Don’t Be a Duffer! Understanding the Sport of Golf

Don’t Be a Duffer! Understanding the Sport of Golf
Helen Taft: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One to two class periods


Have you ever wondered why there is a Golf Channel?  Some say it’s to provide background sound for Sunday afternoon naps!  On the other hand, many people love the game, including a fair number of Presidents, starting with William Howard Taft, who played golf regularly, twice a week, despite a good deal of ridicule in political cartoons.


Students who participate in this activity will come to understand the history of the game of golf (from 1497!), investigate the role of golf in the lives of some of our Presidents, and discuss the role of R & R (rest and relaxation) in the presidency.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet


1.  Divide the class into six groups.  Students in each group should access the “History of Golf Since 1497” website (see below), and familiarize themselves with the data on one of the six pages on that website. 
2.  As a large group, students should construct a timeline of the history of the game.
3.  Back in small groups, each group should research the role of golf in the lives of one or more of our Presidents, from William Howard Taft to Bill Clinton (see "Presidential Golf," below).  Why did they play the game?  How did they feel about it?
4.  Since a President must take time “off” to play golf—or to do any of a number of leisure activities—the question arises as to how much “vacation” time a President should have.  This is a subject much discussed by the American public, especially since the news covers nearly everything a President and First Lady does.  Discuss the issue with the whole class; then ask each student to write a short essay outlining his or her views on the subject of “Presidential Vacations.”

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by asking students to think of ways to support the school golf team (if there is one), or to compare the pros and cons of golf versus football as a high school sport.

Sources & Resources:

A History of Golf Since 1497
Frequently asked questions about golf
Presidential golf
Escape from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
This lesson plan was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.