DONALD Trump has made his mind up then. The windswept, 800-acre site at Balmedie in Aberdeenshire is to become the "greatest golf course in the world". It will boast a 500-bedroom hotel to rival that at Turnberry in Ayrshire and will one day host the Open Championship.
"When I saw this piece of land I was overwhelmed by the imposing dunes and rugged Aberdeenshire coastline. I knew that this was the perfect site for Trump International. I have never seen such an unspoilt and dramatic seaside landscape, and the location makes it perfect for our development," the American property tycoon proclaimed.
But if The Donald had designs on being the first person to realise the golfing potential of the narrow coastal strip north of Aberdeen then he is disappointingly late on the scene - more than a century late.
Rewind the clock 100 years and substitute Balmedie for nearby Cruden Bay and the similarities are - as Trump might say - awesome: the celebrity guests, famous golfers, world-class facilities and a hotel so grand and luxurious that it became known as "the palace in the sandhills". Even then, in the early 1900s, the hotel was seen as a rival to - you guessed it - Turnberry.
For decades the rich and famous, including at least one British leader, flocked to Cruden Bay - a village better known as the location of Slains Castle, the supposed setting for Bram Stoker's Dracula stories. There they enjoyed a golfing experience that was quite simply in the lap of luxury.
Cruden Bay, at that time known as Port Erroll, was marketed as "The Brighton of Aberdeenshire". The Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR) opened a station there in 1897. Two years later the railway company opened the fabulous 365-room Cruden Bay Hotel, built of pink Peterhead granite. It was one of the most impressive Scottish baronial-style buildings in the country with a battlement tower that rose 98 feet (30 meters) at the main entrance.
The building of the hotel went hand-in-hand with the development of a championship-standard golf course designed by the legendary Old Tom Morris of St Andrews. The hotel sat on an elevated position overlooking the links and the wealthy guests, who paid as high as 21 shillings (or 1.05 at the time) for a first-floor sitting room (suite) and had their every need catered for. It was stylish Victorian decadence at its most lavish.
The golf course was opened amid fanfare in 1899, with a professional tournament that attracted the likes of Harry Vardon, the only six-times winner of the Open, James Braid and Ben Sayers. Vardon won the event and with it the princely sum of 30.
For the next 40 years the resort overlooking the North Sea increased in popularity. Visitors disembarked at Cruden Bay Railway Station and were taken by pergola-style electric tramcar to the hotel, one-third of a mile away. Cruden Bay was fast becoming a by-word for luxury. One guest remembers "gliding down the red-carpeted stairs" and the waitresses who stood "like soldiers at their stations".
There were more than 100 visitor bedrooms, a billiards room, a writing room and a drawing room "upholstered with furniture of Chippendale mahogany in Louis XV style".
On the web
Cruden Bay Golf Club
The guest list was equally impressive. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was a regular, as was Sir William Burrell (of Burrell Collection fame in Glasgow), Sir Jeremiah Colman of the mustard family, the Earl of Caithness and 1930s Wimbledon champion Dorothy Round. There were also members of the Cadbury (chocolate), Gilbey (gin), Wills (cigarettes), Crawford (biscuits) and McEwan (beer) families. It is said that "even the odd Rothschild" paid a visit to Cruden Bay in its heyday.
That heyday, sadly, came to an abrupt end with the Great Depression. People could no longer afford the journey to the resort, which boasted a beach "of tawny sand as smooth as a cathedral floor". In 1931 fire destroyed much of the main building at the railway station, passenger services were ended the following year and the GNSR bought a Rolls Royce to transport guests from Aberdeen Station to the hotel.
In the Second World War, however, the building was used to billet troops of the Gordon Highlanders. The hotel was returned to the railway company in 1945 but was no longer wanted, and after a failed attempt to sell the building it was demolished. The great castellated tower was blown up and the site levelled in the early 1950s.
A committee of local residents banded to buy the golf course, saving it from being turned into a sheep farm. The course thrives today, the only reminder of the halcyon days of a century ago.
Donald Trump may have designs on building the world's best golf course - but whether he can ever achieve the degree of class, luxury and popularity of what was achieved just up the coast at Cruden Bay remains to be seen.
If you enjoyed reading this, you may want to read:
Gleneagles: a Highland Riviera
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West