As I’m sure many of you will know Donald Trump – a.k.a “The Donald” – has recently seen work completed (it opens in July) on his first golf course to be built in Scotland; a course he describes as “The Greatest in the World”. While we think Mr Trump might be getting a bit ahead of himself with that assertion, what with the likes of Pebble Beach, Royal County Down and the Ailsa Course at Turnberry already on the scene, his creation at the home of golf certainly looks the part!
As previously stated by the man himself, the Trump International Golf Links was designed with the long term goal of hosting the oldest and arguably the most important golf tournament of them all, the Open Championship.
Before Trump’s stunning creation in Aberdeen can join the likes of Royal Birkdale, St Andrews and this year’s host, Royal Lytham & St Anne’s on the Open Rota, the R&A would need to be convinced of not only the quality of the course itself, but the commercial viability and potential for spectator attendance as well.
Royal Lytham & St Anne’s will host this year’s Open Championship.
While the Open Championship being hosted by the Trump International Golf Links is clearly a long, long way off and perhaps even just a pipe dream for Trump, Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, certainly hasn’t dismissed the idea all together. When asked if he could envisage seeing the course at the Menie Estate becoming a future Open venue he said, “The initial indications are that the golf course is very strong, but let’s see how it matures. I won’t sit here pretending to be an expert on access and car parking and predicting how commercially successful it would be. But they have built a course that is pretty spectacular.”
Dawson also disclosed that when Trump first arrived at his office at the R&A headquarters in St. Andrews he came with an American golf course designer in tow. Concerned by the lack of experience in links golf Dawson reportedly put Trump in touch with Dr. Martin Hawtree who, of course, would go on to design the course that sits on the Menie Estate today.
Trump International Golf Links looks set to hold its own against current Scottish golfing heavyweights.
“I recommended Martin to Donald Trump,” Dawson said. “When he first came to my office, he had an American in mind and I said ‘how many links course has he done?’ Trump said ‘What do you mean?’ So I gave him Martin’s name.”
The Trump International Golf Links is thought to have the 2022 Ryder Cup in its sights and the hosting of any top professional event would surely improve the chances of convincing the R&A of the courses ability to host the Open itself. On this issue Dawson commented, “Ideally it would host a few big events but that’s not a necessary pre-requisite. We are pretty open to other venues, especially in parts of the country where we don’t go. But clearly they would have to meet course requirements, infrastructure requirements and also commercial requirements. We’re clearly not going to go somewhere it is going to cost us a fortune and not get big crowds.”
While the issue of the Trump International Golf Links’ involvement in future Opens has only just surfaced, there are a number of other far more established courses, with past experience of hosting top professional and amateur events, that have yet to welcome the Open to town. One in particular has hosted the Open once before and has recently had calls for it to be reinstated onto the Open Rota.
Following Darren Clarke’s famous victory at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s, many a golf fan, including top pros such as Graeme McDowell and Clarke himself have called for the R&A to broaden its horizons and revisit the site of the 1951 Open.
Royal Portrush – The home course of Darren Clarke, last year’s Open Champion.
As the only golf course outside of England and Scotland to have staged the Open Championship, Royal Portrush is held in high regard in Northern Ireland. Rightly so, because the stunning seaside gem is consistently ranked within the world’s top 20 tracks.
Following the calls for Portrush to rejoin the Open Championship party, Dawson has in fact visited Northern Ireland himself to check out the famous Dunluce Links. “It’s an interesting venue from all sorts of points of view but there are certain aspects of the golf course which would be very difficult for big crowds,” he said of the 1951 venue. “We’re a long way from any announcement that the Open is going back to Portrush.”
It seems then that the R&A – and perhaps rightly so – are extremely particular about the Open Championship rotation and as for now it seems that the rota will remain as an elite group of nine courses throughout England and Scotland. For the time being then, courses that have yet failed to attract the interest of the R&A – most likely for reasons unrelated to the quality of the courses themselves – will have to be left to the adoring public who can enjoy them on future UK and Ireland golf tours.