Jan
27
2012
A Presidential Pastime
By Conor Nagle under History

Obama and Uncle Joe wiffling about on the Eisenhower putting green.

Never the most populist of sports, golf takes on a problematic political connotation in times of crisis. Synonymous for a large chunk of the electorate with cronyism, indulgence and naivety, a taste for spending time on the links – as opposed, say, to clearing brush on a Texas ranch – can, it seems, prove a damaging habit for a President to entertain.

But, as Martin Davis notes in a column for CNN, the magnitude of incumbent’s golf habit is dwarfed by those of a handful of 20th-century presidents.

Did you know, for example, that Woodrow Wilson used to play at least a few holes every day, regardless of the weather?

“The honor for the most golf played goes to Woodrow Wilson. It’s said that he played at least a few holes each day — even in the snow — reportedly logging more than 1,000 rounds in his two terms. Maybe that’s why the League of Nations failed.”

Or that Dwight D. Eisenhower clocked over 200(!) rounds at Augusta National during his presidency, many of them in the company of Arnold Palmer?

While it’s undoubtedly necessary for Presidents to alleviate the anxiety attendant upon their chosen occupation, and that the seclusion of the golf course can offer an ideal refuge in this regard, the links can also serve a more progressive purpose.

“Lyndon Johnson played the game, warning his playing partners that it wasn’t proper to beat the president. Most significantly, he used his outings on the links to secure votes for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

An interesting summary of the game’s presidential associations, Davis’s article offers a wealth of ammunition for those interested in countering the tired “Where are our jobs, Golf-bama?” bromide.

Conor Nagle