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The Loop

The Republican presidential candidates' golf pedigrees, ranked

November 11, 2015

Military experience. Civil service. Business acumen. All sought-after attributes for a presidential candidate. But they pale in comparison to the main POTUS prerequisite.

Golf prowess.

From Eisenhower to Obama, the Commander-in-Chief has also been America’s first off the tee. Alas, despite the game’s Oval Office importance, golf wasn’t mentioned in Tuesday’s Republican presidential-nominee debate. Forget immigration affairs; what are their thoughts on the interlocking grip? I don’t want to hear about nuclear-weapon policing, unless we're talking about the M1.

Because the sport is so important to the presidency, we decided to fill in the blanks. Here is a breakdown of each Republican candidate’s golf pedigree.


Chris Christie

Actual golf pedigree: Um, not good. He hasn't played in 15 years.

Theoretical golf strengths: Great scramble partner, enforcer of rules, generous at picking up the bar tab.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: For one who lays down the law, he is very liberal when it comes to his own game.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: Your Saturday-morning group consists of two foursomes, and Christie is the guy who really, REALLY wants to join...but he only receives an invite as an alternate. When he's playing well, he's a hell of a lot of fun to be around. When he's not -- which is often -- he's a pain in the behind.


Mike Huckabee

Actual golf pedigree: Huckabee is Public Enemy No. 1 for hackers. He has been a vocal critic of President Obama's time on the course, and has proudly stated he's never considered playing a round of golf in his life.

Theoretical golf strengths: No matter good round or bad, his demeanor won't waver; unlike most candidates, he feels more at home at a public course than a country club; 80-percent chance he brings Chuck Norris as his caddie.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: As a born-again health crusader, Mike would likely give you a disapproving glance at your "two brats and two beers" order from the cart girl.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: Mike Huckabee is from Arkansas, which is also home to John Daly. And Daly has a better chance of winning the Masters than Huckabee does the presidency.


John Kasich

Actual golf pedigree: The Ohio governor can swing a mean stick. Moreover, he allegedly follows golf. We say "allegedly" because of the following statement, from this past summer regarding his stance on Donald Trump's surging popularity: "I have paid no attention to that whole business,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. "I paid a lot of attention to the British Open. Glad to see that guy from Iowa won.” Really, that guy from Iowa? You're better than that, John.

Theoretical golf strengths: Kasich is known for balancing a budget, making him a country club treasurer candidate; can probably get you on Muirfield Village.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: Smack talk.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: A scratch who enters U.S. Open local qualifying and fails to break 80.


Rand Paul

Actual golf pedigree: Good news: He plays! Bad news: He might not be that good.

Theoretical golf strengths: Good at finding deals.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: Paul has the creativity of a pro but the execution of an 18-handicapper. As such, he tries to pull off shots -- think a faded 225-yard carry over water from out of a tree line -- that are WAY above his ability, getting wet in the process.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: Paul is from Kentucky, home of Valhalla Golf Club. And like the PGA Championship/Ryder Cup host, there are moments that make you think, "Hmm, this isn't so bad, I can see why it's a major player." And then you see power lines on the course and think, "Nah."


Carly Fiorina

Actual golf pedigree: Extensive research (see: Google, Wikipedia) does not show any affiliation between Fiorina and the game.

Theoretical golf strengths: Can hold her own among men.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: God forbid if she is ever in charge of an outing or tournament.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: FootGolf. It makes you go, "Oh, that's neat," and maybe you even give it a chance. But you don't take it seriously.


Jeb (!) Bush

Actual golf pedigree: Strong. Plays weekly at Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla., to a 13.7 handicap. Hosts a charity outing. And his great grandfather was George Herbert Walker, former president of the USGA and namesake of the Walker Cup.

Theoretical golf strengths: Plays fast; great cart mate for what-if, hypothetical conversations.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: Might lose energy if the round goes long; if you ask him for a read, he could flip-flop on guidance.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: A once highly touted rising star that’s without a major. Now just happy to have a tour card.


Ted Cruz

Actual golf pedigree: Cruz has a love-hate relationship with the game. On the proponent side, Cruz accidentally believed a UN conspiracy theory that wanted to rid the world of golf, and took to a blog post defending the existence of courses. However, he's taken President Obama to task on his frequent golf trips.

Theoretical golf strengths: Range grinder; despite an ugly swing, a low-digit handicapper.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: Likely exaggerates his past golf exploits; not one who's generous on gimme putts. (Update: We were off on this one, as Cruz was brutally honest about his golf game, calling it "horrible." Still don't see him giving you anything outside of six inches, though.)

Presidential odds as golf comparison: The members of your club begrudgingly respect his game, but no one particularly likes having him around.


Marco Rubio

Actual golf pedigree: Not the best; Rubio's daughter was in a serious golf cart accident in 2012. And Rubio has widely bragged that he's too busy campaigning to play golf. But there was this article comparing him to Jordan Spieth, so there's that.

Theoretical golf strengths: His bad round won't submarine your time, as he has a self-deprecating humor; positivity and smile would be perfect for a JV golf coach; one of the few members at your club that doesn't have an AARP card.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: Keeping score.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: He's an up-and-coming talent with a bright future, but not quite ready to compete on center stage.


Ben Carson

Actual golf pedigree: None. He planned to pick up the game when he retired from neurosurgery, but decided to do that whole "presidential run" thing instead. Talk about a guy with out-of-whack priorities.

Theoretical golf strengths: Dude was a neurosurgeon for 30 years. With hands like that, his short game has to be solid.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: Golf is a game of integrity, a realm in which Carson hasn't excelled. This doesn't have to do with golf, but Carson appeared in "Stuck on You", one of the worst movies made this century. Feel like that's worth noting.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: You know those majors where someone is lurking on the leader board but you never really pay attention to them, either because a) you keep waiting for them to fall out of contention and b) perhaps other names are more attractive, but that player in the shadows never leaves, and emerges as the champ? Meet Zach, Ben Carson.


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Donald Trump

Actual golf pedigree: His portfolio of golf courses -- including Turnberry, Doral, Bedminster and Ferry Point -- is second to none. Trump's quite the player himself, boasting a 66 as his career-best. He's also found himself in hot water with the PGA, LPGA and Scottish residents over golf matters. Forget politics; Donald Trump might be the biggest non-player name in golf, period.

Theoretical golf strengths: His straight-from-the-hip takes are the makings of a perfect caddie, and who needs a tee time when playing with Trump given, you know, he owns 17 courses.

Theoretical golf weaknesses: A "winter rules" approach for all seasons; humility.

Presidential odds as golf comparison: Bubba Watson at Augusta. An outspoken, divisive character. And one you wouldn't bet against.