The most popular sport among US presidents is golf. Almost all presidents in the last 75 years have been known to hit the links at one point or another. The last one who didn’t play golf was President Jimmy Carter over 41 years ago, which shows you the true history of U.S. presidents and golf.
So, which president played the most golf? Woodrow Wilson played the most golf, logging over 1200 rounds in his term. That’s about 200 rounds per year and 3.78 times a week! But other presidents played a lot of golf too, including Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Richard Nixon, William Howard Taft, and Gerald Ford.
But the since presidents had a variety of different term lengths and golfing habits, let’s dive into more detail so you can learn the full answer to the presidents who golfed the most.
Which President Played The Most Golf?
1. Woodrow Wilson
Wilson, the twenty-eighth president of the United States of America, holds the record for most golf by a president. If you were to ask, “Which president has played the most golf?” Woodrow Wilson would be your answer. In six years, he played over 1200 rounds of golf. His golfing career was sadly cut short by a stroke.
Wilson said that golf was a way for him to escape the pressure and stress of the presidency. He played golf even during uncertain and historical times in history. In fact, on the day he declared war against Germany, he fit in a round that morning with his wife. Interestingly, the American people back then were much less critical of Wilson and his golf course adventures than a modern-day president.
Despite playing over 1000 rounds of golf, Wilson never seemed to figure out this crazy game. Perhaps that is what kept him coming back. Some referred to Wilson as a hacker or a duffer, but we will be politically correct on this one and call him a high handicapper.
2. Dwight Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower is one of those people in the history of the game that perhaps did more for golf than he got out of it. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame for his contributions to growing the game of golf. Eisenhower is responsible for installing a putting green at the White House.
Eisenhower didn’t grow up playing the game; he started as a 35-year-old man. He quickly made up for lost time and broke 80 within his first year of playing, making him one of the best-golfing presidents next to Donald Trump.
Breaking eighty is something that takes even the most celebrated players quite some time to accomplish.
Eisenhower made many trips to Augusta National. His earliest golfing days also coincided with Arnold Palmer’s prime years. The combination of the president and “Arnie” helped America fall in love with the game. Golf shifted from being the rich man’s sport to every man’s sport.
During his eight-year presidency, it is widely believed that Dwight played over 800 rounds of golf. Certainly not more than Wilson but a close second.
3. John F. Kennedy
The nation’s thirty-fifth president is known for his golf swing and not for how many rounds he played. John F. Kennedy played golf for Harvard, and despite struggling with a bad back, his swing was excellent.
In some old footage of his swing, you can see how he protects his back through impact, but the fundamentals are there.
JFK stayed off the golf course during his presidency as he didn’t want to be looked at as a rich man, not the people’s president. Had his back been better and had he allowed himself the time to play, he could have very quickly been a single-digit handicapper.
4. Barack Obama
During his presidential years, Obama played approximately 333 times over his two years. If you were to ask which president golfed the most today, President Obama would take the title but not by much. But the next president on our list also criticized him often for it over social media.
5. Donald Trump
Donald Trump is known for criticizing how much golf Obama played during his time in office. Although Trump seems on track to better Obama, it’s hard to tell if all of his rounds are considered a complete round of golf.
Most believe that he played between 285 and 308 rounds during his first term in office. Trump, the owner of several golf courses, often visits his properties. Does he always play a round? That will be hard to determine fully.
One thing for sure is that Trump loves the game and often uses it as a way to conduct business on the golf course. This can be said for a large portion of the golfing public. Lots of business transactions go down on the golf course.
6. Richard Nixon
Most golf experts estimate that Nixon played between 800 and 900 rounds while in office. Nixon was a president who took great pleasure in the game and studied it fervently. In fact, he was one of the first presidents who advocated for a policy known as “Golf Ball Diplomacy.” It was said that he used this policy to strengthen ties with Japan during a time when most American politics discredited Japanese interests.
Nixon also golfed with the famous actor Jackie Gleason who was famous for the saying, “To the moon, Alice!” Nixon was such a fan of golf that later, after his presidency, he built a three-hole course at his home in San Clemente, California. He’s also reported to have been a good player, having broken 80 at one point.
7. William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the first golfing president. Before President Taft, no US president would openly admit to playing golf because how the public saw it as a rich man’s game. He started the long-held, 100-year tradition of presidential golf in 1909. William Howard Taft helped to change the rich man’s game perception, and he was a president known for his obsessive golf addiction, despite being terrible at it.
President Taft played golf so much that his mentor, Theodore Roosevelt, during his presidential campaign, urged him to give up the game. Roosevelt despised the game of golf, and he told Taft that he had received “hundreds of letters” about Taft and his golfing. Most were angry about it as being a rich man’s sport.
Taft continued to play, however, and still won presidential office. That shows you the hostile environment at the time that US presidents faced if they played golf.
Despite normalizing golf, he wasn’t particularly known for being good at golf, and he rarely golfed below 100.
8. Gerald Ford
President Gerald Ford stands out in golf because he was famous for hitting spectators with golf balls. Bob Hope, his longtime friend, even joked, “It’s not hard to find Jerry Ford on a golf course – you just follow the wounded.” He was even once famously quoted as saying, “I know I’m getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.”
