In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Ivan Morris looks at how Donald Trump is making his presence felt in the golfing world.
An infamous BBCTV programme about the cack-handed way Donald Trump went about developing his new golf course in Aberdeenshire, would prejudice anybody against his flamboyant endeavours.
From my perspective, matters became worse when my back was turned and I was Downunder at the other side of the globe in February, Trump swooped into West Clare and purchased one of my favourite golfing haunts, Doonbeg Golf Club.
Whatever about the ‘peculiar’ way he was greeted by ‘officials’ at Shannon Airport, Trump’s actions at Doonbeg subsequently have spoken louder than any of his bombastic words. He said he was going to spend ‘some money’ restoring the Doonbeg golf course after it was badly damaged by February’s storms and he has done exactly that and to better effect than anyone (me included) could have imagined.
Almost the first purchase when Trump took over Doonbeg was €1.5-million worth of greens cutting equipment. As a result, when I played there during the week, I would describe the greens as ‘world class.’
At the invitation of the Scottish Tourism, I also played Trump’s infamous course in Aberdeenshire recently. Without hesitation, I would describe it as one of the best golf courses I have ever played anywhere. Trump Scotland IS that good.
It’s such a phenomenal success that a second 18-holes and a £5-million clubhouse are now being planned. Judging by the activity I saw there this week, Doonbeg is also booming. Trump knows how to pull in the punters!
What’s so good about Trump International Scotland? I’d say the gigantic dunes and the routing beside the North Sea that put Ballybunion and Lahinch in the halfpenny place. I am gradually finding out that if you look more closely at Donald Trump, he is a serious operator who understands the game of golf at a very deep level and knows how to cater for golf tourists. His golf facilities speak for themselves. The only drawback is the £195 green fee.
That’s a tariff beyond most of us but you do have to pay a bit more for the best. Americans and Australians certainly aren’t put off in the slightest.
The ancient city of Aberdeen is the hub of the booming oil industry in Scotland. During the week the Hotels and Guesthouses are packed to the gills. At weekends, though, there is a big exodus and the accommodations are left empty. Consequently, it’s routine to find half-price deals to fill those vacant beds. What you save in the cost of accommodation you can invest in the pricier green fees.
Nor is Aberdeen a ‘one trick pony’ as a golf destination. In fact, an argument could be made that it contains three of the best golf courses in Scotland i.e. Trump Scotland, Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay. The good golf around Aberdeen does not end there. I also enjoyed playing at Murcar and Meldrum House (a golf hotel and resort) where we stayed in regal comfort.
If I said that the facilities at the 16th century, Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Resort are on a par with Adare Manor, I shouldn’t have to say any more and it’s only a few miles from Aberdeen Airport. The accommodation is across three buildings - each with its own distinct character. The hotel dining room serves the best of local produce - including a superb haggis, which is a long time favourite of mine.
Apart from the excellent, parkland golf course featuring a plentiful supply of water hazards and exciting wildlife, I enjoyed the superb practice facility and teaching academy at Meldrum under the management of the Scottish Golf Union’s Boy’s Team Coach, Neil Marr.
Built on 24-acres of mature Scottish woodland, the driving range sports 12-contoured greens and 18-flags, which are protected by bunkers to recreate exactly the same situations as you face on the golf course - along with expert tuition.
I only I wish I could have spent more time there working on my swing with Neil and his electronic assistant - Jock Trackman!
For geographic reasons only, the Royal Aberdeen links has never been given the recognition it deserves. Perhaps the recent hosting of the Scottish Open will change that attitude?
The first nine holes might be the best nine holes in the world. Running through valleys created by spectacular dunes, the opening holes represent links golf at its very best with the classic combination of strategy, course management involved. When a bit of North Sea breeze is added, you couldn’t face a more thrilling challenge.
Nearby Murcar, which adjoins Royal Aberdeen, is as true a links as you could ever wish to play. If you can imagine a turbulent sea turned into land, Murcar springs to mind. I loved it!
It’s almost impossible for me to decide which is the best area for golf in the undisputed Home of Golf, Scotland - East Lothian, Fife, Angus, Aberdeenshire or Ayrshire? I haven’t been to the Highlands to see Dornoch, Brora or Inverness yet and I am reliably informed they could be the best of them all. Wherever you decide to golf in Scotland - you are on a winner.