by Jeff Skinner
It’s a big week on the PGA Tour as the world’s best golfers do battle at another World Golf Championship, the Cadillac Championship. At the same time the tour is hosting the rest of the PGA Tour brethren at the Puerto Rico Open. The thread that connects the two tournaments, I mean besides the huge paychecks, manicured courses and coddled professionals may be a surprise. It’s Donald Trump.
Yes, the King of Braggadocio, Donald Trump is the host of both PGA Tour events this week as the golf loving billionaire owns the Doral Resort and the Trump International Golf Course, Puerto Rico. As is his trademark he brands his courses with the Trump name, the official name of Doral is Trump National Doral Golf Club. He can name his courses anything he likes but he chooses the keep his ”brand” at the forefront and the Trump name is currently one of the biggest names in golf.
For decades Trump, who made most of his fortunes in real estate and dabbles in casinos has been in the public eye for his high flying lifestyle, over the top spending and constant self promotion.
He’s gone from rich to bankrupt to billionaire to television host to potential presidential candidate all the while boasting about his latest and greatest projects. Greatest is a description he uses very often as in his eyes anything he touches instantly becomes the greatest. It’s an unbounded ego that matches his willingness to take on any project he sees potential greatness in.
There’s no denying he’s a part of American culture but the question has been asked, is Trump good for golf?
Trump’s first passion was real estate as he followed his father into the business that has earned him his wealth. Golf has been in Trumps life for a long time but the game has become more than a pastime, it a passion.
Trump currently owns sixteen golf courses and is one of the few that is building new ones. Only innovator Mike Keiser of Bandon Dunes fames is as active as The Donald in the game right now.
Trump’s, most controversial course, Trump International Golf Links, Scotland received so much negative publicity during its creation we saw it more on CNN than The Golf Channel. Still, the course opened to huge reviews and it may be one of Trump’s courses that lives up to his bluster as “the greatest golf course in the world.”
Trump’s game plan has been to buy high end clubs near metropolitan areas then renovate the course, the clubhouse and anything else as to get them all to his over the top standard.
Early in Trump’s golf course career he took a lot of heat for tricked up courses with waterfalls and amusement park attractions. But recently Trump has been content to turn over the keys to the bulldozers and the drawing board to the professionals and just pay the bills.
In Scotland he enlisted Martin Hawtree who is The Royal & Ancient’s personal architect and opened his very deep wallet. For Doral he convinced Gil Hanse to redo Dick Wilson’s original design which had seen multiple renovations over the years. Trump once again put his mighty checkbook to use as the entire course was altered and completed in less than one year. Both Hawtree and Hanse raved about the support they received from The Donald not just financially but creatively. Trump certainly wasn’t shy about insisting on certain things for his courses but both architects said there was plenty of discussion and negotiation.
Trump has definitely changed his ideas on what makes a “great” course. He has gone from “over the top” designs to a reliance on “minimalist designers” as he did with Hanse and now the dynamic duo of minimalism, Coore and Crenshaw. The pair are in line to do Trumps’ latest, and greatest (of course) project in Virginia.
Trump isn’t afraid to mix it up with the biggest and best no matter what the stage and he recruited Jack Nicklaus awhile back to redo his club in Jupiter, Florida but his biggest triumph may just be back at home in New York in the shadow of his many skyscrapers that dot the city skyline.
For a decade NYC attempted to build a course over an old garbage dump in the Bronx for $20 million. As is usually the case in NYC, things went south and the original developer failed. Enter Trump with big plans and a bigger checkbook. He negotiated a sweetheart deal with the city and got Jack Nicklaus to design the course. The finished product: a high end, public, Jack Nicklaus designed, daily fee, Irish links style course with spectacular views of the NYC. The name…Trump Golf Links Ferry Point of course. Nicklaus raved about Trump and his ability to get things done where no one could before.
Recently, Trump has purchased the golf resort at Doonbeg in Ireland and has called upon Hawtree for ideas to renovate the former Greg Norman design. Of course Trump says it’s a chance to make it “one of the great courses of the world.”
Trump’s passion for the game hasn’t gone unnoticed, as this week of double PGA Tour events shows but the USGA has also rewarded Trump with the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open at his aptly named, Trump Bedminster Golf Club. Bedminster is a mere five iron from the USGA’s headquarters in Far Hill, New Jersey and many of the USGA’s staff are members there.
For some people Donald Trump represents many of the unattractive aspects of American society. His look at me attitude, his exaggerated opinion of himself, and his penchant for making himself the center of everything runs contrary to what many of us believe. But in this Kardashian World of me first and pictures of me on the web second, Trump is just a player in the game.
Call him what you will and many do on a daily basis, Trump is one of the few players that is getting things done when it comes to golf courses. Granted, most of his clubs are private and his “public courses” are pricey (Blue Monster $450, Los Angeles $250) but he is making things happen.
As far as the other aspects of his lifestyle of the rich and famous, do we really care. In this difficult environment for golf Trump is a bit of a white knight and maybe it’s a case of the “ends justifies the means”. And like him or despise him we can’t argue that he is a huge force in golf today.
He can be loud and sings his own praises far too often. His comb-over is legendary and so is his ego but Donald Trump is good for golf. There, I said it and amazingly it didn’t hurt.