RENSLOW: The sport of presidents |

RENSLOW: The sport of presidents

As our Republic makes a peaceful transition from one President to the next, Get Into Golf asks the truly weighty question. Yes, there are challenges (both domestic and abroad), the nation’s economy is frail, and solutions for we the people are high on the list. But, the game has the luxury of a simple inquiry; does the new chief executive play golf?

Now, horse racing has been called the “sport of kings”, but the world has seen a transition. The most notable monarch to play the game is probably, Mary, Queen of Scots, (having reportedly played golf on the day of her husband’s death). However, beginning with Howard Taft, golf has become the “sport of presidents.”

Through President Obama, 15 of the previous 18 presidents consistently played the game. Now, remember, golf really wasn’t played on this continent until late in the 19th century. It didn’t take hold of the masses until early in the 20th century when a young American, Francis Ouimet, bested the world’s top players (Britons Harry Vardon and Ted Ray) at the U.S. Open in 1913.

It would have been cool to see “honest Abe” tooling around the golf course. His height and all those years of splitting rails would have probably translated into some big drives. Ulysses S. Grant might have been a good candidate, as well. He already had the affinity for the outdoors and a good cigar.

Taft, although not suited for the game (at 300 pounds the New York Times described his swing as “a sumo wrestler trying to hit a ball with a fly swatter”), often chose golf over politics and it was reported that he turned away important meetings in order to get in a round.

The most avid presidential golfer must have been Dwight Eisenhower. His passion for the game led to the installation of a putting green near the White House and he had a practice net rigged on the main deck of the USS Canbera. “Ike” could even be seen playing with celebrities of the era, such as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby or Tour Players, like Arnold Palmer.

John F. Kennedy was a very good player, but did not want to be perceived as a recreational president. So, his rounds of golf were kept under wraps. Ironically, it seems golf was the rationale provided when Mr. Kennedy needed an excuse for other “activities.”

More recently, both Bush ‘41’, Bush ‘43,’ and Obama play golf. Clinton, apparently played at the game, reportedly taking up to six hours to make his way around 18 holes.

Which brings us back to the question at hand, does President-elect Donald Trump play golf? Well, his business has built golf courses around the world and we’re told he does get in a round now and then. This is good news. Not only does it promote the game in a general sense, I believe that in many ways, golf is a microcosm of life. It will teach you how to handle yourself in adversity and provides fulfillment with success.

Golf is a great game for everyone and for the Commander-In-Chief it is a wonderful escape from the pressures of the office. Shoot, if the leader of the free world has time to play a little golf, what are you waiting for? Call your local golf course and make a tee time. For about $30 you can play the sport of presidents.

John Renslow is a PGA Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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