Donald Trump is on course to fulfil his dream and create the world's greatest golf course in Scotland
• This is the focal point of Donald Trump's championship course. At the heart of the development is the site for the clubhouse overlooking the first tee and the 18th green
IT is the golfing masterpiece that Donald Trump is convinced will be his lasting legacy to the sport. On a spectacular stretch of the Scottish coastline the American tycoon's dream of creating the "world's greatest golf course" is becoming a reality.
From the air, the main championship course at Trump's planned 750 million resort can now be clearly seen on the undulating terrain, once hailed by environmentalists as the "jewel in the crown" of Scotland's shifting sand dune systems.
And on the ground the 18 holes that will make up Trump's dream links course are even more striking – weaving through a network of high dunes now stabilised after two seasons of arduous marram grass planting.
With the course due to open for the first time next summer, all 18 holes have effectively been shaped amongst the dramatic coastal landscape. The majority of the tees have been completed and work has already begun on creating the greens which the controversial entrepreneur hopes will one day test Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and the rest of golf's superstars at a future Ryder Cup or Open Championship.
Later this summer the final phase of the transformation of the Menie dunes will get underway when contractors move in to begin seeding the fairways which have already been carved through the 2.5 mile stretch of coast which Trump has dubbed "The Great Dunes of Scotland".
Trump, who has hailed the land as the "perfect canvas" on which to create the greatest golf course in the world, is due to fly into the Scotland within the next few weeks on his new 60 million Boeing 757 jet – bought from Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft – to inspect the progress being made at the sprawling site. And yesterday Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Scotland, predicted that her boss will be delighted and thrilled by what he sees.
Ms Malone, who is in day-to-day charge of the Menie estate development, said: "The amount of work that has been done in the last three months in particular has been phenomenal and we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour.
"Mr Trump will be visiting the site in the not-too-distant future and it will be an important visit for him as we begin the fine shaping and details of the course. I am confident he will be very pleased by what he sees."
Work began last winter on the construction of the golf course when workers moved onto the dunes to begin the first phase of marram grass planting. SOL Golf Course Construction, based in Ballydesmond, Co Cork, has been appointed as the main contractor for the development – working to a design by Dr Martin Hawtree, the prominent golf architect and a leading authority on links golf who has previusly worked on Royal Birkdale, Portmarnock, Lahinch and Carnoustie.
A team of 20 marram grass planters have been working since November on the second phase of hand sprigging thousands of marram plants on the dunes with work due to be completed in a matter of days.
SOL has already worked on various Open Championship courses on behalf of the Royal and Ancient, including Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Muirfield and Royal Birkdale. Mr Malone said the massive construction scheme was, if anything, slightly ahead of the planned schedule. She said: "Hand sprigging is an incredibly labour intensive technique and this season has gone extremely well. The dunes are already looking much more stable and mature and that work will continue over the next couple of years during the winter months – November through to March.
"There is a colossal expanse of land and sand blow is part of the process so we will continue to go back in and strengthen the marram grass planting year on year. We have also begun hydro seeding in the next stage in the process, using rye grass to encourage and support the marram grass. The rye only lasts for a season but the seed will support the marram in its growing process."
She explained: "There will be five tee boxes on every hole. All the tee boxes on the back nine have been completed and we are halfway through the tees on the front nine. In about three weeks' time, our irrigation system will be live and fully operational and we will start laying the turf on the tee boxes in the middle of April. We have created our own drainage network and we have invested in drilling our own wellfield which will provide us with up to 800 cubic metres of water per day. A colossal amount of water is required for the ongoing maintenance of the course. Work is expected to begin in June on laying turf on the greens. And later this summer the final phase will begin when the first fairways are sown with a mixture of bent and fescue seeds.
Ms Malone said: "There has been significant earth works, but the dunes have really not been touched. This is an environmentally sensitive construction project which will only enhance the landscape. We have been sculpting and massaging the landscape to create holes that were already there. I think anyone that has seen the course, even before we put a spade in the ground, recognised that the golf course lay out had been mapped out by nature.
"The whole design ethos, which is the hallmark of Martin Hawtree's work, is that the golf course works seamlessly within the landscape."
Ms Malone stressed: "This is an extremely important project for Mr Trump – a very personal project as he has continually said. And we all believe it is a history-making project. He has ploughed everything into this. He has great confidence in the land and the design and he has never taken his foot off the accelerator. Anybody coming to this site is going to
overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape and the majesty of the dunes."
Esie O'Mahony is the construction manager with SOL who leads the team of 60 workers at the site. Menie, he said emphatically, was destined to become a "legendary" course. Mr Mahoney continued: "I think that anyone who knows golf will certainly rate it as one of the greatest golf courses in the world. Undoubtedly it will reach that status. We are looking to get the most out of every hump, hollow, tee, green, and every fairway – getting 100 per cent out of the site.
"It's the fine-tuning that Martin Hawtree does so well. There might be a half-metre mound which will make all the difference – whether it will kick a ball left, or right or straight forwards. That's why he is a genius."
And he added: "It has been a pleasure to work on this contract. It has been the highlight of my career. And it is only going to go downhill from here. You are never going to get a site like this or a client like this again. It is going to be hard to motivate yourself to go to work once we are finished here."