President Obama has gone golfing a total of 59 times in just under two years as president, a blistering pace that puts him on the golf course an average of about once every two weeks, including winters.
According to statistics compiled by CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who keeps close tabs on the president’s activities, Obama played 30 rounds in 2010, 28 rounds in 2009, and one this year. The 2011 outing is among the five times he went out on the course during his just concluded 12 day vacation to Hawaii.
While golf is played by millions of Americans and extends its reach well into the middle class, it is also perceived as a game of the idle rich and is generally unavailable to the poor, putting Obama’s frequent outings at odds with his image as a man of “hope” for the dispossessed.
The White House carefully downplays Obama’s golfing, rarely talking about it and releasing few pictures of the president swinging away. A search of the White House uploads on the Flickr photo-sharing website finds only three shots of the president on the golf course, compared to nearly two dozen of him on the basketball court.
Obama’s excursions usually involve a full 18 holes of play and take around five hours out of his day, including time motorcading to and from the course.
Many argue that golf provides a badly needed source of relaxation for Obama, a refuge and a respite from extraordinary demands of the presidency. And most or all of Obama’s golf days have been on weekends or during scheduled vacations.
But others say the president could find another way to relax, and that golfing sends the wrong message to the poor and to the troops during a time of economic struggle and war.
George W. Bush gave up golfing in 2003, explaining his rationale five years later in an interview with POLITICO.
“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”
Obama clearly plays to get his mind off of Washington, generally choosing the company of young administration staffers instead of lawmakers or senior aides.
Among those often in tow are Marvin Nicholson, the White House trip director, and David Katz, a former Obama campaign photographer now at the energy department.
While the president generally heads to the courses at either Andrews Air Force Base or Fort Belvoir when he’s in Washington, he has also navigated some spectacular links when he heads out of town.
Obama’s most recent outing was just last Sunday at the Luana Hills Country Club Golf Course.
From its website:
“Your round will take you from tropical jungles home to the island’s native birds and flora, to wide open hillsides and wandering streams, to the Maunawili Valley nestled between majestic Mount Olomana and Ko’olau. It’s an awe-inspiring experience that moves even the native Hawaiian.”
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