Obama Vacation
Alex Brandon  /  AP
President Obama waits for another player to hit as he plays golf during his vacation on Martha's Vineyard Monday.
updated 8/24/2009 6:12:26 PM ET 2009-08-24T22:12:26

President Barack Obama played tennis with his wife and golf with his buddies Monday, starting his first vacation in office on Martha's Vineyard, a picturesque island known as a refuge for the wealthy and privileged.

Obama began the day with a workout at his rented retreat, then tennis with Michelle Obama, White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters traveling with the president. Obama later played golf with UBS Investment Bank President Robert Wolf and Chicago physician Eric Whitaker, both friends. White House aide Marvin Nicholson was also in the foursome.

White House officials have stressed that the president is on a private vacation and very little is planned. But the White House continued governing at full pace and with tremendous interest for All Things Obama, officials have trickled out a few personal details here and there.

For instance, Burton told reporters that the president's reading list includes "The Way Home" by George Pelecanos, "Hot, Flat and Crowded" by Tom Friedman, "Lush Life" by Richard Price, "Plainsong" by Kent Haruf and "John Adams" by David McCullough.

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But the trip was clearly designed to limit exposure for the first family. White House aides have asked journalists not to tail the first daughters when they are not with their parents. And journalists were taken to the first hole moments after Obama's first drive but in time to capture him walking down the lush green fairway at an Oak Bluffs golf course.

"Good to see you," Obama said to a cheering crowd as he walked pass an impromptu crowd. "Hey man, how are you?"

Slideshow: Welcome to Martha’s Vineyard

He told the group that his daughters were swimming while he hit the links.

Obama's sister, Maya, flew with the Obamas from Washington, as did first pooch Bo, who wandered through the press cabin during the flight. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and counselor to the president, joined the flight aboard Air Force One and the dinner table on Sunday night hours after arriving.

Other midlevel aides were on the island to assist the president if needed, a reminder the presidency does not allow for complete breaks from the job.

But Burton joked that even some of those aides were in vacation mode with the president.

"He's obviously worked very hard this year, as have some members of the staff. I don't know about all of them; I know Tommy's in flip-flops today," Burton joked, pointing to assistant press secretary Tommy Vietor standing at the side of the room with a football and sandals.

Video: Obama tees off Other White House aides followed Obama onto the golf course, including travel and advance staffers.

The White House does not have a formal schedule while the Obamas are on the island, but the president received a daily briefing in person from a National Security Council official. He received an economic briefing through memos, and the secluded 28-acre private estate has a secure line to the White House if a situation develops.

At the White House, senior administration officials conducted a conference call with reporters about national security programs.

White House officials continued to say Obama has no plans to visit ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy at his home in Hyannis Port on nearby Cape Cod. A visit with Kennedy, who has brain cancer, could provide a rallying point for Democrats as Obama seeks to achieve one of Kennedy's career goals: overhauling the nation's health insurance system to provide near-universal coverage.

"I heard some reports today that the Secret Service had visited Hyannis Port," Burton said. "I don't think that there's any reason to believe that there's any plan to go to Hyannis Port at this point. I think that if Secret Service agents were there they probably heard — like all of you already know — that they have great lobster rolls out there and they were probably just checking them out."

Instead, aides said there might be trips for ice cream and salt-water taffy, possibly a bike ride and plenty of quiet time at the compound that rents for $35,000 a week. The Obamas are paying for their share of the vacation home; taxpayers are picking up the tab for security and White House staff, which is customary for all presidents.

The playground for the rich was a vacation spot for former presidents Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant. Obama has visited twice before. More typically he has vacationed in Hawaii, where he was born and spent time as a child.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Presidential playgrounds

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  1. Lincoln's Cottage

    The newly renovated Lincoln's Cottage (formerly known as Anderson Cottage) is seen in Washington on Jan. 15, 2008.

    The stone abode, called Anderson Cottage after Maj. Gen. Robert Anderson, Fort Sumter's commanding officer at the outbreak of the Civil War, offered him a hilltop view of the capital, a breeze and an opportunity to read and write in serenity. Some authorities say he wrote some or all of the Emancipation Proclamation while in residence.

    The cottage was recently restored and opened to visitors. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Teddy Roosevelt's hunting trips

    Lover of big-game hunts, Theodore Roosevelt is shown beside an elephant he brought down in Africa in 1909.

    Roosevelt set the pattern for modern presidential vacations by mixing pleasure with lots of business. Starting in 1902, Sagamore Hill, his Oyster Bay home on the North Shore of Long Island, became the summer White House. While there, he organized the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War, earning him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

    (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Coolidge on horseback

    Calvin Coolidge rides a horse to the dedication ceremony of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, Aug. 15, 1927. Coolidge vacationed for three months in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1927, fishing and riding horses in Custer State Forest in the southeastern corner of the hills.

