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By now, you’ve probably seen footage from the first US presidential debate ahead of this year’s election in which Donald Trump and Joe Biden clashed over their golf ability.

In scenes that, even by US political standards, are extremely weird, President Biden and his Oval Office predecessor Trump were asked to address voters’ concerns about their health and capability of serving a full four-year term as POTUS.

Trump pointed to the fact that he recently won two club championships as evidence of his fitness.

“To do that you have to be quite smart and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way and I do it,” said Trump. “[Biden] doesn’t do it. He can’t hit a ball 50 yards. He challenged me to a golf match – he can’t hit a ball 50 yards.”

Biden hit back by challenging Trump to a long drive contest.

“I got my handicap, which when I was vice-president [to Barack Obama between 2009 and 2017], down to a six,” he said. “And by the way, I told you before, I’m happy to play golf if you carry your own bag. Think you can do it?”

Trump then accused Biden of lying.

“That’s the biggest lie – that he’s a six handicap – of all,” he replied. “I’ve seen your swing. I know your swing. Let’s not act like children.”

None of this, you would expect (indeed, hope), is likely to sway voters come November 5.

But seeing as it’s clearly important to both men, which of the two Commanders in Chief is the better golfer?

Let’s take a closer look…

Trump or Biden – who’s the better golfer?

The owner of 17 golf properties around the world, including two in Scotland and one in Ireland, Trump claims to play off a handicap of 2.8.

That, however, has been challenged by many people who claim that the 78-year-old has a propensity for getting out the old foot-wedge from time to time. Sportswriter Rick Reilly wrote a 2019 book called ‘Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump’ in which he alleged that the 45th President of the United States is prone to bending the rules when he plays.

“Trump doesn’t just cheat at golf,” Reilly wrote. “He throws it, boots it, and moves it. He lies about his lies. He fudges and foozles and fluffs.

“At Winged Foot, where Trump is a member, the caddies got so used to seeing him kick his ball back onto the fairway they came up with a nickname for him: ‘Pele’.”

Be that as it may, Trump is clearly capable of hitting a decent ball, as this hole-in-one – achieved in 2022 in the company of four-time major champ Ernie Els – demonstrates.

As for Biden, the most recent estimates put his handicap at 6.7. Once an extremely avid golfer, he has reportedly not recorded a score since 2018 and is known to play less frequently that when he served in the Obama administration.

According to a 2016 Golf Digest list of the best golfers in Washington DC, Biden ranked T68 with a handicap of ten, three better than the then-president Obama but a long way behind Trump – then the Republican presidential nominee – who was in 12th place.

Number one on that list, incidentally, was T-Mobile lobbyist Tony Russo, who had won club championships at Robert Trent Jones Country Club – scene of this year’s Solheim Cup – and Congressional playing off an impressive +3.1.

But back to main question: Donald Trump or Joe Biden, who’s the better golfer?

All the evidence points to Trump having a slight edge and giving Biden one or two shots.

US presidents and golf

Whilst their politics have differed greatly, US presidents have historically had golf in common at least, with many enthusiastic players having held the nuclear codes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, won the club championship at Campobello Island Golf Club whilst still at college. Despite being forced to give the game up at the age of 39 after contracting polio, he continued to support the game with the federal funding of public-works projects, which included dozens of municipal golf courses, like Bethpage State Park in New York and FDR Golf Club in Philadelphia.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, meantime, was famously a member of Augusta National Golf Club and was responsible for installing a putting green in the White House grounds. During his eight years in office, from 1953 to 1961, it’s estimated that he played more than 800 rounds of golf. That’s a round every three to four days.

And that’s to say nothing of John F. Kennedy, who was a member of the Harvard golf team during his college years.

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