The new US president has a passion for golf. He owns some of the best golf venues on the planet including three in the UK and Ireland. Not even Donald Trump's unveiling later today as the 45th president - and arguably the most powerful man in the world - will stop him from getting a round, or three, in. Once the initial dust and furore has settled of course...
Last year he exclusively called Today’s Golfer from his Trump Towers office in New York to discuss everything golf. This is what he said…..
OVER the past decade or so brash American billionaire businessman Donald Trump has become one of the biggest ‘players’ and influential figures in golf even though he freely concedes: “Golf isn’t my major business, but I love golf and have had a great relationship and a lot of fun with it. The golf industry, for me, has been a very good one, very successful and I have the best locations, and the best courses.” ‘The Donald’ is probe to the odd boast or three…
With 18 prestigious courses spread across Planet Golf now on his hands, the outspoken Trump’s golfing portfolio is extraordinary and you could easily be forgiven for thinking that arguably the world’s best known real estate entrepreneur has been seeking world golf domination. However, from his office in Trump Tower, New York, the man reputed to be worth nearly three billion dollars told TG he’s more than happy with his golfing lot and isn’t currently looking to expand his empire.
He stressed: “I’ve no interest in taking on any other projects at the moment because I just can’t top the threesome of Turnberry, Doonbeg and Aberdeen. Realistically I just can’t see that happening: where am I going to find 500acres on the Atlantic, where are you going to find another Turnberry? Turnberry is one of the great places of the world. It’s just about everybody’s favourite course. So where are you going to find places like this?
“We have Aberdeen, Turnberry and Doonbeg, I call it the Trump Triangle. They’re all extra special though having said that if I can find somewhere else unique I’d be interested. But at the moment I have no interest and I don’t think there is anywhere around.”
For Trump, it’s all about location, location, location. He added: “I'm very good at real estate, and I get great locations. All I do is provide the canvas. I've had a lot of fun with the golf world. It's not my primary business, but it's been amazing I'm a big fan of location in golf courses, and all my clubs have been successful thanks to being in perfect locations. I just think location is very underrated.”
Over the next few pages, Trump reveals why he got into golf in the first place, his big plans for improving all three of his UK venues, his battle to turn his Aberdeen links dream into reality plus staging major championships and teaming-up with Tiger Woods in Dubai…
TRUMP ON GOLF & GOLF COURSES….
I often get asked why did I get involved in golf. Well, I have friends that are very successful people and they love to garden. And I like to garden too – just in a much bigger way! I also love tremendous acreage. When you have 600 acres on the ocean overlooking Catalina Island in Los Angeles, there's a tremendous value there for me.
The good thing is all my courses do very well. They are all winners; they are all top of the line. I started off building them, and then I started buying them. And I like buying them better. But I don't buy everything going - I turn down ten for every one I buy - and I only buy if it's either the best or can be the best. So we aim to do it right and I enjoy it. I view it as a business though while somebody else would be looking for a quick return on the investment, I'm not. I'm looking to make an amazing place, and then hopefully the return will come.
TRUMP ON TURNBERRY…
I’m proud of all my golf courses and that obviously includes latest acquisition Turnberry. Turnberry is Turnberry. It’s one of the great courses of the world though the R&A would like to make certain changes to the course so we’ll be doing that. We’re dealing with the R&A because for decades they wanted certain changes made but there’s never been an owner of Turnberry who understood golf. Until now.
There are plans to turn the 9th hole into a par-3 shooting over the water (sea) - that would be phenomenal – plus moving the 11th hole out on top of the cliffs. Right now it’s a little mundane…we want to add even more excitement! Oh, and ideally we’re bring the 18th tee closer to the ocean as opposed to the present tee and dogleg hole which sits in not the most beautiful area in the place: if we had it on the cliffs the tee shot and the vies of the 18th would be so incredible.
However, Turnberry has had four Open Championships and they’ve been the best Opens, including the Nicklaus v Watson Duel in the Sun which was the greatest. Hopefully it wuill stage another memorable one in the future though the R&A hasn’t made an Open date decision yet
Everybody loves Turnberry and we’ll be so gentle and careful as we’ll be doing the changes in strict co-ordination with the R&A who have been great. We’re going to get together to make the changes that they’ve wanted to do for over 30 years and we’ll start about a month after the course has hosted the Women’s British Open in the last week of July.
When I’ve finished with the Ailsa, we’re also going to be completely renovating the second course - the Kintyre - which will be totally rebuilt into a brand new course. It’s a good course but unfortunately hasn’t been maintained properly, so we’ll be putting in new sprinklers (on both courses). In addition we’ll build a brand new mini course, a par 3, at the base of the hotel. That’s under construction now and will be a good, fun place to play when it’s done.
Off-course we’re in the process of renovating the great hotel at Turnberry and the clubhouse, spending a couple of hundred million pounds on bringing it back to the absolute highest levels of golf and luxury. The newlook clubhouse is almost finished. Not only that, we’re also converting the famous Turnberry lighthouse into a halfway house which will be the world’s greatest: there will be no halfway house like it in the world. We look forward to doing something really great for the South Ayrshire community which has been so good and so positive it’s been incredible.
The course work is being carried out by Brit Martin Ebert, a terrific guy and architect, who has been working on Turnberry for 15 years. Mark my words, it will be magnificent when it’s all completed.
When the Turnberry work is complete, I will then build the second course (designed by Martin Hawtree who created the original course) in Aberdeen (Trump International Golf Links) which will be very exciting.
TRUMP ON TRUMP INTERNATIONAL GOLF LINKS….
