Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Presidents and their approach to the rules of golf

This may be an odd comment, but these kinds of thoughts can occur during sleepless nights.  The classic novel "Golf in the Kingdom" by Michael Murphy is seen by some as the best book about golf ever written.  One thing it constantly stresses is that golf is not golf if the rules are not rigorously followed in an unqualified way.  Golf is a test of character.

Among modern era presidents, Eisenhower was perhaps the most dedicated golfer, and as a rigid military man he followed the rules. Kennedy was not known as a golfer, and his back probably prevented the effort.  Johnson had no knowledge or interest in something so "trivial" that didn't directly involve power, women, money, progressive politics, or war.  Nixon was rumored to play some at his San Clemente ranch but that was probably a myth propagated by his lying minions.

Now come the real Presidential golfers.  Ford was an exceptional athlete in his day and could play relatively well, but in public appearances on the course his main reputation was for hitting spectators with errant shots.  To my knowledge Reagan was not a golfer, did not understand the game.  Then came the first President Bush, who played the game like a track meet, 18 holes in a little more than two hours. He followed the rules and almost ran after his wayward shots.  In fact, he was not a bad golfer at all,  just an impatient one.  Then came Bill Clinton, not an athletic man, who took up the game regularly to appear presidential.  He followed no rules, improved every lie, threw balls out of the rough, didn't count wild drives, and putts that were within two feet of the hole were considered gimmes.  He did like being outside and, despite his intelligence, did not seem to comprehend the rules of golf as part of the game.

Moving on to Bush number two, he seemed to play golf for relationship purposes more than pleasure but he knew the rules but did not fidget if his playing guests did not follow them.  He wanted them to enjoy the outing in whatever way they chose.  Perhaps he accommodated them at times by redoing his drive along with them.  Probably.  Obama was a gifted athlete but not a golfer by heritage.  As President he enjoyed the game as a way to be outside and away from the office and the press. His game was basically bogey golf with some bright spots and was generally rule bound unless it slowed the pace of the round unduly.  In his second term he play a lot of golf.

Now we get to Trump, probably the golfer as President with the best swing since Eisenhower.  He brags about his scores and his many investments in golf courses.  It has come to light recently that he is not especially rule bound.  There is a commercial on some television program featuring Bill Murray counting his score--- it can't be replicated here but he goes through his strokes on a hole, quite a few, and then says "that's a five".  Trump has a fine swing but his scores are mostly fiction by the real rigid rules of the game.

What a surprise.


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