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The Loop

Eisenhower and Nixon would have had Barack Obama's back when it comes to his golf habit

September 01, 2016

With the end in sight as a two-term president, Barack Obama still can’t avoid being disparaged by critics during high-profile golf trips for being out on the course instead of in Washington, D.C. or on-site handling whatever the on-going crisis. The latest go-round occurred last month when Obama played during his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard while Louisiana residents were dealing with some of the worst flooding in the state’s history.

Mind you, such condemnation of presidents is nothing new. On this date in “presidents being criticized for playing golf,” we turn to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Along with George H.W. Bush, Ike is one of two presidents in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and he could have gotten in just for the sheer number of days he played golf during his two terms: 1,000-plus. Fifty-one took place in 1953, and he was heading toward 93 in 1954, a midterm-election year. During August ’54, Eisenhower played 10, at a time when he was well along in hearing objections to his golf devotion.


On Sept. 1, 1954, Eisenhower’s VP, Richard Nixon, is cited with having defended his boss’ love for golf during the Republican National Committee gathering in Cincinnati. “If the president spent as much time playing golf as [Harry] Truman spent playing poker, then the president would be able to beat Ben Hogan,” Nixon said.

Nixon’s quip touched on one telling element: members of the inner circle don’t criticize how presidents spend their leisure time. Additionally, past golfing presidents don’t give the current POTUS grief regarding time on the course, perhaps hinting that critics should do the same.

Former President George W. Bush said in September 2013 of the man who replaced him, “he ought to play golf,” adding, “I know what it’s like to be in the bubble. And I know the pressures of the job. And to be able to get outside and play golf with some of your pals is important for the president. It does give you an outlet.”