TWO ‘MUST PLAY’ TRUMP EXPERIENCES
Whatever you think about Donald Trump, don’t let his politics or US presidency prevent you from playing at the two resorts he owns in Scotland. Resorts, incidentally, which are reported to be losing money. The Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry – which boasts the most expensive green fee in Scotland – and Trump International Aberdeen are two of the finest golf experiences in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Trump might be a disruptive firebrand as US president, but as a golf course owner he’s proved a consistent force for good. His investment at Turnberry since the Open Championship was last played there in 2009 has resulted in a wonderful reincarnation of the Ailsa Course. The changes he asked for constitute a considerable improvement on a course that was looking tired.There are now five par 3s, and four of them are included in the shoreline stretch of eight holes from No 4 to No 11 which make Turnberry one of the world’s most beautiful golfing destinations.
Designer Martin Ebert made some radical changes, starting with the elimination of the old par-4 ninth, where golfers drove from a low tee in the rocks over a blind rise to the fairway.The ninth is now a par 3, and the tenth a sweeping par 5 hugging the coast. Earlier, the long par-3 sixth has been shortened, and you play from one dune to another. This enabled Ebert to build a new tee for 18 on the ocean, making for a much more demanding finishing hole when the Open returns here.
Trump is not popular in Scotland and endured a barrage of protests from environmentalists before obtaining permission to build on a sensitive coastal site he discovered north of Aberdeen. One which he believed was the perfect setting for what would be the world’s greatest golf course. As you can see from the plaque (pictured) on the way to the first tee at Trump International, the result of course architect Martin Hawtree’s creative labour gave Trump the outcome he wanted.
Having played Trump International twice since it opened for play in 2012, it is difficult to disagree with Trump’s view. I consider it the No 1 course in Scotland, although that is far from being a universal opinion. It was only ranked No 64 in Golf Digest’s 2018 ranking of the World’s 100 Greatest Courses outside the United States (May issue).That ridiculously low ranking might have more to do with the identity of the course’s owner than the quality of the layout. It should be in the world top 10.
Trump International, still being a young upstart, might defer to Royal Dornoch, the Old Course, Muirfield, or the Ailsa as the best course, but it is streets ahead of the rest. No course in Scotland has a pristine site to rival Trump International among the large sand dunes of the Menie Estate. Dornoch is in a beautiful location, but without the dunes which isolate virtually every hole on this modern links.
Scottish tour player Russell Knox once stood on the first tee with three golf balls in his bag and thought, “there’s no way I’m going to finish!”
I admit to being similarly intimidated by many of the challenges on my first visit to Trump International, because of the thick marram grass in the dunes, but my second game enabled me to appreciate more the playability for golfers from a range of tee boxes.The fairways are wide most of the way round.The course’s uniqueness lies in Hawtree’s brilliant use of the topography to design a succession of spell-binding holes from No 1 to 18. Not once do you have any thoughts about a hole being weak. I experienced a great sense of fulfilment on completing 18 holes, and still had the energy to wish there was more to come. Big courses like this often leave you feeling battered by the 18th, but not Trump International. It helped that the course was quiet, even in August, and its remote location in the northeast means it’s not yet getting the daily busloads of touring golfers it deserves.
Being a modern development, it comes with the best practice and warm-up facilities that are often missing at older golf clubs.
trump international the par-3 third hole rests on the edge of a beach on the North Sea.