Why Donald Trump's presidential golf rounds matter to the sport of golf
Golf and Politics

Why Donald Trump’s presidential golf rounds matter to the sport of golf


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Here at Golf News Net, we've been how often President Donald Trump plays golf pretty much since the beginning of his presidency on Jan. 20, 2017.

When he plays or arrives at one of his 17 owned-or-operated golf clubs to spend time, we tell you about it. We try to do so without a slant, merely providing the details of when Trump arrived, which club it was, who he might be playing with and any other relevant details behind the round.

We have also provided information about Trump and his golf businesses that run contrary to widespread myths and disinformation about President Trump's golf habit and operations spread by partisans on either end of the political spectrum. We've cleared up that Trump didn't leave Puerto Rico hanging on a $33 million loan for a golf course which bore his name. We've attempted to clear up how much Trump's golf rounds cost the American taxpayer. We've tried to explain that Trump doesn't make money from cart fees paid by the Secret Service to protect Trump at his golf clubs and his Mar-a-Lago private club. We've made clear Tiger Woods isn't building a golf course in Dubai for Donald Trump, detailing how Trump has used hybrid licensing-and-management agreements to expand his golf brand's reach without reaching into his personal wealth to develop some properties.

However, we've never addressed why it should matter to golfers and the golf industry why President Trump's propensity to play golf -- quite a bit more than his predecessors in the last half-century.

For the average American -- whether you're in the 35 percent who approve of his job performance or the 65 percent who currently don't -- it's clear why Trump's golf habit matters.

  • Members of Trump's golf clubs and Mar-a-Lago can effectively pay a six-figure sum to join and potentially gain access to the President of the United States to spread their political ideas, try to lobby for their businesses and industries or boast some kind of connection (real or fabricated) to the President. We don't know the effect of members' potential lobbying, though there has been some indication Trump has offering some political kudos to business owners who are members of his clubs.
  • People who play golf with the President have the potential to influence his decision-making. That means knowing who is playing golf with Trump is a relevant question. (That doesn't imply we have to know everything about his round or even see any shots he hits.)
  • Trump is potentially helping to enrich himself through the presidency each time he visits a Trump golf club. He has not divested himself of his holdings in The Trump Organization, and the blind trust he claims to have handed over to his adult sons to run doesn't really help address conflict-of-interest guidelines. Each Trump visit to a golf club is, effectively, a commercial for his clubs. That could lead to more business, which means more wealth for Trump.
  • The amount of time Trump plays golf does take away from some of the time he spends being the President of the United States. As we've said from the beginning and even back to the Obama administration, the Commander-in-Chief is certainly entitled to have some down time. Being the President appears to be the fastest-paced, most stressful job in the world. Having a handful of hours every now and then to maybe not think about the world blowing up seems like a good idea, no matter the activity. However, at what point is that activity -- golf, camping, playing piano -- detrimental to job performance?

Those are all reasons for the general public to care about Trump playing golf. However, they're not specific to golf, which is an industry leaning hard to the right. Golfers and people who work in the golf industry tend to be whiter, wealthier and more business Republican than the general population. So why should they care what a Republican president does for a hobby, particularly if its in their line of work? Let's examine.

  • Trump golf properties have hosted major championships and will into the future, even when Trump is potentially not President. The US Women's Open at Trump National in New Jersey was controversial because of Trump's political toxicity, and the USGA and LPGA were forced to divert attention away from the players to talk about the host venue. That could happen in the future and damage the reputations of hosting organizations, including the PGA of America. Could Trump use his influence as a major host and combine it with his sway as President in unforeseen ways, like when he plugged his Jersey club in a speech in front of the South Korean assembly?
  • Some Trump golf properties, including Doral in South Florida and Turnberry in Scotland, have previously hosted big championships but are currently not slated to host those events in the future. Will golf's governing bodies face political pressure to go to these Trump properties?
  • Trump has said he believes golf should be an aspirational game, meaning those not in the upper middle class and above deserve to be priced out of playing. That runs counter to the message from golf's governing bodies, seeking to bring in more people to the game from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. If Trump, as the First Golfer, is seen as a vocal representative of golf's views, that could be devastating to golf's grow-the-game efforts.
  • Trump polls particularly poorly with younger people -- the people that will be the next generation of golfers. Will these players be turned off from the sport because so many of them find Trump divisive and counter to their belief systems? If that's true, could a Trump presidency stunt potential golf participation? It's beyond unclear at this point, but it's something worth monitoring.

Hopefully this explains why a golf site is covering Trump's golf habit. The frequency matters to an extent, but the potential fallout for the sport in the long haul matters more.

 

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About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com