What do Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump all have in common?
They’re arguably the full spectrum of conservative to liberal, but they all played golf while in office. Unapologetically, actually. Wilson logged more than a thousand rounds while serving as Commander in Chief! Why on earth do presidents get slammed for doing what we all know is so good?
My theory is most Americans—and the media who dishes up the criticism—don’t understand the amazing value of spending four hours on a golf course with your fellow man or woman. People who don’t play golf only see it as recreation, and the common misconception that it’s a wealthy person’s game doesn’t help. It feeds the schadenfreude the mainstream media seems to have about our game and industry.
Andrew Wood of Legendary Marketing says if we change the narrative about golf, we can change the results. I agree, although the experience at the course needs to evolve as well. The NGCOA has been a leader in creating a narrative about the value of playing golf for decades now. We launched a grassroots advertising program called “Get Linked. Play Golf” nearly 20 years ago. It was arguably the first trade association response to the impending supply and demand problems. GLPG eventually morphed into Play Golf America and the other subsequent industry-wide programs.
One of my favorite ads from GLPG was a picture of a senior executive dispensing advice to a younger professional after presumably finishing their putts on a green. The tagline was, “Learned more about the client in four hours than the guys in the office did in four years. Get Linked. Play Golf.” Yes! There’s no question in my mind that relationships are built, things are learned and missions are accomplished by playing golf with others. Rand Paul, previously a severe critic of President Trump, offered a pretty conciliatory tone after recently taking in a round of golf with him. Do you think the two got to know each other a little better on the course? You bet.
Let’s be unapologetic about the value of golf and the fact that presidents like to play it. It’s so much more than merely recreation. Republicans and Democrats on the course. Imagine that! Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan might actually smile down on us. Would love to see a sitting president invite some women into the foursome. That would be an improvement.
It’s up to us, folks. Non-golfers and the media aren’t going to change their tune if we all remain quiet. Let’s be golf evangelists!