One thing that can be said of President Trump is that most of his time in office has been spent at the White House, as is true of the presidents before him. Another thing that can be said of him is that he’s spent a remarkable amount of time away from the White House, unlike most other presidents. Another thing that can be said is that he’s spent a great deal of time away from the White House at properties owned by his private business, something that is unique to Trump.
I’ve been tracking those visits since Trump took office, originally out of curiosity over where the president would draw the line between his official and private lives. As president-elect, Trump ushered in 2017 at his Mar-a-Lago resort, interviewed Cabinet nominees at his golf club in New Jersey and visited his hotel in D.C. on several occasions. But that was still while he was a private citizen. Would he continue to visit Trump Organization properties as president, raising questions about whether or not he was either tacitly endorsing the company (from which he still earns income) or otherwise forcing the government to spend money at those properties?
Well, yes. He would.
By the end of February, Trump had spent all or part of 12 days of his presidency at Trump Organization properties, including Mar-a-Lago and his D.C. hotel. By the end of March, he was up to 19 days — and had played golf on 11 of them. By that point, we (and many other publications) had already noted the contrast between Trump’s affection for the links and his campaign-trail assertions that he would rarely, if ever, play golf as president.
“I’m going to be working for you,” he said in August 2016 at a campaign event. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”
He found time.
@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2011
As I write, Trump is at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., having traveled there from Mar-a-Lago, where he’s been holed up since last Friday. He’s expected to remain at Mar-a-Lago through the new year, perhaps to once again play host at the big party held at the resort each New Year’s Eve. If he does so, his 2017 will look like this.
(The notes generally indicate Trump’s golf partners, when known.)
It’s important to note, as we have before, that the estimates above of when Trump played golf are just that: estimates. Trump’s team has often gone to great lengths to obscure whether or not Trump is actually playing golf when he visits his golf clubs; former press secretary Sean Spicer once argued that Trump often went to his golf clubs and would conduct meetings and have phone calls. Our estimates are either based on visual evidence of Trump golfing or on the combination of favorable weather and an adequate amount of time — usually about four hours — spent at the club.
Here, then, are my estimates for Trump’s first calendar-year as president, by the numbers (through Dec. 31, assuming he remains at Mar-a-Lago):
- Days in office: 346
- Days spent all or in part at a Trump property: 112
- Percent of days in office visiting a Trump property: 32.4
- Days on which Trump likely played golf: 69 (through Dec. 27)
- Percent of days on which he likely played golf: 19.9
Trump himself frequently insisted that Barack Obama played too much golf as president, so let’s compare the two.
- Regularity of games of golf played by Trump during his first year: Once every five days
- Regularity of games of golf played by Obama over eight years: Once every 8.8 days
- When Trump would match that rate if he stopped playing golf after Dec. 27: Sept. 17, 2018
- Games of golf played by Obama as president: 333
- When Trump will surpass that count if he keeps playing at this rate: July 28, 2021
- Games of golf played by Obama in his first term, per ObamaGolfCounter: 113
- When Trump will surpass that count if he keeps playing at this rate: Aug. 3, 2018
Assuming Trump spends about three-and-a-half hours on each round of golf, by our estimate he has spent more than ten 24-hour days of his presidency playing golf. That number, and those above, exclude any golf Trump plays the rest of this week.
Over the first six months of his presidency, we calculated that Trump had spent more than 16 percent of his time at a Trump property. In other words, for every 24 hours he’d been president, Trump had spent about 3 hours, 52 minutes at a Trump property. Much of that time has been on weekends.
Of the 51 weekends Trump will have been president by the end of the year:
- Weekends during which he didn’t visit a Trump-brand property: 12
- Percent of weekends on which he visited a Trump-brand property: 76.5
- Number of Saturday nights spent at the White House as president: 23 of 51
Trump has spent the most number of days at Mar-a-Lago of all of his properties. Days Trump spent all or in part at:
- Mar-a-Lago: 43
- Bedminster: 41
- Trump National Golf Club, Sterling, Va.: 23
- Trump International Golf Club, Palm Beach: 23
(Those trips to Trump International were on days that Trump also spent at Mar-a-Lago.)
There’s one question that’s often raised and is trickier to answer: How much did all of these trips cost taxpayers? This number is harder to ascertain. The conservative group Judicial Watch estimates that each of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips costs the government $1 million. That doesn’t include local law enforcement costs, which run in the tens of thousands. Guarding Mar-a-Lago had cost taxpayers $6.6 million by July, according to Post reporting — just for Coast Guard protecting by sea and air. The costs of protecting Trump and his family exhausted the Secret Service budget for the year by September.
It’s important to note that these are not costs that then flow to the Trump Organization. Setting aside the benefit of constant promotion of his properties thanks to a presidential visit — and the chances of having Trump show up at your Trump-property wedding — it’s not clear how much the properties have benefited.
There’s one additional figure worth noting.
- Number of times Trump golfed at a property not affiliated with the Trump Organization: 1
When Trump visited Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, knowing his audience, had Trump join him for a round.