• Playing the Trump card

    Cheating in golf Donald Trump
    Trump's counting has caused a stir

    I am in love with a website dedicated to Donald Trump and the game of golf.

    You can find it at presidentialgolftracker.com. The site is dedicated to ‘keeping track of Trump’s golf outings’ and it deals in generalities and minutiae. According to the website, by early June this year Trump had played golf 178 times since moving into the Oval Office in January 2017.

    That figure is not actually set in stone, since Trump’s spinners are very coy about putting golfing information in the public domain. The reason being that one of Trump’s obsessions in the days of Barack Obama’s presidency was pointing out how often he played golf. For the record, the site claims Obama golfed 333 times during his two terms of office, an average of 42 times a year.

    That figure alone is fairly astonishing. We are entitled to wonder – as Trump did before he became president – where the leader of the free world finds the time to play the game so frequently. As a mere farmer, writer and broadcaster, I cannot squeeze in 10 rounds a year, yet Obama managed not far short of a round a week and Trump is on track for twice that.

    It helps, I suppose, when you own a golf course or three. Believe it or not, Trump owns 16 and has three more under construction. It also helps that 14 of his courses are on the East Coast of the United States and that half a dozen are no more than a 20-minute helicopter ride from the White House. Not for Trump the pain of booking a tee time and then getting stuck in traffic on the way.

    It further helps that Trump has been a single-figure golfer most of his adult life – he’s officially 2.6 at the moment – so he probably spends less time looking for his golf ball than I do. Furthermore, since he became president, Trump is not allowed out without a large security escort. It’s been alleged by several of his playing partners that security is not shy to walk ahead and ‘redistribute’ balls that may have been hit less than perfectly.

    Of course, Trump is not the first US president to be accused of ‘creative accountancy’ on the golf course. Don Van Natta Jnr’s 2003 tome, First Off the Tee, is required reading for those fascinated by the subject. As the Washington correspondent of the New York Times, Van Natta not only covered the impeachment of Bill Clinton, he also played a round of golf with him a few years later.

    That appalling American invention, the mulligan, looms large in Van Natta’s account of the round. Clinton would habitually hit a less-than-perfect shot, drop another ball, hit that a bit better and declare it to be in play. At the end of the round, he claimed to have shot 82. Van Natta reckons that by counting what he calls the ‘Billigans’, the former president actually hit about 200 shots during the round.

    So far, it seems, Trump hasn’t done anything quite so egregious, although you might argue that using Turnberry, one of Scotland’s national treasures, as a Russian money-laundering device comes close.

    – Capostagno is a monthly columnist for Compleat Golfer

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