On Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about President Donald Trump’s penchant for playing golf. Specifically, a reporter wanted to know, what was “the single biggest thing the President has accomplished for the American people during his time on the golf course?”
Here’s how Sanders responded:
“I think it would certainly be developing deeper and better relationships with members of Congress in which those relationships have helped push forward the President’s agenda, specifically when it comes to helping get the tax reform and tax cuts passed. A lot of that, I think, and the success of that came from the strong relationships that the President has. And he’s played golf with a number of senators and used that time, certainly, to accomplish that.”
Which is interesting. Because, based on the records kept by CNN regarding Trump’s golf habits, there’s very little evidence that the President has played much at all with members of Congress.
By CNN’s count, Trump has visited a Trump-named golf club 92 times since he has been President. The White House rarely confirms that Trump is playing golf during these sojourns to his clubs, but, given the fact he tends to spend around five hours at them — roughly the time it takes to complete 18 holes — it’s not much of a stretch to assume he played golf the vast majority of times he visited his golf properties.
Of those 92 trips, Trump is confirmed to have played golf with a sitting member of Congress seven times. All of the known lawmaker golf partners are Republican. He’s played with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham three times, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul twice and GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and David Perdue of Georgia once each.
Important caveat: Because the White House rarely even confirms Trump is playing golf, it’s possible he’s played with lots more members of Congress than we know about publicly.
If we make calculations solely off of the numbers we have, however, what we get is this: 7% of the time Donald Trump has played golf as President, he has played with a sitting member of Congress.
Which is, um, not a lot. And certainly less than Sanders’ insistence that golf has allowed Trump to “develop deeper and better relationships with members of Congress” suggests.
Why are Trump’s golfing partners an issue, you ask? Because Trump made them an issue!
Trump tweeted 27 times about President Barack Obama’s golf habits between 2011 and 2016, according to SB Nation. Here’s a random sampling:
“While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster!” (May 2016)
“President Obama should have gone to Louisiana days ago, instead of golfing. Too little, too late!” (August 2016)
“Obama has admitted that he spends his mornings watching @ESPN. Then he plays golf, fundraises & grants amnesty to illegals.” (December 2014)
They’re all pretty much in that vein. Obama would rather play golf than do his job. If he was elected President, promised Trump, he wouldn’t be playing much golf at all.
“If I win I may never see my property — I may never see these places again,” Trump said at an August 2016 campaign event. “But because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go golfing, believe me. Believe me. Believe me, folks.”
Trump added that if he did ever play golf, it would be with elected officials or foreign leaders — using the game, unlike Obama, as a sort of social lubricant to get business done.
But, judging by the numbers, those sort of golf outings have been the exception rather than the rule. Trump seems to prefer to play with professional golfers — as he did with Fred and Taylor Funk just before leaving Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.
Asked whether Trump conducted any business during their round, Taylor Funk told CNN: “No. It was all golf. He was fully in the moment and with us.”
Right. So. There it is.