Maybe We Should Place Limits on How Much a President Can Golf

In Dan Ariely’s column this week, a reader posted the following question:

Many CEOs claim to use golf to informally “get things done.” How much are they really accomplishing on the links?

And here was Dan’s answer:

I used to believe in the popular notion that golfing is an important business tool, but a paper published last year in the journal Management Science changed my view. Lee Biggerstaff, David Cicero and Andy Puckett collected golfing records for more than 300 CEOs from S&P 1500 firms from 2008 to 2012 and found that the more golf a CEO played, the more a firm’s performance and value decreased. When CEOs played at least 22 rounds in a year, they found, the mean return on assets was more than 100 basis points lower than for firms whose CEOs played golf less frequently. I’m inclined to think that the idea of golf as a business tool is a self-serving tale that CEOs tell themselves and us to justify spending time and money at play.

So if playing more golf leads to worse corporate performance, then it seems to reason that perhaps CEOs should play less golf.

And if we think of our President as the CEO of our country, then perhaps there should be a legal limit placed on how many rounds of golf he (or she, this blogger wistfully writes) should be allowed to play per year. Otherwise, having no limit could lead to a situation of the President playing too many rounds, to the point where it hurts the performance of our country.

As part of such a law, each time the President plays a round of golf would need to be disclosed, to ensure that he or she stays within the legal limits.

But I’m not sure if golf is being unfairly picked on here, since I have not had a chance to read the original research article.

What if a President didn’t golf, but instead bowled 50 games a week. Is that too much? Or what if a President liked to read mystery novels? Should there be a limit on how many such books he can read per week?

If the article is just using golf as a proxy of how much time a CEO spends on leisure time activities, then the law might need to be broader, encompassing how much time the President is allowed to spend on non-work related activities.

But what if the problem is with golf itself? What if the actual act of playing too much golf made a CEO worse at his or her job?

Perhaps we can use President Trump as a guinea pig, and compare what he accomplishes in the months where he golfs at least one round versus his performance as President in the months where he plays no golf.

I know there would be a lot of noise in the data from such a study, but it seems like the job is important enough to figure out what’s the best way to get things done.

And if the results show that President Trump is more effective when he plays golf, then let him play as much golf as he wants. But if the results show that he accomplishes more when he does not play, then perhaps he should be banned from playing golf altogether.

Of course, my fear is that if has to cut out golf, he will use that time sending out tweets.


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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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