President Donald Trump’s golf game is back in the limelight this week thanks to a long feature by Alan Shipnuck in Sports Illustrated, echoing a recurring rumor that Trump’s golf ethics are less than pristine.
Shipnuck writes that Trump frequently moves his ball to improve his lie and takes mulligans and gimme putts, which has generated criticism from the public and a Salon article headlined “Commander in cheat.”
But Larry Conner, director of golf operations at Prestonwood Country Club, does not place much significance in these mild rule modifications if Trump is just playing for fun and isn’t submitting scores to lower his handicap or qualify for tournaments.
“The ultimate thing with golf is to enjoy yourself,” Conner said. “It’s not like you’re playing in the U.S. Open every round of golf. If a golfer moves his ball from a real nasty lie up against a root because he doesn’t want to break a golf club, the great thing about golf is it’s self-policing.”
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Conner, who played in college at Florida before a professional career earned him appearances in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, has made a career in the golf industry and even played a round with then-president Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
“I believe he hit two shots off the first tee, so technically he just broke the rules, but if I remember correctly, I may have hit two shots, too,” Conner said. “It was very interesting because of all the Secret Service. I can tell you that it was a fun round of golf.”
Conner said he sees amateur groups at Prestonwood set ground rules before rounds every day for the liberties they allow each other to take, and he estimates that at least 50 percent of recreational golfers claim a lower score than they could actually shoot if they were sticklers for all the rules.
Although he is willing to let most instances of cheating slide in the name of fun, Conner did say you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how he acts and whether he can be trusted on the golf course. As for Trump, Conner would be happy to have the chance to make that evaluation for himself.
“I’ve played with lots of people in all walks of life and would welcome the day to play golf with him,” Conner said.