Most US presidents play golf.

On the other hand, I'm not aware of any recent British prime ministers who played the game.

While golf is probably more popular in the US than in the UK, I don't think that relative popularity can explain this discrepancy.

closed as off-topic by Machavity, Federico, Stormblessed, K Dog, Alone Programmer Oct 22 at 17:29

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    Are you asking from the angle of "Why is that people who are elected President are into Golf, or golfing while Presidenting?", or from the angle of "Why is that people who are into Golf seem to be a demographic that is elected President?" – DariM Oct 20 at 23:33
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    Depending on that, it might be important to go into the history of golf itself as a rich person's/businessman's sport, or the status of country clubs where they play golf etc. :P – DariM Oct 20 at 23:37
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    The question should be rephrased as: "Why do rich older men play golf?" - Because that's what President are (so far) and what they do. – SurpriseDog Oct 20 at 23:46
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    Are you asking for a US-UK comparison specifically? And why are you sure the relative popularity cannot explain this discrepancy? Do you have any numbers for this "relative popularity"? Golf requires lots of open spaces, by the way. More easily available in the US than in the UK, I'd imagine. Also British PMs probably get helicoptered around a lot less too, probably for related reasons. – Fizz Oct 21 at 8:12
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    @SJuan76: I did not mean to include the "sit quietly at home" crowd among the non-golfers. I meant that there are certainly a great many things which people in the age & wealth range of US Presidents can do, which are IMHO far more entertaining than golf, and which offer the possibility of actually getting meaningful physical exercise. – jamesqf Oct 22 at 2:37

So the first myth to be busted is that Golf is more popular in the United States than it is in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter). According to Wikipedia, United States is seventh on the list of most golf courses per capita, with Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Wales having more than the U.S.. If we went by actual nations, with two of the four parts of United Kingdom having more per capita than the United States (Three if you include Northern Ireland, the article being unclear if it's the Republic or the entire Island) and England being 9th in the world, it's likely far more popular in the U.K. than the United States (it helps that Scotland invented the game). It's best said that the U.S. is the nation with the most golf courses per capita that does not have Queen Elizabeth as it's head of State.

With that said, Golf has been widely used politicians and buisness people as the sport of choice to play while talking buisness with potential customers, political allies, and even political opponents (I recall some reporting of Obama playing a couple of games with important Republicans in congress to negotiate some things he wanted in a bill). The reason is mostly due to the fact that golf is a sport that requires very little athleticism so it creates a game that can be friendly for those involved, and is also very long to play a full 18 holes, and can allow for the dropping of formalities that the normal meeting rooms would have and is relaxing to most people.

As an added bonus, the President prefers golf as many clubs are exclusive and while the President can golf just about anywhere he wants (and the club can then say "we hosted POTUS" and up the member fees) which means it's an outdoor sport that gets him out of the oval office, but not surrounded by the press (who are usually not allowed into the course) and the secret service loves it because that exclusivity means they have less work keeping the President safe than say if he went for a morning jog around the national mall (as Bill Clinton loved to do).

It's also a game that President's play because most Presidents are nearing the age of retirement and can't play a more active sport like baseball or football (the U.S. President tends to not be young as the position usually has years of work before one is seriously considered for the role.).

  • This the correct answer. Golf is almost entirely about relationship building and closing deals. Or so it was explained to me by one of my first bosses. The latter also raised that hunting was even better in this respect, because you get the other person's undivided attention for an entire day. – Denis de Bernardy Oct 22 at 6:51
  • You might want to add that golf is a slow and non-physical game, even if you are absolutely destroying your opponent, the atmosphere is rather relaxed. Compare a golf game where one player is a pro and the other is picking up the club for the first time vs a tennis, handball or basketball game with the same mix. – jmoreno Oct 22 at 12:39
  • @jmoreno - There is aerobic benefit to walking an 18-hole course. – Rick Smith Oct 22 at 13:38
  • @Rick Smith: But what percentage of golfers actually walk the course? About 2/3 of golfers ride in carts golfprop.com/uncategorized/getting-around-the-course and a number of courses forbid walking. Even when walking, 4 miles of stop & go strolling isn't much aerobic exercise. – jamesqf Oct 22 at 17:10
  • @RickSmith - I believe he's talking about it being non-physical in the respect that it in no way interferes with having a lengthy, serious conversation, which would not be possible with more high-intensity activities. There's aerobic benefit to grandma and grandpa strolling around the neighborhood. That doesn't make it physically intense. – PoloHoleSet Oct 22 at 17:43

Why do US presidents play golf?

It varies, somewhat.

When Presidents Play Golf, JUN 18, 2011.

Obama is the 17th president to golf since William McKinley made the first presidential putt in 1897. In the 114 years since, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter were the only nongolfing presidents.


Nixon clearly was the exception. Other presidents have been drawn to the game because it relaxed them and offered a diversion from the cares of office. Woodrow Wilson found golf essential during World War I, often taking to the links daily.

[These Are All of the Presidents Who Loved Playing Golf, Including Donald Trump](https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/presidents-who-loved-playing-golf-including-donald-trump.html/}, November 28, 2018.

Some presidents have used golf to escape politics. But others have deftly combined the two. Lyndon B. Johnson falls in the latter group, as Golf Advisor reports that Johnson “played with an ulterior motive after realizing golf was the perfect activity for political negotiations.”

Johnson got the votes he needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the course.

Trump played golf 19 times in his first 100 days — here's why American presidents have been historically obsessed with the game, Apr 29, 2017.

Trostel explained then that the first American president to golf while in office was William Taft, commander-in-chief from 1909 to 1913, who picked up the sport because he wanted exercise that would suit his rather hefty frame.


[Trump has] previously defended games with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Sen. Rand Paul as being conducive to deal-making, ...


Different presidents have used golf for different things. Lyndon B. Johnson liked to bring politics onto the course, but Clinton, in an impassioned defense of playing golf as president, told Golf Digest in 2012 that golf was a perfect way for presidents to escape the White House and renew mind and body.

"Presidents need to rest their minds, not just their bodies," Clinton said. "They need the exercise, the fresh air. And they need to do something that, literally, takes them away from what they're doing."

My experience with golf is consistent with the exercise, escape, diversion benefit. As an embedded systems programmer, during a time (1980s-90s) that required physical replacement of the device holding the program (PROM); a mistake could wipe out the profit from the sale of the hardware containing the program and damage the company's reputation.

Sometimes I would play (walking) in the morning for exercise. Other times I would play (walking) in the afternoon (with no one else on the course, even with temperatures in the upper 90s and a heat index of 105 F), as a diversion, so that I could consider, anew, solutions to solve a problem. [The president of the company provided golf balls.]

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