Aberdeen has proved my toughest course project to date: I used dunes you weren’t allowed to even walk on. I went in and said we are going to build a major golf course right smack in the middle of the dunes and it turned out to be a tremendous success. But it was certainly not an easy thing to get approved.
I held off building the planned second course and hotel because of the windmills (offshore wind turbines farm), but that’s a battle I’m winning and frankly the recent drop in fuel prices make the windmills totally uneconomic: they were uneconomic at $100 a barrel, at $50 a barrel they don’t make sense at all. I’m in court with them stopping them and I’ve been able to stop them because I didn’t want them to blight the magnificence of the landscape like they’ve done elsewhere in Scotland.
I think it’s virtually won. They were going to do this five years ago but they haven’t been able to build it. I’m in court now with them and I think we’re doing very well and with fuel prices as low as they are at the moment, the windmills don’t make economic sense and didn’t make sense before. It’s a terrible form of energy anyway, very expensive and anyway you have to replace those things (turbines) every five years so I did Scotland a big favour, believe me. Now everyone is fighting them, not just us.
Actually one of these ‘suckers’ overlooks Royal Aberdeen’s 14th hole and it really hurts the course, and it’s such a great shame. How did they let that happen? We have a special piece of land, the largest dunes anywhere in the world, the great dunes of Scotland….
The course has been a great success, and has got phenomenal ratings. Right now I’m building a permanent world-class clubhouse which is going to be beautiful and will be ready to open in time for the new season. It will be stunning and we’ll be very proud of it as it fits the site so nicely.
TRUMP ON ABERDEEN….
I have such tremendous love for the people of Aberdeen and they love what I’ve done. It’s interesting that a couple of people can create the feeling that it wasn’t popular what I did when in fact we have a tremendous popularity and the place itself has a tremendous popularity in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. But people don’t write about that; they write about some guy who wanted to get more money than his land was worth. We employ a lot of people and we’ll be employing a lot more as we expand over the years….
TRUMP ON DOONBEG….
I’m also very excited about what we’re doing at TIGL Ireland (Doonbeg) which I bought nearly two years ago. Basically we ‘blew’ up the course and I hired Martin Hawtree who is creating a new course and it’s going to be incredible. The land is simply sensational - 500 acres right on the Atlantic Ocean, an incredible location. It’s almost a complete rebuild and it’s being down in two phases and we’re about halfway there at the moment. It will be open this summer as we had 22,000 rounds a year on it last year so it’s hard to just say let’s close it. Phase two happens next winter and when complete in around a year’s time it will truly be one of the world’s great courses. You’ll love it!
TRUMP ON TIGER….
It’s great to be working together with Tiger Woods on Trump World Golf Club, Dubai. I’ve already done one course there with Olympics course designer Gil Hanse and it’s been a big success and now we’re doing one with Tiger in Dubai. Unfortunately the market crashed on Tiger’s previous Dubai course project but that wasn’t his fault.
He is still the biggest name in professional golf and his expertise comes from winning on every great course in the world, including his win at the WGC - Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral, Miami. Tiger will be a tremendous asset in developing the course and together, with DAMAC Properties, we will be doing something very special.
Working with Tiger is amazing and it’s going to be a great course (site preparation work is already underway with the course due to open by the end of 2017) and it’s going to be massive.
TRUMP ON MAJORS…
It’s fantastic that some of my courses have been selected to stage major championships (2015 Women’s British Open at Turnberry, the 2017 Senior PGA Championship at Trump National GC, Potomac Falls & the 2017 US Women’s Open & the 2022 USPGA Championship both at Trump National Bedminster) and hopefully many more will follow. It’s great that Bedminster is the youngest course ever to get a PGA Championship in 2022 and that will be spectacular. It’s great to be picked to host one of the majors, any one of the majors, but having the PGA is a very, very big deal. It's very important to me and is a great honour.
As for Aberdeen, it’s now become a super, very beautiful links and to be honest we’re letting in settle in. Yes, the Tours are talking to us about it but we haven’t decided what to do yet but we have a lot of options. But we want it to be perfect before we do anything. I’ve got high hopes too that a US Open will be one day played at Ferry Point, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course which has been under construction for 30 years: I took it over 18 months ago and its right next to Manhattan. It’s unique. When completed (in opens this spring) there will be a Championship course just five minutes out of Manhattan and fronting onto the East river. Ferry Point is going to be amazing and it's a great thing for New York City and it's a great thing for golf. We'll see what happens, but a lot of people are loving Ferry Point.
TRUMP ON HIS OWN GOLF GAME….
To be honest, my own golf game probably isn’t as good as my courses (he plays off an impressive four handicap) though if you’d asked me that question about a month ago I was playing the best golf of my life. But this month I’m not doing so well. It’s a tough game. Tough game. Having said that, I’ve played pretty well down the years and have won 18 club championships. So who knows?
If I had to pick one course to play for the rest of my days it would be impossible to split between Turnberry and Aberdeen.
THE TRUMP COLLECTION
Trump International, West Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump National, Westchester, New York.
Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, New York.
Trump National, Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump National, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Trump National, Colts Neck, New Jersey.
Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Miami, Florida.
Trump National, Washington DC.
Trump National, Hudson Valley, New York.
Trump National, Jupiter, Florida.
Trump National, Los Angeles.
Trump National, Philadelphia.
Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Trump International Golf Links, Aberdeen, Scotland.
Trump International Golf Links, Ireland (Doonbeg).
REST OF WORLD
Trump International, Puerto Rico
Trump International, Dubai.
Trump World Golf Club, Dubai.