An Open book: Presidents and their golf games

The U.S. Open has returned to Congressional outside Washington. President Obama and Speaker John Boehner are engaged in an 18-hole playoff. (Hopefully, not sudden death.) There’s no better time  to discover–or re-read–a delightfully entertaining history of our Presidents and golf.

It’s called First Off the Tee, by Don Van Natta Jr., a national correspondents for the New York Times. There are so many laugh-out-loud anecdotes and fascinating inside stories, you’ll want to take notes.

Who played the most rounds while in the White House? Not Eisenhower, but Woodrow Wilson, who took up the game for health reasons. He played at least 1,200 rounds while President, twice as many as Ike. Often ridiculed Warren G. Harding liked the golf course for its speak-easy and rendezvous possibilities, not necessarily bad things. Nixon seemed more interested in playing golf to ingratiate himself with Eisenhower. John F. Kennedy sighed with relief when he missed a hole-in-hole, knowing the story would get around; golf was often considered bad for a President’s image.

Before being stricken with polio, FDR was a talented and enthusiastic big-hitter who served as president of a Campobello golf club before becoming President. The Bushes took pride in NASCAR-like speed of play, once posting a record one-hour, 42-minute round as a foursome. Bill Clinton’s famous Billigans (mulligans) are explained in charming detail.

If you have read the book, you know what I’m talking about when I say it’s worth a re-read. If you missed First Off the Tee, you’re in for a treat.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)