Michael Jordan disses Obama's golf game. Which president was real First Duffer?

Michael Jordan called Obama 'a hack,' among other things, during an interview with Ahmad Rashad. So which president dominated on the links?

Steven Senne/AP/FILE
President Obama played golf at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard in August.

Michael Jordan says President Obama is a bad golfer. Only “bad” isn’t exactly what he said during an interview with Ahmad Rashad for Back9Network. Nope, he used a word we don’t print here in our family web publication.

Here’s the context: Mr. Rashad – an ex-pro football star and avid amateur golfer himself – was sitting around talking with His Airness on camera about dream foursomes. Rashad noted that Mr. Jordan was on his list. Jordan said Rashad wasn’t on his.

So the trash talking started early.

Rashad then asked who, of all the people in the world, he did want to play golf with. Jordan answered, “Arnold Palmer.” After that he seemed stuck.

That’s when Mr. Obama came up.

“I never played with Obama, but I would,” said Jordan.

Then he seemed to reconsider. Perhaps he was running Obama’s golf swing through his mind, and then thinking about the Secret Service that would have to tag along, and the press pool waiting at the 19th hole.

“I take him out, he’s a hack. It’d be all day playing with him,” said Jordan.

Rashad questioned whether Jordan really wanted to call the leader of the free world a “hack.”

“Don’t worry about it. I never said he wasn’t a great politician. I just said he was a [expletive] golfer,” said Jordan.

Well, yeah, compared to Michael Jordan. Jordan’s reportedly a low single-digit handicap guy, which is understandable considering his athletic heritage. He’s used to competing and winning when he personally steps onto a field and starts swinging a club.

Unless it’s baseball, but hey, that was a long time ago.

Obama, meanwhile, shoots in the mid-90s, a playing partner told Golf Digest in 2009. He’s got a smooth left-handed swing, and he plays a lot for a president – more than 200 rounds so far in his term-and-a-half. His critics complain about that frequency.

But he’s far from the best, or even the most enthusiastic, presidential golfer of all time.

Who was the real First Duffer? Taking the contenders chronologically, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a keen player in his youth. But polio kept him from playing as president.

Dwight Eisenhower wore golf spikes into the White House. He put dents in the floor that subsequent presidents had to remove. He played over 800 times during his two terms in office.

John F. Kennedy loved golf too, but downplayed that because he felt it had become a political liability for Ike. His physical problems also kept him from playing as much as he would have liked.

Gerald Ford was a star football player at the University of Michigan and an under-appreciated athlete. He once out-drove Arnold Palmer off the tee at a charity event, though his shots could be wild.

George H. W. Bush was a good golfer. But he’s known mostly for being fast on the links – he pioneered “speed golf” while president. Perhaps it reminded him of his beloved powerful speed boats.

Bill Clinton was known mostly for taking mulligans and gimmies during his rounds. That sort of obscures the historical record when it comes to his golf game but partners said he could break 90, legitimately.

How do the rankings shake out? Golf.com puts Ike first, given his serious approach. Links Magazine goes with JFK as the best natural talent. So does Golf Digest, claiming that Kennedy’s scores averaged in the 80s.

As for ourselves, we’ll go with Eisenhower. Unlike Michael Jordan, Ike was an excellent baseball player in his youth. There’s even evidence he played professionally. He was a standout back for Army in 1912, when West Point was a football power. If his career had not been ended by injury, he might today be remembered as the best athlete to ever win the Oval Office.

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