Oh man, golf. It gets a bad rap. The sport is exclusionary in all the worst ways, expensive to be a part of, and bad for the environment. What’s the place where guys historically go to avoid responsibilities at home or elsewhere? The links. Where do the partners go to do deals without their female colleagues? The strip club, yes, but also the links. Golf gets a real bad rap.
Despite it all or because of all that, the commander in chief has placed this troubled extracurricular at the center of his personality, alongside business and having a daughter. He’s almost always played through it, no matter what’s going on in the country or in his personal life. Like when more than 153,000 Americans had died of the coronavirus. He’s whinged about Barack Obama, complaining that his predecessor more golf than him, which is hilariously not true, according to the small cottage industry that has cropped up around comparing the two men’s golf habits.
Plus, he famously cheats.
And it’s the cheating at golf—or with golf—that he’s really expanded from a personality into a whole legacy. He owns 15 golf courses and considers them the “heart of his empire,” in the words of the New York Times, which just published a thorough unveiling of years of Trump tax returns. The reporting on these clubs and other facets of his portfolio shows how his ability to cheat any system is not limited to the links.
From the Archive: Snakes on Donald Trump’s Campaign
One core piece of the Times findings explains that the president has made the bulk of his revenue by loaning out his name, but recorded enormous losses in the businesses he actually ran, thereby avoiding taxes almost entirely. Most of the businesses that he ran, or the Trump Organization currently runs, are golf clubs, from several stateside ventures to courses in Scotland and Ireland. So: golf as strategic money pit. Very creative!
Here is the financial breakdown of losses through the years as told by the Times:
Consider the results at his largest golf resort, Trump National Doral, near Miami. Mr. Trump bought the resort for $150 million in 2012; through 2018, his losses have totaled $162.3 million. He has pumped $213 million of fresh cash into Doral, tax records show, and has a $125 million mortgage balance coming due in three years.
There are also his three courses in Europe—two in Scotland and one in Ireland—which have reported a combined $63.6 million in losses.
Since 2000, the total amount of losses on golf clubs alone is about $315 million. Classic hollow “heart of the empire” stuff.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— From Jeffrey Epstein’s Home to a Bill Clinton Dinner, More Details About Ghislaine Maxwell Emerge
— Inside Meghan Markle’s Political Ambitions
— Ta-Nehisi Coates Guest-Edits “The Great Fire,” a Special Issue
— Skyhorse Publishing’s House of Horrors
— Peter Beard’s Life, From His Art to His Wives to His Death
— Stirring Photographs of Britain’s Coronavirus Lockdown, Curated by Kate Middleton
— Why Meghan Markle Won’t Back Down in Her Tabloid Trial
— From the Archive: How Irene Langhorne Lured the Figures of Her Day and Made History
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.