Apparently, there were several incidents of it being recorded on camera—much to his embarrassment.
Despite those things, he was a better golfer than most believed and regularly broke 90. President Ford once played golf with Billy Graham at the Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club. How many rounds of golf he played during his presidency is unknown, but he was known to play at private and public events. In 1974, he played 27 holes of golf in Charlotte in two days.
How Many Rounds of Golf Did Bush Play?
President George W. Bush played a total of 24 rounds of golf during his presidency, but some say it was because he wasn’t a great golfer. Once the Iraq War started, he’s known to have stopped playing golf during his presidency. Prescott Bush, the grandfather of George W. Bush, loved the game so much that he served as the president of the United States Golf Association in 1935.
George H.W. Bush was known as one of the fastest speed players, and he supposedly holds the presidential record for playing a speed golf game at one hour and 51 minutes for 18 holes.
Has Biden Golfed as President?
In his first 100 days as president, Biden golfed a total of once. He chose to do it on his 87th day in office and took his first golf swing at the Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware, where he lives when not in the White House. This was about three months into his presidency.
According to the United States Golf Association, Biden is said to have a handicap index of just over 8, but he hadn’t played before that first time in office since 2018.
According to a report from Politico, President Biden has since played golf a total of 10 times. Most of his golf partners were family members during that time. Robert Trent Jones Jr. is known as one of his decades-long golf partners. He was known to play golf during his time in office as a senator and vice president.
Like most other US presidents, Joe Biden has a reputation for loving the game of golf.
Read more: The Most Famous Golf Quotes
Which US President was/is the Best Golfer?
Donald Trump is said to have the lowest handicap among presidential golfers. His handicap is reported to have gone as low as eleven. Some critics claim that Trump is not all that honest in his scorekeeping ability. This certainly proves that there is nothing left uncriticized at the presidential level.
Which US Presidents Decided It Was Best To Stay Off The Course?
After looking at the many golfing presidents, there were still several presidents who chose not to play for varying reasons. FDR was a great college player and then could not play after contracting polio. Richard Nixon learned how to play while working as the Vice President under Eisenhower, but he struggled socially on the golf course. It seemed too much pressure for him to focus on golf and politics at the same time.
Ronald Reagan was never a big golfer. It just wasn’t his thing, but he gladly took an invitation to play at Augusta National. Famously, during his round at Augusta, a man crashed through the gates, took hostages, and insisted that he needed to speak with Reagan. Perhaps Reagan was correct in wanting to stay away from the game of golf.
Which US Presidents Didn’t Play Golf?
To give you an idea of how big golf has been in the US presidential office, 16 of the last 19 presidents played golf on some level. The last US president who didn’t play golf throughout a 41-year timespan up until now was President Jimmy Carter. He was the most recent of our non-golfing presidents.
Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman disliked golf. They spent no time on the golf course during their presidencies. Instead, Jimmy Carter liked to spend his leisure time fly fishing for mountain trout, and Harry Truman loved to spend his leisure time with music and reading.
Finally, we have our last non-golfing president, Herbert Hoover. This had more to do with the time than his dislike of golf. President Hoover was president from 1929 to 1933, right around the Wall Street Crash of 1929. He said that he found it inappropriate to play golf during this time.
You can imagine why golf at this time was still considered a rich man’s game, and it would’ve turned the public against him during the Great Depression. Teddy Roosevelt was also another president, though not recently, that refused to play golf and reportedly even hated the game. He ran against William Howard Taft in 1912, the first-true golfing president, which ended a long friendship between the two.
What President Was the Best Golfer?
Most credit John F. Kennedy as the best golfer ever played in the White House, but he had a bad back that may have stopped him from doing better. For that reason, Donald Trump is considered the best president in golf, but Dwight D. Eisenhower was also good at golf.
Who Was the First Golfing President?
William Howard Taft was the first president to speak about his love of golf openly, and he’s the first president you see as obsessive about it. Even during his presidential campaign, Taft continued to golf despite criticism, and he’s thought to have golfed every 3.6 days during his presidency.
Which of the Following Former US Presidents Has Been Elected to the Golf Hall of Fame?
Several presidents have been inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame, the first being Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2009, and George H.W. Bush was the second president to make it into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
More than any other sport, golf plays a role in presidential history. There is a putting green at the White House that has been removed and relocated a few times. Trump is said to have put in a full-room golf simulator so he can work on his game indoors. There is no question that the stress these men deal with can be just as high as that putt for 79.
Will we see another president reach 1200 rounds during his time in office? I highly doubt that with the demands of the job and the criticism from the American people, we will see that happen again. The other thing that we must consider is how many terms each president had in office. For example, Obama golfed 333 times over two terms in office. Trump so far has only served one term in office. He would overtake Obama for golf if he ever serves a second term.
If you ask, “Which president played the most golf while in the White House,” Woodrow Wilson will likely keep that title because of the criticism a modern-day president would face to play that much golf today. It’s become a modern-day political attack even on presidents. For that reason, how many golf each president has played will often depend on the period they came from. Newer presidents face greater pressure to focus on the job at hand.
What is your take on all of this? Should presidents be playing as much golf as they do? Presidents golfing stirs up a mix of reactions from the American people. If you enjoyed this article, learn about how many holes in one Tiger Woods has here.
Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.