Rules have sometimes been a handicap for former President Clinton but now the most famous presidential golf cheat is preaching the need for tough rules and truthfulness in golf.
The game of presidents, he writes in Venus Williams's new book Come To Win, a collection on inspirational success stories, is "the fairest of all games in a way because of the handicap system—as long as you tell the truth about your handicap."
But not once does he mention his penchant for taking multiple "mulligans," or extra and uncounted shots, at the beginning and throughout his games, a practice the golf media labels cheating. Instead, he says that while "I'm not a very good golfer," his first year out of the White House had him shooting pretty well resulting in a 10 handicap.
White House pool reporters, Time, and Sports Illustrated have charted his game, reporting how he sometimes takes up to three shots off the first tee. Others have reported other multiple shots throughout his game. During his presidential years, those extra shots weren't typically recorded though in his chapter in Williams' book he writes, "You play by PGA rules, unless all the competitors agree to a modification. Often you end up having to call a penalty on yourself. I like that too."
Clinton says he got into the game when he was 12 and an uncle gave him a set of old clubs. He never had a lesson but stopped in high school. "After I met Hillary, I started playing again with her brothers and have been hacking away ever since."
Still, despite his golf flaws, he can brag about beating links icon Jack Nicklaus once. Golfing in Vail with Nicklaus and former President Ford, says Clinton, "I out drove Nicklaus only once, by a yard. It was one of the happiest moments of my golfing life. We were playing a par-5 hole, which we both reached in two. I was just eight feet from the cup with a genuine shot at an eagle. When I missed the putt badly, Nicklaus smiled and said, 'You didn't think you were worthy of an eagle. You need to get over that.' Then President Ford chimed in, 'Or you can just wait a few years, and an eagle won't be an option anymore.'"
With candid honesty, he talks about the benefits of golfing as a president. "When you're not in the White House anymore, they don't give you as many short putts."
While it's easy to pick on his game, Clinton has a positive message to pitch in his chapter, one he says he and his wife Hillary live by: "never quit." He writes: "Even if you know you're going to be beat, play the game as hard as you can until it's over. My mother drilled that lesson into me, and it has stood me in good stead. I've pulled a lot of victories from the jaws of defeat just because I never quit. And I've found defeat easier to live with and learn from if you give it your all."