Release the (golf) returns!

Donald Trump boasts about himself incessantly, talking in superlatives about his achievements, many of which cannot be substantiated and for which he refuses to reveal supporting information. We already know that he has refused to release his tax returns, something that every major party candidate has done for the last few decades and which would reveal, among other things, his annual income, the amount of tax he pays, and his charitable contributions.

But now we learn that he may be lying about something else too, and that is his golfing ability.

Trump has bragged about having a handicap of three. For years, this number was accepted with little public question, probably because nobody cared enough to investigate it. Forbes once reported his handicap as four, with the caveat that he has yet to produce a signed scorecard as proof. But mostly Trump’s word was that.

The Republican presidential nominee lists his handicap as 2.8 on the US Golf Association’s Golf Handicap and Information Network, making him an extraordinary golfer at any age – but truly phenomenal for someone who is 70. And it raises the question: how likely is this claim to be truthful? Is it yet another story of virility fabricated by a man who has a long history of distorting reality?

In a sport that prides itself on honesty, where a player’s signature their own scorecards is taken as certifying that the score is correct, cheating is not uncommon. I asked a friend of mine who is a Sunday golfer and he said that in the friendly games he plays, it is not uncommon for players to move the ball and do other things that shave their scores. One can well imagine that Trump has mastered all the tricks.

There are many tales of Trump bending the rules on the golf course. Last year, former Sports Illustrated managing editor Mark Mulvoy told the Washington Post that once playing with Trump in the 1990s he realized that Trump had placed a ball just feet from the pin that he had never hit. “Ahh, the guys I play with cheat all the time,” Mulvoy said Trump told him. “I have to cheat to keep up with them.”

The same story referenced an interview Alice Cooper did in 2012 in which the rock star – a regular golfer – answered a question about the worst golf cheat he had ever played with by saying: “I played with Donald Trump one time, that’s all I’m going to say.”

Why should we believe that he is telling the truth about his golf handicap when he lies about so many other things that are much more important?

The psychology of cheating at friendly games, where nothing is at stake other than bragging rights, is quite fascinating. Is someone who cheats over such trivial things more likely to cheat about major things? Or is there no connection?


  1. ShowMetheData says

    With golf, you’re cheating against the golf course and the wild swings in vagaries of each shot.
    Even at the highest level of skill, there are shots that go wild.
    If two buddies do it equally, then there’s no problems

  2. says

    I’m not sure Trump is intentionally lying. He lives in an alternate universe where what he says is defined as the truth.

  3. Heidi Nemeth says

    I read a relevant article on Google News in the last few days which discussed a recent scientific study showing little lies pave the way for more and bigger lies. The final comment in the article was something to the effect of: another scientific study showing what all of us have learned from experience to be true, kinda like -- Well, duh!

  4. sonofrojblake says

    With golf, you’re cheating against the golf course

    Not really. Golf’s weakness, as a game, is the same as that for darts -- there’s nothing you can legally do within the rules of the game to affect your opponent’s performance. In an important sense, every game of golf anyone, professional or beginner, ever plays, they play alone against the designer of the course. But the designer of the course is not present and doesn’t care what your score is. It really is the most futile “sport” I can think of. Mark Twain had the right idea.

    Or possibly I did. In the late 90s I was on a fairway, waiting while my friend addressed the ball. He was taking his time, and in that idle moment contemplating the bag full of clubs before me it occurred to me that the game would be a lot more entertaining if, while he was lining up to use his club on the ball, I was allowed to use my club on him. Thus was the concept of Full Contact Golf born. Obviously players would have to wear protective equipment, but golfers love nothing better than wearing ridiculous clothing. It would be much more fun to watch, and courses would be much more challenging. It’s a dream of mine to one day turn up with a friend, both covered in Kevlar, and play a round of FCG on a real course.

    But with golf, you’re cheating your friends to precisely the extent to which they care what your score is. And that means what stakes you’ve placed on the game. I never bet money on sports, especially not sports I’m playing (the only kind of sports I’m interested in at all). If Trump isn’t betting actual money on games, all that’s at stake is his own internal impression of himself as a winner -- and that’s obviously really important to him. But it’s really important to most people. /shrug/ If the worst thing about him was that he cheats at golf, I’d be much more relaxed about what’s going to happen next month.

  5. John Morales says


    /shrug/ If the worst thing about him was that he cheats at golf, I’d be much more relaxed about what’s going to happen next month.

    OTOH, if you were to find out he didn’t cheat at golf… 😉

  6. Mobius says

    In a relate note: On last night’s Rachel Maddow she played a tape of an interview with Trump where he tells that in his younger days he was the best baseball player in New York. And that he was an amazing athlete all around.

    Trump’s ego makes him write checks he can’t cash, but he can con people into loaning to him anyway.

  7. rhebel says

    This reminds me of someone else…hmmm….I think he resided in North Korea and has a son who fed his own uncle to dogs.

  8. anat says

    See this interview with Dan Ariely about cheating. Many people are small cheaters, very few people are big cheaters, but almost all big cheaters started as small cheaters, and often interacted with others on the same slippery slope.

  9. jrkrideau says

    Is someone who cheats over such trivial things more likely to cheat about major things?


    With Trump there is the obsessive need to appear to win, to be the best, etc. and he appears to have no moral or ethical standards to speak of. It is hard to imagine anything that he would not lie about or cheat at.

    # 6 John Morales
    OTOH, if you were to find out he didn’t cheat at golf…
    I’d start believing in flying pigs?

  10. John Morales says

    jrkrideau, 🙂

    Something like that — I was thinking the cognitive dissonance might make one’s head assplode.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *