It’s been a big month on the Trump golf beat. At the beginning of April, sportswriter Rick Reilly released Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, a slim, fun book with an abundance of detail on how in sport, as in life, the president can’t help but bend the rules in his favor. Now, in a new report from Politico, more details emerge on the president’s relationship with his favorite pastime: according to TrumpGolfCount, he has hit the links at least 116 times in his 814 days in office, a little less than once a week.
Politico notes that Trump uses the game as both an escape from the presidency and as a roving version of his “Executive time”: “unscripted hours in which his presidency unfolds in spontaneous conversations, phone calls, and occasional policy chats with athletes and celebrities.” One instance stands out: In 2017, amid the Republican tax overhaul, Trump reportedly asked Tiger Woods for his thoughts on a tax bill moving through Congress.
Both Republicans and foreign officials see their tee times as opportunities to lobby the president. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has reportedly used his outings with the president as a way to get on his good side, while Republican senators like Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul have golfed with Trump to get a word in on policy. “Don’t forget that the president and Lindsey Graham weren’t exactly pals at the end of the campaign,” a senior White House official told Politico. “Frankly, they’ve developed their relationship largely because of playing golf.”
As for foreign policy, Trump has golfed with Shinzo Abe three times on the Japanese prime minister’s visits to Mar-a-Lago, and once with the Australian ambassador to the U.S. “Some ambassadors in Europe have begged me to tell them what they need to do to nail a golfing opportunity with President Trump, even for one hole,” a senior government official told the Japan Times in April 2018.
For a man who loves to spend other people’s money, Trump, oddly enough, hasn’t used golf as a fundraising tactic all that often. Though Trump has held private events at his golf clubs, the president is apparently hesitant to turn his personal time on the course into a conduit for campaign money. Apparently, he hasn’t needed to, either: On Sunday, the Trump campaign announced a $30 million haul in the first quarter, almost $12 million more than the closest 2020 Democrat.