Trump-Biden debate devolves into squabble over golf handicaps

The first US presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump on Thursday took an unexpected turn after they got into an argument over golf when asked about their ability to serve as president well into their 80s.

Mr Biden’s performance was marked by rambling answers, while Mr Trump spent the debate spreading misinformation and failing to answer questions.

The Democrat repeatedly tore into Mr Trump in an apparent bid to provoke him, bringing up everything from the former president's recent felony conviction to his alleged insult of World War I veterans and his weight.

Mr Trump declined to clearly state that he would accept the results of the November election, four years after he was promoted conspiracy theories about his defeat that culminated in the 6 January insurrection, and repeatedly misstated the record from his time in office.

But the debate's trajectory took an abrupt turn when CNN moderator Dana Bash asked the candidates about their ability to serve well into their 80s.

Mr Biden, answering in a hoarse voice, listed a litany of his supposed policy achievements and pointed out that Mr Trump was only "three years younger and a lot less competent.”

Trump says Biden couldn’t hit a 50 yard drive. Biden says Trump couldn’t lift his own golf bag. The race for the world’s most powerful job continues (Getty/Shutterstock)
Trump says Biden couldn’t hit a 50 yard drive. Biden says Trump couldn’t lift his own golf bag. The race for the world’s most powerful job continues (Getty/Shutterstock)

The incumbent president said he was previously "criticised about being the youngest person in politics". "I was the second youngest person ever elected to the United States Senate, and now I’m the oldest," he said.

In his retort, Mr Trump bragged about his golf game and said he was in as good a shape as he had been 25 years ago and perhaps "even a little bit lighter.”

The Republican claimed that he recently won two club championships. “Not even senior, two regular club championships,” he added. "To do that, you have to be quite smart and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way and I do it.”

"He doesn’t do it. He can’t hit a ball 50 yards,” Mr Trump said, referring to his rival. “He challenged me to a golf match – he can’t hit a ball 50 yards."

Mr Biden, in turn, invited the Republican to a driving contest.

"I got my handicap, which when I was vice president, down to a six," he said. "And by the way, I told you before, I’m happy to play golf if you carry your own bag. Think you can do it?"

Mr Trump accused the president of lying, which led to Mr Biden correcting himself.

"I was a eight handicap. Yeah, eight," the Democrat said.

"I’ve seen you swing. I know your swing. Let’s not act like children,” Mr Trump continued.

"You are a child,” Mr Biden retorted.

Trump wasn’t willing to let the squabble go after the debate, posting a couple of videos of him and Biden golfiing on his Truth Social social media network.

The former president has repeatedly been accused of cheating at golf by inflating his scores or simply lying about how many shots he took. Sports writer Rick Reilly wrote a book claiming that caddies nicknamed Trump “Pele” after the Brazilian soccer legend because he used to kick the ball so much.

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau, winner of two major championships and a friend of Trump’s, offered to help them settle the argument by playing a match that he would show on his YouTube channel.

After the debate ended, people took to social media to poke fun at the candidates for sparring over golf.

“These dudes have been calling each other the worst President in history for 80 straight minutes — and neither one of them got really offended until their golf skills were questioned,” Gary Parrish, a columnist, wrote on X.

“That’s it folks. Cancel the election. Let’s settle this on the golf course. Winner takes all. The only way to do it,” said businessman Dave Portnoy.

“Who cares who is better at golf? Americans need healthcare,” said educator and activist Nina Turner.