As recently as Thursday, Trump told a congressional listening session: "I always said about President Obama, it's great to play golf, but play golf with heads of countries and people like yourself when you're looking for votes. Don't play with your friends that you play with every week. Does that make sense?"
And Trump has indeed said this. He also said it the day before Election Day, when he hit Obama for playing more than 300 rounds as president. "Hey, look, it's good. Golf is fine," Trump said. "But always play with leaders of countries and people that can help us; don't play with your friends all the time."
But Trump is not following his own advice. Days after emphasizing the need to play with political VIPs, Trump played with a group that included precisely zero of them. His foursome Sunday included PGA Tour pro Rory McIlroy, former New York Yankee Paul O'Neill and Garry Singer, the CEO of Clear Sports LLC, a company that sells members-only golf balls.
None of them are people Trump will need to rely upon for votes, nor are they heads of state (unless there's been an election in Northern Ireland that we've somehow missed). Whether they're technically Trump's friends or not, it's difficult to see what official purpose playing golf with them might serve. And that's really what Trump was talking about Thursday and on Nov. 7.
The only reason we know about this foursome is because of the picture above and McIlroy speaking to a golf website. The White House had said Trump was only playing a few holes and didn't disclose his playing partners. It later changed its tune.
The White House has been cagey about Trump's golf-playing for the entire month of his presidency, declining to disclose many details, including with whom he has played. So far, we know only that he has played with McIlroy, O'Neill and Singer and separately with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and PGA pro Ernie Els the weekend prior. (The South African Els, like McIlroy, does not hold political office back home.)
Beyond that, we've got four other rounds of golf in which we don't even know who Trump played with. We're assuming that if he played with heads of state or political types, it would probably be disclosed or would be pretty difficult to hide.
So Trump has basically played one out of six rounds abiding by his own advice to play "only" with political influencers. And he is now on pace for around 300 rounds of golf in one term as president — a pace twice as fast as Obama's over two terms.
And then there's one other reason Trump's golfing flies in the face of his past rhetoric.
As a candidate, Trump said at one point that he wouldn't take vacations and wouldn't even depart the White House very often.
"I would rarely leave the White House, because there’s so much work to be done," he told The Hill newspaper in June 2015. "I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.”
Trump has regularly referred to his distaste for vacations.
Here's Trump on July 5: "Our country is going to hell. ISIS is laughing at us, they're chopping off heads, they're drowning people in steel cages, and [Obama's] out there playing golf with just about as long a trip as you can make from Washington."
Trump reiterated just days after his election as president: "There's just so much to be done. So I don't think we'll be very big on vacations, no."
And in a Jan. 30 meeting with small-business leaders: "Somebody says, 'Why don't you take a vacation before you become president?' I said because I like doing this."
Trump's anti-vacation stance dates back to his business career. He wrote in his 2004 book that requiring vacations was a sign that you're in the wrong job.
"Don't take vacations. What's the point? If you're not enjoying your work, you're in the wrong job." -- Think Like A Billionaire— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2012
It's a judgment call as to whether Trump's weekends at Mar-a-Lago count as vacation time. It's been cast as the Winter White House by press secretary Sean Spicer, but it's also clearly a place where the president spends time doing things unrelated to his day job — like playing golf.
We've already seen reporting on how Trump finds being in the White House to be isolating and solitary. So if Trump keeps hitting the links hard (without world leaders) and actually starts taking vacations, we'll know exactly what it means.