can spend some time out on the course! Check out GOLFZING.com for current golfing specials if you’re looking for a tee time!

Setting Presidential precedent

Barack Obama is the seventieth president to golf while in office. William McKinley was the first, in 1897. In the 114 years since, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter were the only non-golfing presidents.

Woodrow Wilson was an avid golfer

Out of many famous presidential golfers, Woodrow Wilson is often overlooked, but it was Wilson (and not the often-thought Eisenhower) who logged the most rounds while in office. A good friend suggested that Wilson play golf regularly for his health. Wilson even played with golf balls painted black so he could play in the winter!

Dwight D. Eisenhower commissioned the first putting green at the White House

When most people think of U.S. Presidents and golf, they think of Eisenhower, who helped popularize the game in the U.S. In 1954, Eisenhower had a putting green installed a short walk outside the Oval Office (though this was later removed in the 1970s). Robert Trent Jones, Sr. built the original green.

John F. Kennedy kept his golf games on the DL

Most commentators believe JFK’s natural talent & potential for golf was underrated and overlooked due to not only his bad back and Addison’s disease, but because he did his best to keep his golf games hush-hush. At the time, golf was seen as a sport for privileged rich Republicans—a sport which a Democrat shouldn’t play (or enjoy). By most accounts though, he could have had a single-digit handicap if he had played regularly. Golf.com senior producer Jeff Ritter noted Kennedy “probably [had] the sweetest swing out of all the presidents.”

Gerald Ford was the first president to join the USGA

Although some thought Ford wasn’t the best golfer, he could break 90 and once played a foursome at Pinehurst with Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus & Arnold Palmer. He was also the first presidential member of the USGA, and was known for never taking a gimmie putt, but insisting that he putt it out.

The Bush Family: Speed Golf Practitioners 

Not only did George H.W. Bush enjoy golf, he had a long history of golf tradition. His maternal grandfather was president of the USGA and founded the Walker Cup. His father, Prescott Bush, was also USGA president, and Bush himself was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. George H.W. Bush was known for his quick rounds, as Sports Illustrated writer Gary Van Sickle said: “Bush Sr. was not only a pretty good golfer, he was the fastest presidential golfer ever, maybe the fastest golfer ever. Just what the country needed to encourage faster play.”

George W. Bush also played the sport, but gave up golf during the Iraq War, as he didn’t want to play while sending troops overseas. After he left the White House, he returned to the game, establishing the Warrior Open to honor U.S. servicemen.

Bill Clinton rebuilt the second putting green

In 1995, Bill Clinton enlisted Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to rebuild a new putting green at the White House, under the shade of the Hoover Oak. Bill Clinton was known for taking advantage of do-overs or “Billigans” while he golfed, which were both credited towards his fun loving (or some said truth stretching) personality on and off the course.

Barack Obama, the left-handed, public course player

While there have been other left-handed presidents in the White House, Barack Obama is the first who plays golf left-handed. While he enjoys basketball more, when he plays golf, he enjoys playing with the clubs he’s had for years, and primarily playing at public courses.

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