The US president has clocked up at the least 12 golfing vacations since his inauguration in January. No one should be surprised. But why golf?
The disorientating infinity that has been Donald Trumps nascent presidency could be described as anything but par-for-course and not only in terms of the Old Testament-grade lies and misdirection that characterise the White Houses communications. In 10 weeks, President Trump has taken no fewer than 12 golfing vacations to Mar-a-Lago, the Florida-based golfing resort he owns. Each round, according to an estimate from Politico, has expensed US taxpayers in the region of$ 3m( 2.4 m) in flights and security.
Deliciously, Trump, along with a chorus of Republican, frequently criticised his predecessor for such playful outings. In 2011, he tweeted: @BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 -day vacation in Marthas Vineyard. Nice work ethic. In August 2014, Reince Priebus, Trumps chief of staff, wrote: Obamas golf jaunts arent just bad optics, theyre foolish. And voters realise that. Even Sean Spicer, Trumps flailing press secretary, who suggested last week that only because Trump visits Mar-a-Lago doesnt mean that hes playing golf there( an Instagram photograph indicating the president wearing golf cleats while supposedly in sessions says otherwise ), once proffered an sentiment on the game. Wish I could be on the golf course but have to work, he wrote, in 2012, before adding: Must be nice to be President.
Putting aside the issue of hypocrisy( Trump is entitled to downtime; the issue is duplicity; last year he told voters that, if elected, he wouldnt visit his golf course again, instead remaining in the White House to work my ass off ), why golf? Despite the inelegance of the word in the mouth like gulping down a fly( gol) before gearing up for a linger expletive( ffff) golf, with its associations of wealth and exclusivity, is the preferred sport of the business executive. As games go, its on-brand for brand Trump. Small wonder he owns 17 courses.
But there are also reasons to do with game design as to why golf is the preferred sport of older humen. There is no great need for athleticism( golf is a good walking spoiled, so the old quip runs ). A wag might say that its the ideal sport for guys who have expended their lives trying to fit things into holes. Then theres the downtime between those percussive explosions of activity space for socialising or deal-making. Jenova Chen, the designer of the video game Journey , once told me: Playground games teach us about our bodies and basic social dynamics. Adolescents move on to games like soccer and basketball that teach teamwork. But people over 35 play golf, a game that isnt all been about video games so much as the social connections.
In the past two months, Trump may have politicised golf, but the athletic has always been culturally contentious. Its associations with whiteness and gender-exclusive clubhouses are long-standing; the recent Oscar-winning documentary OJ: Induced in America reveals how some members of the private Riviera golf club in Los Angeles balked when OJ Simpson, even with all his money and status, joined the club, long before his fall from grace.
Golf is also a game that, despite its patina of respectability, lets humen to compete for predominance away from the boardroom. Lately I left my two sons playing Neo Turf Masters , a classic video-game interpretation of the sport. They chatted peacefully while playing until, after 20 minutes or so, I heard a wail of anguish. The younger boy, it turned out, had leaned across just as his sibling moved to tee-off and whacked the controllers button early, sending the ball dribbling along the fairway. It was a crude move for underhanded dominance, perhaps, but one that felt, in times like these, illuminating.
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