Obama: Duffer in Chief?

Air Force One touched down at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., just before 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7, carrying President Barack Obama home after a week-long trip overseas that included stops in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France.

Nobody would fault Obama for taking Sunday to catch up on sleep and unwind after the breakneck travel schedule.

But instead of vegging out on the couch, Obama returned to the White House for only about 90 minutes, then hopped in his motorcade and went right back to Andrews to get in nine holes of golf at one of the three courses on the base.

"We played well," said press aide Ben Finkenbinder, who was part of the president's golf group that day.

Since his inauguration, Obama has hit the links 12 times -- five rounds at Andrews Air Force and seven rounds at the course at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, according to CBS News' Mark Knoller, the unofficial stat keeper at the White House.

After his trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana in early July, Obama returned after midnight on Sunday and was on the golf course by 1 p.m.

Obama golfed on Memorial Day after delivering remarks at Arlington National Cemetery. He got in a round before a BBQ at the White House on the Fourth of July.

Obama's love of basketball has been well-documented. But the president's fondness for golf may go unnoticed because he does it on the weekends and, like former President Bush's weekly mountain biking treks, Obama's golf rounds are conducted far away from photographers and reporters.

In an interview with CBS News in June, Obama declared himself "terrible" at golf.

Before his first trip to Russia, Obama sat down for an interview with a Russian television network and when asked "what don't you like about yourself?" he turned to his golf game.

"I have been playing golf lately, and I don't like my golf swing," he said.

With a laugh, he expressed his frustration with the sport.

"It's a game that I keep on thinking I should be good at, and somehow the ball goes this way and that way and never goes straight," he said.

Obama Finds Privacy on the Golf Course

So, why do the president and so many weekend warrior athletes like him keep teeing up? Why put yourself through the hours of frustration playing a sport that is unforgiving even to the best of athletes?

According to Obama, the payoff is privacy, normalcy and a chance to get outside of the White House gates.

"It is the only time that, for six hours, first of all, that I'm outside. And second of all, where you almost feel normal, in the sense that you're not in a bubble," he said in an interview with CBS News.

Obama frequently has expressed his frustrations at the "bubble" he now lives in at the White House, noting how he cannot go for a walk when he wants to and every movement is carefully planned and choreographed.

But on the regular trips to the course, Obama can attempt to be just like every other player.

"There are a whole bunch of Secret Service guys, but they're sort of in the woods. And when you're up there in the tee box and you're hacking away, and hitting some terrible shot and your friends are laughing at you, you know, it feels as if, you know, you're out of the container," he said.

Obama usually golfs in a foursome whose participants rotate. Recent golf companions have included Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, presidential trip planner Marvin Nicholson (a former caddie at Augusta National) and Finkenbinder, the press aide.

On a rare occasion he was spotted in golf attire, Obama had one foot still back in the office -- his BlackBerry was firmly attached to his waist.

Golf Digest Ranks Duffers in Chief

Golfing and the presidency seem to go hand in hand. Fifteen of the last 18 presidents, including Obama, have played the sport.

Golf Digest recently ranked those 15 presidents and John F. Kennedy came in at the top of the list.

"Despite chronic back pain, [Kennedy] averaged 80," the magazine reported.

Obama ranks No. 8 on the list, which notes that the "lefty plays more hoops than golf." Bringing up the rear is Calvin Coolidge who, "when he vacated the White House, he left his clubs behind."

Former President George W. Bush, No. 6 on that list, said in 2008 that he gave up golf as the situation in Iraq worsened in August 2003.

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," Bush told Politico. "I think, you know, playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

After a suicide attack in Israel in August 2002, Bush spoke to reporters from a golf course.

"I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive," he said in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The video and quote became infamous after Michael Moore included it in his 2004 documentary, "Fahrenheit 911."

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