That round of golf the prime minister played with Barack Obama really was a big deal. An exhaustive study of the president’s choice of partners in Time late last year noted that though he plays a lot of golf, he rarely takes politics on to the course.
Where previous presidents have putted away the hours with major donors or people of influence, “the capital’s power brokers have had almost zero luck” with Obama. The clear evidence is that he “prefers to leave the presidency behind when on the course”, writes Chris Wilson.
A 2012 piece on presidents and golf in ESPN The Magazine, meanwhile, agrees the game is Obama’s “most cherished escape”, but one that he prefers to keep as private as possible.
Obama strives to downplay his great golfing enthusiasm, writes Don Van Natta – even inquiries about his handicap are joked away with the insistence “that’s classified”.
And with good reason: his opponents have eagerly tallied the games he’s played since arriving at the White House (easily more than 100). Fundraising campaigns have included the exhortation to “send President Obama on a permanent golfing vacation”.
His predecessor, President George W Bush, quit playing launching the war in Iraq, saying, “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf”.
That wasn’t long after he was infamously filmed on the golf course, staring into the camera, saying: “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.”
Van Natta observes that while Theodore Roosevelt had warned that “golf is fatal” to the politician, recent evidence suggests that contrary. “Since the 1980 presidential election, a curious trend has emerged: Jimmy Carter. Walter Mondale. Michael Dukakis. Bob Dole. Al Gore. John Kerry. John McCain. None of them played golf. All of them tasted bitter defeat. All of them lost to golfers.”
See also: Why cycling is the new golf