Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Jack -

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.

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