WILMINGTON, Delaware: US President Joe Biden leaves his cart after a round of golf at Wilmington Country Club Saturday. - AFP

WILMINGTON: President Joe Biden played golf for the first time in his presidency Saturday, hitting the fairways in his home city of Wilmington-and taking a page from his golf-obsessed predecessor Donald Trump's book. The Democrat's motorcade swept into the Wilmington Country Club for the unannounced outing around lunch time. Clearly surprised members of the private, upscale club paused between swings and putting to watch, some whipping out cellphones to film the spectacle.

Reporters traveling with Biden were unable to see the president playing, although he appeared to be with a group riding in a mini-motorcade of half a dozen golf carts across a wide grassy fairway. The White House said Biden's playing partners were Ron Olivere, father-in-law of Biden's late son Beau, and senior advisor Steve Ricchetti. This was not just the first time Biden has devoted a day to golf since taking over from Trump in January, but likely the first time many Americans realized that he plays at all.

Biden has kept his golfing skills largely quiet, in contrast to the openly boastful Trump, who not only played as often as possible while in the White House but owned the courses he used. "He loves the game, plays and respects it," golf architect Robert Trent Jones, who designed the Wilmington course, was quoted as saying in Morning Read, a golf website. "He's just not the self-promoter that (Trump)... is."

Biden or Trump best?

In fact, Biden is reputed to hit a mean golf ball. When he was vice president under Barack Obama, Golf Digest reported him to have an impressive six handicap. Of course, this being golf-and politics-not everyone agrees, especially if they're from the other party. "Joe Biden told me that he was a good golfer," said former Ohio governor John Kasich, a Republican. "I've played golf with Joe Biden. I can tell you that's not true."

Biden's return to the game comes at the end of a hectic week in which he announced sanctions against Russia, met with Japan's prime minister at the White House, and caused controversy with a chaotic attempt to define his policy on accepting refugees to the United States. But with coronavirus vaccine rollouts steaming ahead and a Pew poll giving him a 59 percent approval rating, Biden might have felt it was time to unwind. Playing golf is a presidential tradition stretching back decades, making it the ultimate Washington power game.

Trump played no less than 300 times during his one term of four years-always at one of his own golf clubs-which was roughly double the rate at which his predecessor Obama played. The property magnate is said to be a decent golfer and has claimed his putting skills are "great." However, Trump is also dogged by numerous accounts from former playing partners that he routinely cheats. "Trump doesn't just cheat at golf," wrote sportswriter Rick Reilly in the book "Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Donald Trump." "He cheats like a three-card Monte dealer. He throws it, boots it, and moves it. He lies about his lies. He fudges and foozles and fluffs." - AFP