President Barack Obama has played a remarkable 41 rounds of golf since becoming president, easily outpacing his predecessor and possibly damaging his ability to portray himself in 2012 as a populist advocate of average folks.
With the excursions lasting on average at least five hours, the president has devoted a total of more than 200 hours to golf, not counting time spent on the White House putting green. That’s the equivalent of twenty five eight-hour work days, or five work weeks spent smacking golf balls.
The former community organizer’s 41 trips around the links – a standard of recreational activity well beyond the budgets of most Americans – compares to only 24 total outings for former President George W. Bush, according to statistics compiled by White House chronicler Mark Knoller of CBS News. Bush, whose golf outings were used to help deride him as a callow, lazy, rich boy, played his 24th and last round on Oct. 13, 2003, saying he was ending the practice out of respect for the families of Americans killed in Iraq.
Since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 rig workers and started the Gulf oil spill, Obama has teed up seven times, according to White House Dossier’s count. This includes back to back sessions April 23 and 24 while on vacation at the Grove Park Resort & Spa in Asheville, NC, just days after the crisis began.
Obama’s focus on golf borders on obsession. Startled reporters follow him out to the course in the motorcade in the broiling Washington heat and then wait in the air conditioning while he puts in 18 holes. Rarely does he play any less.
On June 19, he dragged the 67 year old Vice President Biden onto the course for a sweltering 18 holes, calling into question whether he was trying to commit murder-by-golf in order to free the 2012 VP slot up for Hillary.
From a period stretching from April 3 to May 22 of this year, the president went golfing eight of nine weekends. WOULD YOUR WIFE LET YOU DO THAT?? WOULD YOU LET YOUR HUSBAND? Michelle, what gives?
He went out only once in June when, with the Gulf of Mexico slowly becoming the new U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve and accusations of presidential inattention at their height, White House image counselors appeared to think the golf needed scaling back. But he’s back with a vengeance, having made his way out on the course both weekends so far this month.
Since he’s officially on vacation this weekend in Bar Harbor Maine, there appears to be little holding him back from heading out to the greens at least once.
One of his companions on nearly every outing is Marvin Nicholson, the affable, White House trip director. Nicholson, a former “body man” to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), is the perfect guy for getting away from it all, having worked as a golf caddy, a bartender, and in a windsurfing shop – where he met Kerry.
Also generally on hand is David Katz, a former Obama campaign photographer.
Emphatically not invited for the most part are members of Congress or senior White House aides.
The White House is of course sensitive to the awkward look of the whole thing. A search of of the word “golf” on the White House page or the photo sharing site Flickr brings back only nine official White House photo results, three of which are neither of Obama nor golf. A search for “basketball,” the everyman’s game, brings back 39 photos.
But who wants to be the White House official to tell the president to cut back on golf? Somebody with another job offer, one would presume.