Fergus Bisset: Golfing politics

Barack Obama has played golf 32 times since his inauguration as US president. When was the last time Gordon Brown took to the links?

I read on the Telegraph website this week that Barack Obama has played golf 32 times since he became President of the USA last year. It's a pretty good effort in just over a year when he's also been overseeing various wars and the ever-increasing US national debt as well as pushing for healthcare reforms and trying to quit smoking.

Golf Digest ranked Obama at number eight on the list of golfing Presidents when he took office - JFK topped the standings and both Bush's plus Bill Clinton were ahead of Barack. They might have to revise their ranking as Obama has now played golf four times more while in office than George W did in his entire Presidency.

I find it comforting to know that the most powerful man in the world enjoys a quick 18 holes. Not only because we share an interest but also because he's clearly taking the opportunity to wind down every so often - pretty crucial for someone in the ultimate high pressure job. You don't want the President of the USA getting too stressed and twitchy.

There's a disappointing lack of golf within British politics. As the general election looms, I haven't seen one of the principal party leaders out on the links. Unfortunately, golf's image within the general British populous remains one of elitism and snobbishness - no longer the case but many still hold the outdated stereotype and the politicians probably want to steer clear.

If the leaders of the main parties played golf, I'd at least have something to judge them apart. As it is, my choice will be determined by a bamboozling array of slightly varying methods to reduce the country's massive budget deficit. Calculators at the ready.

How much more interesting if a manifesto introduction read something like...

Party X will invest further in the NHS and education while raising national insurance for those earning over £55,000pa .... Blah blah blah.... Away from politics, the party leader Mr X is a keen golfer with a handicap of 3.2. He hits a prodigious ball and is renowned for his accurate driving. He admits his short game could do with some work and he pledges to practise his putting for 30 minutes a day on the hall carpet at Number 10. He plays with a set of MacGregor Tourney blades and still carries his bag... It might be enough to sway me.

The reason it came out that Obama had been playing quite a bit of golf was because, after the volcanic ash cloud prevented him attending the Polish president's funeral, he played golf instead.

This dashed volcano has caused havoc. People stranded across the world, businesses on the verge of collapse, world leaders unable to attend funerals and sports fixtures cancelled. A significant sports fixture that's been cancelled is a golf trip I had planned early next week - a couple of my pals were coming to stay and we were due to visit Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links. Unfortunately one of my friends is stuck in the Far East so we've been forced to reschedule. I've seen nothing about that on the BBC news.

An event that will go ahead despite adversity is the Golf Monthly forum meeting at Castle Stuart on Saturday. The GM team were due to fly up from London today but have decided to drive instead. As I write, they'll be hurtling up the M6. Great dedication from the boys.

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Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?