Is Donald Trump lying about being good at golf?

Several claims of Donald Trump cheating at golf suggest he might be exaggerating a bit.
Is Donald Trump cheating regularly at golf? (Credit/Getty Images)

In 1994, former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il claimed that he shot a (by far) record of 38-under par, a score of 34 on a par 72 — witnessed by 17 body guards.

 

In that incredible supposed performance, he was said to have made five holes-in-one in the round, also a record.

 

Golf has long been a hobby for world leaders of every background and from every country. In the United States alone, 19 presidents have taken up golf, the best among them John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. Even 335-pound William Howard Taft was obsessed with the game when he served as commander in chief in the 1910s.

 

The current president of the United States is no less in love with the game, as Donald Trump has, according to some sources, played nearly 20 rounds of golf during his first 100 days (Barack Obama played just once in that timeframe).

 

Just how good is Trump on the links?

The reports are mixed. According to a spotty, not regularly updated entry in the USGA's handicap tracker, Trump boasts a 2.8 index, by far the best of any president. He also claims to have 19 club championships under his belt — one of which, according to the Washington Post, was won before his club even opened in 1999.

Another uncorroborated claim is his amateur course record at Mar-a-Lago, a 66.

At 70 years old, he's been playing for a long time. And Rory McIlroy, who joined the president for a round of golf in February told reporters of Trump's skill that he is "pretty good" for his age. A 2.8 index is pretty good for anyone.

Deciphering the information available, Trump has posted nine rounds above 80 over his last 20 posted scores — a little much for a low single-digit handicapper. 

And then there's the eye test.

Trump's golf swing

Golf Digest writer Jamie Diaz played a round with Trump three years ago and was a bit suspect of his swing. Diaz writes that Trump drove the ball around 230 yards due to a steep backswing that was better suited for iron play. His iron-striking was, to Diaz's eye, pretty solid and his short game "servicable."

Trump himself told Diaz: "I think of golf as a very natural game. I never really wanted to know a lot about my technique. I really trust instinct a lot, in golf and a lot of things."

Trump takes pride in his hip turn, the main source of the power from his short and compact swing.

The swing itself is a bit quick but resembles that of an average older golfer.

Does he cheat?

There are no shortage of cheating Trump stories, and it's hard to imagine anyone playing golf with the president — a former reality TV star and real estate mogul — and imagining he took a few "gimmies" or "mulligans."

Rock star Alice Cooper all but came out and said Trump was the biggest cheater he's ever played golf with, and Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly saw quite a few liberties taken by the senior citizen golfer.

“He took the world’s first gimme chip-in,” Reilly said. Reilly wrote that on holes 1, 13 and 17, Trump took mulligans.

Not surprisingly, Trump refuted the claim.

“I always thought he was a terrible writer,” he said. “I absolutely killed him, and he wrote very inaccurately. I would say that he’s a very dishonest writer. … I never took a gimme chip shot. … I don’t do gimme chip shots. If I asked his approval, that’s not cheating, number one. Number two, I never took one.”

Another celeb, boxer Oscar De La Hoya, told AP he caught Trump cheating twice on the first hole. De La Hoya said Trump hit his first ball into the water, a second out of bounds and a third into the water again. His fourth ball then went into the bushes. He walked to the middle of the fairway claiming he had found his first ball.

“Yes, I caught him,” De La Hoya said. “It was unbelievable. But I guess it was his course, so it was his rules.”

Sure, the rounds with De La Hoya or other celebrities were not under-the-gun tournament rounds. But claims from caddies everywhere confirm a cheating reputation, with one caddy from his Bedminster, New Jersey, country club saying the caddies always made sure he had a good lie.

Trump isn't quite crazy enough to claim a 38-under-par round, but it seems in his case that exaggerating and boisterousness follows him everywhere — even to his haven on the golf course.