Donald Trump vs. Shinzo Abe: Previewing their weekend golf outing

Friday February 10th, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are set to tee it up together at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday.
Illustration by Sean Steinemann

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is underway, but the biggest celebrity pairing of the week isn't teeing it up on the Monterey Peninsula.

The marquee matchup is at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., where President Donald Trump is scheduled to peg it with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday.

Trump has said he intends to partner with Abe rather than play against him, but here's how the two heads of state compare on the links.

Ages

Trump: 70 (Age-related fun fact: Trump is the oldest person ever elected to the Oval Office.)

Abe: 62 (Age-related fun-fact: Abe has had two turns in office. When he was first elected in 2006, he became Japan’s youngest-ever post-war prime minister.)

Home Club

Trump: Trump Bedminister, Bedminister, N.J.

Abe: Three Hundred Club, Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo

Handicap

Trump: The Donald is a self-proclaimed 2.8, which is only a slight exaggeration, according to a GOLF Magazine insider who has watched Trump play and describes him as “a legitimate 5 or 6.”

Abe: If the two men ever play for money, Trump will be giving strokes. At least, he should be. A source close to the prime minister told Reuters that Abe usually shoots between 90 and 100, which puts his index and 20-plus.

Tee Times

Trump: Though he often bashed President Obama for playing golf, Trump hasn’t exactly mothballed his sticks. His outing with Abe will be the second round of his three-week-old presidency.

Abe: The man is busy, but not too busy to squeeze in a round or two per month.

Average Drive

Trump: During the campaign, Trump boasted that his much-discussed hands could “hit a golf ball 285 yards.” Maybe so. But he reportedly averages closer to 235-350 off the tee.

Abe: He isn’t long, but he finds the short grass, hitting straight, pea-shooters that rarely travel more than 200 yards.

Competitiveness

Trump: On a scale of 1 to 10, he’s an 11 million.

Abe: According to reports in the Japanese media, the prime minister grows especially intense when he’s playing with his wife but not playing well.

Big Money Memberships

Trump: Not long after the election, initiation fees at Mar-a-Lago doubled to $200,000, plus $14,000 in annual dues.

Abe: $200,000? That’s Trump change to Abe, who belongs to Three Hundred Club, a Tokyo-area course that costs 70-80 million yen ($625,000-$715,000) to join.

Adventures in Etiquette

Trump: The first time he ever teed it up was in Newport, Rhode Island, where he found himself playing behind a family of prominent New York philanthropists. “I knew nothing about golf, so I kept hitting into them.” Trump recalled in The Trump Factor: Unlocking the Secrets Behind the Trump Empire. “Which did not play well in Newport. They kept looking around. ‘Who in the hell is hitting balls into us?’”

Abe: A source told Reuters that despite his lofty standing, the prime minister is not opposed to tending the flagstick. “People in a high position like him do not have to do that for others. He is very polite.”

Relationship to the Rules

Trump: Oscar de la Hoya claims that Trump is a golf scofflaw. Samuel L. Jackson asserts the same. Anthony Anderson never went so far as to label Trump a cheater. He said Trump’s caddy does the cheating for him. The stories are legion. If half of them are true, the best way to beat The Donald on the golf course is to beat him and his caddy to the ball.

Abe: There’s nothing shady we can point to on the course, where the prime minister has a pristine reputation. But don’t get us started on the problems plaguing his first administration, which was brought down by a corruption scandal. Memories of those dark times stirred again last year, when Abe’s economic revitalization minister resigned in the wake of allegations of a cash-for-favors bribery scheme.

Preferred Course Attire

Trump: Khakis. White shirt. Red cap emblazoned with his own name and/or campaign slogan.

Abe: Shorts. Knee socks. Baseball cap.

What’s in the Bag?

Trump: In addition to the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, POTUS has plenty of weapons his disposal. His reported clubs of choice are TaylorMades, but he also owns a Honma Beres S-05 driver, which retails for $3,755. He got the club from Abe as a post-election gift.

Abe: Make Japan Great Again? When it comes to golf equipment, the prime minister is doing his part. His preferred brands are Dunlop and Ryoma, both of which are Japanese-owned.

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