    Retired AP writer Lawrence L. Knutson writes: "Wearing a Western hat, cowboy boots, fringed gloves and a business suit, Coolidge rode a strawberry roan named Mistletoe the three miles to Mount Rushmore from the town of Keystone" and dedicated the monument to presidents that would be carved in the granite.

    (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Hoover's passion for fishing

    Herbert Hoover fishes in New England, May 29, 1939.

    Hoover established a presidential retreat in the Blue Ridge mountains along Virginia's Rapidan River three hours from the capital. There, he indulged his passion for fly fishing, angling for speckled trout in clear mountain streams.

    Hoover declared fishing to be a "constant reminder of the democracy of life, of humility and human frailty — for all men are equal before fishes." His 164 acres eventually became part of Shenandoah National Park. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Roosevelt's Shangri-La

    Franklin D. Roosevelt, wearing a hat and waving, sails into Penobscot Bay, Maine, June 24, 1933. He is surrounded by sons James, wearing a dark sweater; John, directly behind the president; and Franklin Jr., right. Forced to give up the presidential yacht at the outbreak of World War II, Roosevelt relaxed at a former boys summer camp tucked into the foliage of Maryland's Catoctin Mountains. Roosevelt called the retreat Shangri-La, after the paradise hideaway in "Lost Horizon." (President Eisenhower would later rename it Camp David after his father and grandson.)

    In the lodge known as Bear's Den, he and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill planned for the Normandy invasion. He went to Shangri-La more than 20 times during his presidency. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Truman and Key West

    President Harry Truman, spending his vacation at the naval base in Key West, Fla., on Nov. 30, 1949, wears one of his signature caps and sporty shirt as he carries a walking stick on a stroll about the station.

    Truman loved wearing loudly colored, loose shirts during his 11 vacations at Key West, from 1946 to 1952. Americans sent him gift shirts in such great numbers that he had dozens laid out on the lawn for anyone on his staff who wanted one.

    He stayed at the Commandant's House on the naval base, enjoying a private beach, screened porches and a tropical garden with the presidential yacht Williamsburg docked nearby for his use. Truman favored long poker sessions and afternoon naps during his escapes from "the big white jail" in Washington. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Eisenhower tees off

    Dwight D. Eisenhower relaxes at the 18th hole during a golf game in Coral Gables, Fla., Sept. 10, 1947.

    Eisenhower was an avid golfer who made a beeline to the links at every opportunity. He played often at Burning Tree in Maryland, Augusta National in Georgia, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, Newport in Rhode Island and Cherry Hills near Denver. By one account, he averaged three rounds a week.

    It was during Ike's 1955 vacation, the night after an aborted game at Cherry Hills, that he suffered a heart attack. Months later, after a hospital stay and rest at his Gettysburg farm, he was allowed to return to the game, on one condition: "My doctor has given me orders that if I don't start laughing instead of cussing when I miss these shots, then he's going to stop me from playing golf." (Henry Burroughs / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Kennedy on the waters

    John F. Kennedy takes the wheel of the Coast Guard yawl Manitou for a cruise along Down East Maine, Aug. 11, 1962, as Sen. Benjamin Smith, who took the senate seat vacated by Kennedy, stands at right.

    Kennedy vacationed at Cape Cod, Palm Beach, Fla., Newport, R.I., and Virginia's horse country. Perhaps his favorite spot was at the tiller of a sailboat. A sailor since boyhood, Kennedy enjoyed outings on the Honey Fitz, the 92-foot presidential yacht that could carry 40 guests. He'd swim off the side of the boat in warm waters during winter visits to Palm Beach.

    Kennedy celebrated his last birthday — his 46th — with cocktails and dinner aboard Sequoia, an all-wood, 104-foot motor yacht. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Bush's family retreat

    Former President George H. W. Bush, with a Secret Service agent behind him, pilots his speedboat Aug. 25, 2004, in the waters off Kennebunkport, Maine.

    Bush spent much of his childhood at the family's Kennebunkport estate. The property has been a family retreat for more than a century. (David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Clintons take a stroll

    President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton hold hands, facing daughter Chelsea, out for a family vacation stroll in field graced by trio of elk in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Aug. 12, 1996.

    The Clintons' summer vacation spot of choice was Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. They went there on their first presidential vacation in 1993. (Dirck Halstead / Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. George Bush goes to Crawford

    President Bush enjoys a bike ride during a vacation on his ranch on Aug. 24, 2007, in Crawford, Texas.

    An avid fitness enthusiast, Bush would start the day fishing for perch on his pond at 6 a.m. Later, he would ride his mountain bike on trails he hand-built around his 1,600-acre ranch.

    After lunch and with the afternoon heat rising above 100 degrees, Bush would gather senior staff and the most hardy of his Secret Service protective detail for a afternoon of cutting cedar out on the wilds of his ranch. (Charles Ommanney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Obama takes in the sights

    President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia tour Hopi Point at Grand Canyon National Park Aug. 16 in Arizona.

    Obama is heading to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, an island playground for the rich frequented in years past by presidents Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant, for his first presidential vacation.

    (Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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