Six things we learned from SI’s in-depth look at ‘First Golfer’ President Trump

August 2, 2017

[This article originally appeared on] 

“One of the odder effects of the Trump era,” New York Times reporter Kevin Roose quipped on Twitter, “is that golf publications now regularly break national news.” Sports Illustrated’s examination of President Trump’s complex relationship with the sport made the rounds on Tuesday following its publication, offering new insight into the 45th President of the United States through the lens of his love affair with golf. 

SI calculated that President Trump has spent some part of 20% of his days in office at a golf club, a figure noteworthy mostly because Trump repeatedly criticized President Obama’s golf outings and promised on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t play golf if elected because he’d be too busy. Alan Shipnuck’s story, “First Golfer: Donald Trump’s relationship with golf has never been more complicated,” is a comprehensive look at Trump’s history with the game.  

Whether you’re a political junkie or a golf fan, it’s well worth a read. But here’s a look at some of the top takeaways from Shipnuck’s story, including the quote that everyone is talking about. 


If you enjoy partaking in the hellish cesspool known as Politics Twitter, chances are you saw this quote on Tuesday night. According to SI, at a recent visit to his Bedminster, N.J., golf course, Trump was chatting up some members when he explained why he visited so often (four times since the inauguration): “The White House is a real dump.” A White House spokesperson denied this occurred.

It’s worth noting that the White House has long had a rat problem. And The Washington Post reported last week that Trump once summoned his (now former) chief of staff Reince Priebus to kill a fly in the Oval Office. But c’mon…it’s still the White House. In a more innocent time, the President of the United States calling the White House a dump would have dominated the news cycle for weeks. 


I spent enough time around South Florida golf courses growing up to know that just because you love golf doesn’t mean you’re any good. But Donald Trump is legitimately a good golfer. Here’s Shipnuck’s take: “He clearly loves the game, and even at 71 is easily the best golfer who has ever lived in the White House.”

Don’t believe us? Take it from a pro. 

“He’s a much better golfer than you think he’d be because he hits the ball a long way,” Phil Mickelson told SI. “He has clubhead speed, and there’s no substitute for that.”

Trump’s handicap index is officially a 2.8. But just one thing about that…


Does President Trump cheat at golf? The Washington Post investigated a couple years ago and determined that he did. SI’s reporting seems to corroborate the Post. 

Here’s what SI found: “Trump will sometimes respond to a shot he duffed by simply playing a second ball and carrying on as if the first shot never happened. In the parlance of the game, Trump takes floating mulligans, usually more than one during a round. Because of them it is impossible to say what he has actually shot on any given day, according to 18 people who have teed it up with Trump over the last decade, including SI senior writer Michael Bamberger, who has done so nine times.”

Trump has also claimed to be an 18-time club champion. (He claimed this in an angry tweet calling Mark Cuban a loser.) It’s certainly possible Trump won those events, but SI couldn’t find any supporting evidence. 


This isn’t news if you follow the PGA or LPGA tours, but Donald Trump is quite friendly with a number of professional golfers. When Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited the U.S. earlier this year, the two world leaders teed it up with Ernie Els. Trump played with Tiger Woods a month after the election. He’s also friendly with a number of LPGA players, including Natalie Gulbis and Cristie Kerr. 

Perhaps most notable is his friendship with German golfer Bernard Langer, which Shipnuck’s story addresses. The New York Times reported earlier this year that Trump’s belief in the prevalence of voter fraud (he falsely claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election) stems at least partially from Langer. The golfer was unable to vote because he’s not a U.S. citizen, but in Trump’s telling Langer spotted a number of people at a Florida polling place who “did not look as if they should be able to vote” casting provisional ballots. 


In June, a video of Trump driving a golf cart on a green went viral. (Driving on the green is a cardinal sin in golf.) 

It turns out he is also known to drive on tee boxes at his clubs, according to SI. The only question I have is whether a motorcade of golf carts accompanies him. 


From Shipnuck’s piece: “During election season, Bedminster morphed into a kind of permanent campaign rally site. Trump posters and bumper stickers were plastered across the property, and an anti-Hillary shrine was built in a bar in the men’s locker room. The club held a Ryder Cup–style competition in which the teams wore either red or black Make America Great Again hats. At most other golf courses in America the TV is tuned to Golf Channel, on mute, but throughout last summer and fall, the television in Trump Bedminster’s shop was on Fox News, with the sound blaring.”

The campaign may be over, but Bedminster is still politically significant. Shortly after the American Health Care Act passed the House of Representatives, President Trump held a fundraiser for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.) at the club. MacArthur was instrumental to the passage of the bill with his “MacArthur Amendment,” which allowed states to waive essential health benefits under certain conditions. Trump also held meetings at Bedminster with potential cabinet nominees during the presidential transition. 


The story covers a lot more, including the Trump Organization’s history of golf-related lawsuits and how Trump’s golf properties intersect with policy issues, like climate change. Be sure to give the entire story a read.