Trump Criticized Obama for Golfing. Now He Spends Weekends on the Links

Trump Criticized Obama for Golfing. Now He Spends Weekends on the Links.

“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.” Mr. Trump tweeted on Oct. 13, 2014. “Worse than Carter.”

“We pay for Obama’s travel so he can fundraise millions so Democrats can run on lies,” he said a day later. “Then we pay for his golf.”

Then for a third time that month, Mr. Trump tweeted about Mr. Obama’s golf habit on Oct. 23, 2014.

“President Obama has a major meeting on the N.Y.C. Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!”

Photo

Barack Obama golfing on Martha’s Vineyard in 2013. CreditSteven Senne/Associated Press

As a president, though, Mr. Trump seems to have had a change of heart about the appropriateness of a president hitting the links.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump played golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at two of his courses in South Florida: 18 holes at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, and nine more at the Trump International Golf Club in nearby West Palm Beach. On Sunday, he returned, without Mr. Abe, to the club in West Palm Beach for five hours.

It was the president’s second visit this month to South Florida, where he owns the Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach along with the golf courses.

Last weekend, he spent four and a half hours at one of his golf clubs, a day before hosting a Super Bowl Party at Mar-a-Lago, which its original owner, the heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, named the “winter White House.”

Little was known about Mr. Trump’s time at either golf club this month — the White House last week declined to confirm whether he even played, or who accompanied him. On Saturday, Mr. Trump and his aides covered doors and windows at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter to keep the journalists inside from snapping photos of the president and Mr. Abe on the course.

But an administration-approved photo appeared on Mr. Trump’s social media pages that showed the two leaders high-fiving under a blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, a gigantic American flag waving in the background.

It was a change for a man who over the past five years had repeatedly criticized the sitting president for golfing, on the grounds that the trips were costly to taxpayers and came at the expense of time that he thought Mr. Obama should have spent on government duties.

Since Mr. Trump became president, his resort, Mar-a-Lago, has doubled its initiation fee to $200,000, drawing a rebuke from critics who say he is profiting off the presidency. But Mr. Trump and his aides say that using an informal setting outside Washington to entertain foreign leaders — as other presidents have done — will put those dignitaries at ease.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump told reporters that he and Mr. Abe “got to know each other very, very well” while golfing.

Mr. Trump was not always so critical of Mr. Obama’s golf habit. In June 2012, he tweeted that he would someday like to play a round of golf with the president.

And that same year, he suggested that Mr. Obama should have expanded his circle of golfing buddies to include more Republicans: “That way maybe the terrible gridlock would end.”

But soon Mr. Trump had soured on Mr. Obama’s time on the greens, often tweeting his own critiques and retweeting those of his followers:

Mr. Trump is, by at least one account, a fine golfing companion. In December, he hit the greens with Tiger Woods, who had also played with former Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush.

Mr. Woods’s game with Mr. Obama, in 2013, became the subject of conservative anger when The Washington Times reported last year that the game had cost taxpayers nearly $4 million. The fact-checking website Snopes found that claim to be mostly false, and noted that the figure was “based on an accounting formula that is often highly misleading about the true costs involved.”

As for his own round with Mr. Woods, Mr. Trump, in an Instagram post on Dec. 24, said he had had a “great” time, and that they were joined by Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and granddaughter Kai.

Mr. Woods, in a blog post, said he and Mr. Trump had played for fun while Mr. Woods tested new drivers.

“What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old,” Mr. Woods wrote. “He takes a pretty good lash,” he said, adding, “Our discussion topics were wide-ranging; it was fun.”

Correction: February 12, 2017
An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified a golf course as one of those played by President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. They played at the Trump National Golf Club and the Trump International Golf Club, not at the Mar-a-Lago resort.
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