The Washington Post

Why President Obama’s golf habit doesn’t matter

President Obama achieved a milestone (of sorts) on Sunday: He played his 100th round of golf since being sworn in three and a half years ago.

President Barack Obama swings to hit the ball out of a sand trap while playing golf at the Vineyard Golf Club, in Edgartown, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

CBS News’ Mark Knoller, the (un)official keeper of the White House records, commemorated the moment with — what else — a tweet:

As he plays his 100th round of golf as president, its clear Pres Obama loves the game and is also frustrated by it.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 17, 2012

The White House Dossier’s Keith Koffler noted that Obama played golf 28 times in 2009, 30 times in 2010, and 34 times in 2011. The president Father’s Day round was his eighth so far in 2012.

Republicans pounced. The Republican National Committee put out a press release headlined “Duffer-In-Chief: Obama Hits 100” — with a series of stories detailing Obama’s love for the links.

Others noted that then President George W. Bush played only 24 rounds of golf during his eight years in the White House and famously forswore golf in 2003 “in solidarity” with the men and women fighting in foreign wars.

Koffler added that:

“Obama’s golfing takes about five hours, including the motorcades back and forth from the fairways. If one thinks of this as taking up much of the day – include getting ready to go and cooling off afterward – its fair to say that Obama has spent more than three months of his presidency golfing.”

For all the foofaraw, however, the idea that President Obama’s golf habit somehow speaks to a broader lack of seriousness in office is an issue that resounds strongly in the Republican base but has limited political reach beyond those hardcore GOPers.

If you don’t like President Obama and think he is ill-suited to the job he currently has — and there are lots of people who feel that way — then the idea that he has played 100 rounds of golf will drive you crazy. (Ditto Obama’s use of a TelePrompter or, for Democrats, President Bush’s tendency to visit his Texas ranch.)

If you like the President, you are almost certain to see golf as a much-needed moment of catharsis for a man who, literally, has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Obama himself has said that golfing makes him “almost feel normal” and that “it’s the only time for six hours...that I’m outside.”

(Sidebar: The Fix is a big believer in exercise as catharsis. If we didn’t play pickup basketball a few times a week — at least — we would be intolerable. Or more intolerable than we already are.)

And, if you are an independent or an unaffiliated voter, you almost certainly don’t know about Obama’s golf habit — and if you do know you likely don’t care. You care about the state of the economy. And whether things are getting better — or going to get better — for you and your family.

To be clear, the White House isn’t actively touting Obama’s golfing trips — aware that the visuals of a President engaging in a sport many people feel is only for the affluent isn’t ideal.

But the idea that the President’s golf habits are a voting issue for anyone who hasn’t long ago made up their mind about whether Obama deserves a second term is far-fetched.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
This isn't your daddy's gun club
A look inside the world of Candomblé
It's in the details: Five ways to enhance your kitchen makeover
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Play Videos
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
The art of tortilla-making
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
How hackers can control your car from miles away
How the new credit card chip makes purchases more secure