Presidents have long been coming to – and commenting on – Pinehurst
February 17, 2020

#InPinehurst | Golf


Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and President Gerald Ford played golf during the World Golf Hall of Fame Tournament on Sept. 11, 1974. (Photo from National Archives)

Golf has long been the pastime of presidents.

Sixteen of the last 19 U.S. Presidents have played golf. Some more than others.

Barack Obama played more than 200 rounds of golf since he took office in 2009. While that may sound like a lot, Obama would never catch up to Woodrow Wilson, who reportedly played 1,200 rounds during his presidency.

Maybe that record is in jeopardy now (just a little joke, y’all). In any event, if it is, it’s not likely to be broken here:

That’s OK. We can agree to disagree.

It’s been a little while since a President has been in Pinehurst to play. Obama visited Pinehurst while on the campaign trail in 2008, but didn’t hit the links.

Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae was known to presidents. He carried bags for four presidents: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

HEM14906.15 &.16 Richard Nixon, 12-13-1964

Richard Nixon played golf in Pinehurst in 1964 before taking office. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

McRae told the Associated Press that Nixon is the best player of the group, but he enjoyed them all.

“I mean, you’re caddying for somebody who is the head of the United States,” McRae told the AP. “There ain’t but one man ahead of him, and that’s God.”

Here’s a look back at some of Pinehurst’s presidential visits.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited Pinehurst twice: after leaving office in 1909 and before running again in 1912, according to Audrey Moriarty’s book “Pinehurst: Golf, History and the Good Life.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt has visited Pinehurst twice. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

President Harry Truman came to Pinehurst on Jan. 12, 1949 to visit Gen. George Marshall, who was recovering from an operation.

Marshall was Secretary of State at the time.

According to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, the trip was kept confidential and came as a surprise to both Marshall and members of the press.

“There was a motorcade a block long when Truman came,” Peter Tufts, great grandson of Pinehurst founder James Tufts, said in Lee Pace’s book Pinehurst Stories: A Celebration of Great Golf and Good Times. I thought it was interesting that Truman came to see Marshall. Marshall didn’t go to see him.”

President Gerald Ford traveled to Pinehurst in September 1974 to dedicate the PGA/World Golf Hall of Fame.

He had taken office just a month earlier after Richard Nixon resigned.

Just hours before leaving Washington, there was a report of an assassination plot, but that didn’t stop the new president from coming to town.

“He was so anxious to meet Ben Hogan,” a confidante revealed in Lee Pace’s book Pinehurst Stories: A Celebration of Great Golf and Good Times, “he would have gone even if it meant riding in an Army tank.”

During his visit, Ford teed off with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Deane Beman, commissioner of the PGA Tour.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford played a round with golf greats Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player in 1974. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

President George H.W. Bush played two rounds of golf on Pinehurst No. 2 during a visit to Pinehurst in September 2003.

Bush, whose son held the highest office at the time, was in town for a meeting of The First Tee foundation. At the time, he was honorary chair of the youth development organization that introduces the game of golf and its inherent values to young people.

According to The Fayetteville Observer, Bush played nine holes with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

During his visit, he stayed in a suite at the Holly Inn.

President Barack Obama and his team stayed in the East Wing of the Carolina Hotel on March 18, 2008.

At the time, Obama was an Illinois senator and the Democratic presidential candidate.

The next day, Obama played a pickup basketball game at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital’s Center for Health and Fitness.

First Lt. Eric Doe was on his team.

“I expected Senator Obama to be different,” Doe, a helicopter pilot with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of Fort Bragg’s 82 Airborne Division, told The Fayetteville Observer. “But he was down to Earth. He wanted to know everyone’s name, shake their hands, thank them for their service. It didn’t feel political.”


Scott Brewton, Pinehurst’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, poses with Barack Obama at the Carolina Hotel in 2008.

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