In honor of President's day, and since 15 of the last 18 Presidents have taken to the game with varying levels of enthusiasm and skill, here is a list of the top 5 Presidential golfers. My rankings reflect a combination of passion for the game and actual level of golfing ability:
1) Dwight D. Eisenhower: Ike loved golf, no doubt about it, and even took alot of political heat from Democrats who said that he spent too much time on the golf course and not enough time actually governing. Ike showed them though -- he had a putting green installed outside the Oval Office that is still used today. I got to see the putting green on a trip to the White House with Notre Dame back in 2001, and it is very well maintained (not too big) and has balls with the Seal of the President on them. Very cool! Ike played somewhere around 800 rounds in the White House, and was a member of Augusta National. You have all probably heard reference on the Masters telecasts over the years to "The Eisenhower Pine" -- this is a tree that is on the 17th hole that Ike hit so many times over the years that he proposed that it be cut down at an Augusta National members meeting. The powers that be at Augusta politely refused the 34th President of the United States' request, but the name stuck -- as did Ike's golf balls in the tree's branches!
2) John F. Kennedy: It is generally widely acknowledged that JFK was the premier golfer to have taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Kennedy was a great athlete with a smooth and powerful swing and played in the high 70s and low 80s. He may well have topped the list, except that his chronic back problems limited his rounds, as did his predecessor's (our #1) passion for the game. Ike was such an avid golfer that JFK viewed golf as a political liability he could not well afford, and kept his love for the game on the down low.
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt: This may come as a shock to many people, given that the image of FDR that endures to this day is being President while confined to a wheelchair as a result of having polio at the age of 39. But in the years prior to losing the use of his legs, FDR was an avid and skilled golfer. In fact, after graduating from Harvard he won the club championship at a course on an island off the coast of Maine. FDR's passion continued even after polio robbed him of his ability to play the game, and he used his Works Progress Administration to put the nation back to work during the Great Depression in part by building golf courses. The men of the WPA even went to work on one of my favorite places, the courses and facilities at Bethpage State Park on Long Island. From now on, when I go to Bethpage, I will definitely tip my cap and say thanks to the 32nd President of the United States.
4) Bill Clinton: President Clinton certainly has a well-known passion for the game and enjoyed carting around quite an entourage when he would hit the links as Commander-in-Chief. Clinton is not a bad golfer, and can play around 80 when he has it going, though he is perhaps best known for some creative math out on the golf course with mulligans and foot wedges a usual part of his arsenal.
5) George Herbert Walker Bush: "41" enjoyed the game as much as anyone, and his family has a well-known golfing lineage -- the Walker Cup, where the United States' top amateurs take on the top amateurs from Great Britain and Ireland in a team event every other year similar to the Ryder Cup -- is named after Bush's grandfather, George Herbert Walker, a former President of the USGA. At one time, Bush was able to get his handicap down to around an 11 and is well-known for his notoriously fast round (including one 18 hole round he boasts he played in less than 90 minutes). Bush is a huge supported of the game, and in May will be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.