President Trump golfs a lot. According to NBC News' tracker, Trump has golfed at least 21 times since taking his oath of office. That's just about double the rate of Obama, and a renege on Trump's campaign promise to give up golfing. Now, some say recent footage of Trump appears to show the POTUS cheating at golf. And based on previous reporting, it would appear these are not the first accusations of Trump scamming on the green.
The recent footage comes from Trump's golf outing in Virginia over the weekend. During an MSNBC interview with Andy Card, a former White House chief of staff, the video of Trump golfing played in the background. The president can be seen at one point putting, then running after the ball to stop it and proceeding to pick it up.
Notably, this may not be evidence of cheating. According to Sam Weinman at Golf Digest, Trump may have actually been following common courtesy. "It's very possible that Trump was in a match where he needed to make the first putt for him to factor into the hole at all. And when he missed, as is customary, he just decided to get out of the way by picking up his ball," Weinman wrote.
Interested parties can watch for themselves in the video clip posted by Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News. Regular golfers might have better luck in determining Trump's motivation in picking up the ball.
Some who have played with Trump in the past might be less surprised if it does turn out that his post-putt free grab was a cheat. In the 2016 presidential campaign's nascent phase, Ben Terris at The Washington Post actually investigated rumors that Trump wasn't always keeping it 100 out on the golf course. Terris relates a story from Mark Mulvoy, the former editor of Sports Digest, who went golfing with Trump in the mid-1990s. After ducking for cover during a brief spit of rain, the two men went to resume their game when Mulvoy saw a rogue ball sitting curiously close to the pin — it hadn't been there before. Mulvoy asked whose ball it was, and when Trump claimed it was his, the two men bantered over its legitimacy.
According to Mulvoy's telling, Trump then said, "Ahh, the guys I play with cheat all the time. I have to cheat just to keep up with them.” Trump denied this version of events, telling Terris, "I don’t even know who he is."
Samuel L. Jackson also related a tale of golfing with Trump. According to Jackson, his game with the future president involved a rather extraordinary recovery from one caddy who said he'd found the ball Trump had clearly hit right into a lake.
Legendary sports writer Rick Reilly witnessed play that was truly unique whilst golfing with Trump in what he dubbed the "world's first gimme chip-in." Reilly also reported that Trump wrote down scores that were patently wrong, and said that on a one-to-ten scale of cheating, Trump would earn an 11.
Still, there are plenty of reports that Trump is an excellent golfer. When Tiger Woods played with him, he commented, "What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash." The magazine Golf Digest has ranked Trump as most likely the best player of any president who ever engaged in the sport.
"I don’t think 'cheating' is an accurate description of anything he did during the round we played together, just as I don’t think 'lying is an accurate description of what he does when he gives a speech or answers questions at a press conference," wrote David Owen at The New Yorker after playing with Trump.
Perhaps that is how Trump himself sees his golf "style" too. But for anyone who think rules matter, rumors of the president's golf course trickery may be deemed less benign.