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From Eisenhower and JFK to Obama and Trump, the American presidency has a long association with the game of golf. But what about current incumbent Joe Biden, and is he any good?
Biden ousted perhaps America’s most golf-obsessed president in Donald Trump, owner of several golf clubs around the world. In fact Trump had just finished a round at his own Trump National Golf Club in Virginia when he found out the press had called the election for Biden, confirming he had failed to win a second term.
While Biden may not own any golf courses like his predecessor, he is a member of two golf clubs, both in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware. He joined Wilmington Country Club in 2014 and is a member of Fieldstone Golf Club, which he lists as his home club.
In the days leading up to the election in November 2020, he took a break from campaigning by visiting Wilmington Country Club and a video did the rounds on social media showing him swinging his club on the 10th hole. Famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., a family friend and occasional Biden playing partner, said: “Oh, he loves the game, plays and respects it.”
During his term as Vice President under President Barack Obama between 2009-17, Biden would often practice on the White House putting green originally installed close to the Oval Office by avid golfer Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. It was reported in 2015 that he had a handicap of 6.3, though other reports estimated it to be a more modest 10. Still, not bad for a man who only took up the game at the age of 57 back in 2001.
According to the USGA’s handicapping system, Trump, who started playing golf in the late 60s, reported his handicap to be 2.8. Given his age and the lack of scores he has officially recorded in recent years, many doubt the validity of this. But he certainly gets enough practice. The Presidential Golf Tracker website says that Trump played golf around 300 times during his presidency, mostly at his own courses at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and Trump National in Virginia, averaging a round every five days during his four-year tenure at the White House.
In comparison, Obama, lambasted by Trump for playing too much golf during his presidency, also played around 300 times, mostly at Andrew Air Force Base near Washington DC, but that was over a two-term, eight year spell in office. Obama, who has a respectable 13 handicap, did however reportedly clock in more rounds in his first nine months in office than his predecessor, 11-handicapper George W. Bush did in his entire eight years as president.
Among the other US presidents to have excelled on the golf course, Eisenhower had a handicap of between 14 and 18 and enjoyed a close friendship with Arnold Palmer which helped to greatly increase the sport’s popularity in the US in the 50s. His successor John F. Kennedy, sensitive to criticism aimed at Eisenhower for playing golf on weekdays, let the White House green grow over, but did have a handicap of around 14 and was said to break 80 on occasion. The green was removed altogether by Richard Nixon before Bill Clinton, who had a handicap of 10, restored it in 1995, enlisting Robert Trent Jones Jr. to oversee the design.
Due to his age, 78, and the amount of pressing issues on his desk, it’s highly doubtful that President Biden will run up the same number of hours on the golf course as either Trump or Obama, but you can bet he’ll be tuning in once the PGA Championship, the US Open and The Open hit our screens between May and July.