After nine months in office and 76 days at his golf clubs, President Donald Trump had apparently and finally posted a score from one of his scores of rounds as Commander-in-Chief. It was a stunning score considering he hadn't posted a golf score to GHIN (Golf Handicap and Information Network), the USGA's handicapping service for golfers, since June 2016.
Back then, he posted a home-course 77 (it would appear to have happened on The Golden Palm at Trump Doral in Florida as its slope and rating closely match that of the course posted), and that was the first score had had posted since a pair of rounds in May 2015, just prior to when he announced his bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Since taking office as 45th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017, Trump has been to his golf clubs 76 days. That puts him on the golf course every fourth day, which is kind of stunning considering how frequently Trump lambasted his predecessor Barack Obama for his estimated 333 rounds in 8 years. Trump is currently on a pace closer to 800 rounds in office if he makes it to and through two terms like No. 44. Until this week, Trump had posted scores from none of those rounds to GHIN, which thousands of golfers in the United States use to track their scores and establish a handicap index which helps them play on a more even footing with golfers of all skill levels.
Then, all of a sudden, this score showed up which dropped his handicap index -- a reflection of how he plays against course ratings -- from 2.8 to 2.5. The 68 was from an away round -- at a club Trump doesn't own, operate or belong to, like Winged Foot in New York -- that happened in October. That number is an outlier compared to the other 19 scores counting toward his handicap, dating back to April 2011, for a variety of reasons.
The most obvious head-scratcher was the score. Trump had previously posted no sub-70 rounds dating back to the spring of 2011. The closest he came to piercing 70 was when he shot that on the nose in what he dubbed a tournament round in August 2013. His next-best effort was a 74 in June 2011, back near his 65th birthday. Maybe it was a birthday round, who knows.
The other part of the 68 posted that made no sense was that it was an away score. As far as the White House press pool had reported or knew (and they follow him everywhere), Trump hadn't played a round of golf off of one of his 17 owned-or-operated properties. He was either at his clubs in New Jersey, northern Virginia or in Jupiter or West Palm Beach, Fla. Nothing anywhere else, or so we thought until this score was posted.
The last part that made no sense was the nature of the course slope and rating. The USGA and other golf organizations rate golf courses for their relative difficulty, helping players to better equate the challenges of one golf course to the next. The rating tells you what a par-shooting player would expect to shoot on a course from a certain set of tees. The slope tells you about the difficulty of a golf course for a bogey golfer (someone who shoots around 90) relative to the difficulty for a scratch golfer. The slope rating ranges from 55 for a very easy course and set of tees to 155 for the hardest courses in the world. So, 113 is a standard difficulty slope. This away round carried a rating of 66.1 and a slope of 118. That's an easy, short golf course. Trump doesn't typically play those, with his other scores coming on courses and tees with a slope no worse than 132.
The thing that did make sense is it seems clear Trump is a reverse sandbagger, only posting his better scores so he can maintain an artificially low handicap index. It's a bragging point for a guy who brags about everything. That would explain the huge gaps in posting scores pre-presidency, since Trump doesn't seem to care about the politics of his playing golf.
It's also clear from Trump's past Golf Channel TV show that he likes to give himself a lot of putts he (and most golfers) might easily miss. His circle of trust is bigger than normal, meaning he could easily lower his score just on how he perceives his ability to make putts even pros don't make half the time.
So, where could Trump have played in October that had a 66.1 course rating and 118 slope for a set of tees?
Ari Marcus of Golf Channel beat us to the punch, figuring out that the score could have come on the South Course at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.
It's about 35 minutes door-to-door from the White House. From the White tees that have that rating and slope, Trump would have hypothetically played a 5,457-yard golf course. For a guy who claims to hit the ball 270 yards off the tee, that's a very short golf course. He would be better challenged on a 6,500-yard or above golf course. So why would Trump agree to play golf from a super-short set of tees?
None of it made sense.
Trump's score doesn't appear legitimate, especially as the world scoffed when Senator Lindsey Graham insisted the Commander-in-Chief shot a 73 or 74 in very difficult conditions in an October round at Trump National in northern Virginia. Trump would have beaten his age, which is a remarkably feat for a guy in his 70s. The White House denies Trump personally posted this to his GHIN index, telling The Wall Street Journal POTUS didn't personally post it. However, they also didn't deny the round happened or that Trump shot 68. Trump is not required to personally enter the score. A club pro or other course staffer could.
What happened, then? For this to be true, Trump would have had to play golf at a club while ditching the White House press pool, broken ranks from playing at his courses while in office, played a substantially shorter and easier golf course than he normally would and finally decide that -- that -- round was the time to post his first score while in office. It all seems rather unlikely. But why would Trump, or someone with access to his GHIN info, post a round so easily scrutinized?
This could be a clerical error. Someone at one of Trump's clubs could have accidentally entered POTUS' number, posted a score meant for them and it landed on GHIN for the world to see. They could have done it on purpose as some kind of prank. After all, it's not like there are security safeguards to protect against enter malicious or facetious golf scores. Maybe Trump did play at Woodmont -- where Obama was thought to have sought membership after leaving office -- and butchered the entry. Maybe it was five other things. Who knows.
But, for now, POTUS appears to at least be willing to take credit for a 68 published in his name.