The combination of Eisenhower and golf became powerful marketing tools for the Coachella Valley after that initial trip.
Daniela Franco/The Desert Sun
The presidency and the game of golf have gone together like a hand and golf since the start of the 1900s. Not all presidents have played golf, but more have played the game than not played. That was emphasized this week with the passing of George H.W. Bush, the one president who truly was born to the game.
If you don’t know how closely Bush was related to the game, consider these facts. His grandfather was George Herbert Walker, who just happened to be a president of the a different kind. Walker was president of the United States Golf Association in 1920. Walker’s name is on one of the top competitions for amateurs in the world, the Walker Cup.
Oh, and to keep the game in the family, George H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, also was a president of the USGA before becoming a U.S. Senator.
So you can understand how President Bush No. 41 would be immersed in the game, and how he would hand down a love of the game to his son, George W. Bush, the 43rd president.
But that alone doesn’t explain why golf and the presidency are so deeply linked and have been for more than a century.
Yes, many men who have occupied the Oval Office have come from rich, privileged backgrounds, including Bush 41, Bush 43 and John Kennedy, and that does tend to lend itself to playing golf. But that wasn’t true of a Kansas farm boy named Dwight David Eisenhower.
Eisenhower was born in 1890, four years before the USGA was formed. Yet it was Eisenhower who learned to love the game so much he played more golf than any president and was responsible in large part for the game growing in popularity in the 1950s.
Of course, not every president has played golf. Jimmy Carter was certainly not going to show up on the first tee of your local club. He’d be in a boat doing a little fishing instead. Lyndon Johnson was not a big golf fan, either. Still, since Johnson was president in the 1960s, all but one president has played the game. The current president, Donald Trump, not only plays the game but owns golf courses in the United States and Scotland.
This monument at Seven Lakes Country Club in Palm Springs commemorates former President Dwight Eisenhower’s only hole in one, scored on the 13th hole of the course on Feb. 6, 1968 (Photo: Larry Bohannan/TheDesertSun)
A rich and privileged life? Golf is a game that is seen as a great place for doing business, so perhaps you need to play the game to get ahead in the world? Or is it just the overall appeal that more than 20 million people see in the game, not all of them being rich or privileged? Whatever the reason, presidents play golf.
And most of them have played golf in the Coachella Valley, even while they have been in office. George H.W. Bush was one of those who played in the desert while he was the president, as did Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Trump has played golf in the desert as part of the pro-am for the old Bob Hope, but he has not played in the area since taking the oath of office. Gerald Ford made a home of the Coachella Valley after his time in office in part because of the great golf in the desert.
Don’t take the importance of the presidency to golf lightly. It is in fact one of the most important marketing tools the game has. What the president does is news, and that was true in 1995 when Bush 41, Clinton and Ford played together in the first round of Hope’s tournament.
Consider that both Eisenhower and Bush 41 are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Both were friends of important and well-known golfers like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. And Bush was a key figure in both the beginning of the President Cup and The First Tee program.
As the country says goodbye to Bush 41 this week, so does the game of golf. He might not have been the most important golfing president of all time, but the idea that presidents like Bush love the game is important.
Larry Bohannan is the Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.