A high-stakes round of nuclear diplomacy set to take place next week in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un may lead way to a much lower-stakes round of golf between the two.
Trump has floated hitting the links with his counterpart as he considers a secondary charm offensive to complement the diplomatic tête-à-tête. The president has already told those close to him and advisers that he is open to inviting Kim to a follow-up summit at Trump’s famous Mar-a-Lago estate and private club in Palm Beach, Florida, as Bloomberg first reported this week.
And, according to two administration officials, Trump has also raised the possibility of a leisurely activity and, perhaps, getting in 18 holes with Kim if the two end up getting along.
“He has also discussed [possibly] golfing with Kim,” a senior Trump administration official said.
It is unclear if such an outing would or could occur during a potential follow-up meeting or the one planned, then canceled, then planned again for Singapore. The site of the upcoming Singapore talks, a five-star hotel on Sentosa Island, is located near a theme park, resorts, and—as luck would have it—multiple golf courses.
“I think that would be phenomenal—I think it would be a huge foreign policy win if President Trump got Kim Jong Un on a golf course, especially if he did it at Mar-a-Lago,” Eric Bolling, a close Trump friend and former Fox News star, told The Daily Beast. “I think Trump would be seen as a larger-than-life, superpower president over the North Korean troublemaker. And a lot of business gets done on the golf course… I would love to see that match happen. And I would put my money on the president of the United States.”
Bolling caveated that last point by saying, “unless [Kim’s] keeping his own score… and cheating.” (In fairness, Trump too has been known to fudge his score, according to multiple former golfing buddies.)
But not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of Trump and Kim lining up putts together. The president has been told by some advisers that playing golf with Kim could run the risk of creating horrific “optics.”
It is also unclear if Kim is, actually, a golfer. His father and predecessor Kim Jong Il was an enthusiast, even using the country’s notorious propaganda apparatus to boast of a particularly impressive (and obviously fabricated) 38-under-par round at a Pyongyang course. But the son’s preferred sport appears to be basketball.
Trump has been known to conduct diplomacy on the golf course. He and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an avid golfer himself, have played numerous rounds together, most recently at another Trump club in April. And while Trump was a frequent critic of his predecessor’s golfing habits in office, the White House has defended the president’s even more frequent trips to the course under the guise that they’re professionally productive. Whereas President Barack Obama supposedly hit the links purely for leisure, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted last year that Trump used his time on the course to build relationships and otherwise fulfill the duties of his office.