Commander in Plaid : Golf and President Trump

Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer played against many Presidents: in fact, he had a theory that you could judge the man by how he approached the sport.
After telling Dwight Eisenhower to tuck in his left elbow, the President played the shot enough times to rub his forearm raw. When the wound was pointed out to him, he shrugged it off as a scratch.
He claimed that Richard Nixon was socially awkward during their rounds and gave up after shooting a 79. Gerald Ford never dropped a ball and played the game to the rules in an unfussy, compact manner.
His theory has been extended over the years. John F. Kennedy’s aptitude for presentation is seen in the fact that he played secretly because it was seen as a rich-man’s game. George H. W. Bush played the game at record speeds, turning it into an efficient and slightly grueling battle.
Bill Clinton chewed on fat cigars and engaged in noisy banter with the other players.
So if golf can help us understand the men from the Oval Office, perhaps it is time to get to know Donald J. Trump a little better. Of all the golfing Presidents, he is the one most at home on the green, at the driving range and in the club house.
Donald Trump loves golf. And when he decides to do something, he tends to take it to the maximum, gold-plated level. Luxury hotels, celebrity TV hits, becoming President…this is not a man who settles for second best. He takes golf very seriously.
Two simple facts demonstrate this. He boasts (in both senses of the word) a handicap of 3, and he owns 17 golf courses across the globe.
But what does his approach to golf teach us about Trump, the man? Scanning through his history in the sport, much of what we already know about him can be confirmed. He is confident to the point of narcissism. He defines people into two groups: winners and losers. He is crafty and he can stray outside the rules if it serves his purpose. And finally, he is fanatically ambitious.
There are, however, a few surprises that emerge when the evidence is analysed. Donald Trump, it would appear, is a pragmatist.
Given the fact that so much of the criticism of his behaviour is that he is guided by ideology, it is surprising to note that when it comes to golf, he is guided by the objective, not the path.
Take his actual game. By all accounts, Trump is an excellent player. He regularly scores below par and blitzes his opponents. He is certainly has knocked JFK off his perch as the best player of the Presidents. Under scrutiny, the way he plays reveals his methodology.
From the tee, he focuses on straightness over distance. Certainly, his first stroke can go a distance, but he rarely lands himself in the rough. Those first few shots can be relied on to get him close to the green with minimal risk.
Once at the green, his putting is outstanding. He regularly sinks shots from 20 yards. Opponents, many of whom initially under-estimate him, put this skill down to two factors. His grip is unconventional and idiosyncratic to the point where no one else could actually pull it off. On the other hand, his 24-carat confidence means that, to his mind, there is no way he will miss the putt.
Two conclusions can be drawn. First, he is actually rather careful, and not given to risk. And second, he believes without any doubt in his ability to win in the end.
Yet this pragmatic attitude, seemingly so absent in his public appearances, can be seen in the management of his clubs. Donald Trump is a climate change skeptic, and his policies in the early days of his Presidency reveal that he plans to put that belief into action.
Despite this, Trump is building another, less public, wall. Instead of holding back a wave of people, this one is designed to hold back the sea.
On the Irish coast of County Clare, rising sea levels and storms of increasing strength are chewing away the shore right next to Trump International Links and Hotel. Locals have long understood that if the scenic sand dunes that face the coast go, so will the town and the golf course.
They are delighted with the wall that Trump is bankrolling. By building it, Trump is tacitly admitting that the sea is rising and that preventative actions should be taken. If he applies this logic to his own business interests, then surely he should be making similar concessions as President. Again, the pragmatic businessman outshines the stated values of the politician.
You achieve nothing by being bad at things. Donald Trump is extraordinarily good at the things he puts his mind to. The final lesson a Trump watcher can take from his golfing life comes through an anecdote from journalist David Owen, writing in the New Yorker.
Owen was compiling a piece on Trump, and part of the research was based on a round of golf they shared and then a tour of the clubhouse. The subsequent article was roundly complimentary, though he did claim that Trump’s approach play was poor, and the article featured an image of a golf ball sporting a large, wig-like green pompadour.
Unexpectedly, Owen received a call from Trump, who was unhappy with the piece. Owen braced himself for an attack on these minor points. However, he was in fact angry because Owen had not mentioned that Trump had shot a 71, one under par. It was important, said the future President, that he get his facts right.
Owen responded he had not reported the 71, because they had not been keeping score.
Sport teaches us about who we are: it also tells us who our leaders are, when the microphones are off.