DONALD Trump put his seven-year battle with environmentalists, residents and politicians behind him on Tuesday as he struck the first ball on his multi-million pound golf resort.
Lining up alongside former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie on the course at Menie, Aberdeenshire, the American tycoon appeared buoyant, saying the end result made all the struggles worth it.
After playing nine holes with George O’Grady and Sandy Jones, chief executives of the European Tour and the UK PGA respectively, he proudly declared the Trump International Golf Links “the greatest golf course anywhere in the world”.
Mr Trump said: “We’re having a great time, the course is playing great and the weather has held up.
“Colin loves the course and he’s playing really well. He’s a great player and a great guy.”
However, residents who have long opposed the development on their doorstep registered their disapproval. David Milne, who lives on a converted coastguard station on the estate, flew three inflatable pigs above the building.
He said: “The flying pigs are representative of the likelihood of success of this course. The next time you will see pigs flying over here is when the course is actually deemed a success – but I do not believe that is either possible or likely.
“The temporary clubhouse is just a little chicken hut. There’s not a hope in hell the course is going to take off in the way Trump claims. It is environmentally unsustainable and therefore economically unsustainable.”
But Montgomerie, who won a record eight European Tour order of merit titles during his career, was full of praise for the “masterpiece” course. He said: “They can fly as many pigs as they want, because this will be a success, believe me.
“I expected good, but this has surpassed my expectations. It’s as dramatic as you get. It’s not for me to say this is the world’s’ greatest golf course. What I can say is that it’s one of, if not the best links course I’ve ever played.
“Mr Trump is absolutely thrilled, and he should be. This is a fantastic set-up he has here and what he has put together here is something Scotland should be very proud of.”
Mr Trump was also in ebullient form as he struck the first official ball at the opening 491-yard par-5 first hole. It was, he said, “his best swing of the day”. But the ball ended up perilously close to the dunes flanking the left-hand side of the fairway.
In his speech, Mr Trump said the official opening of a course on which he has already spent £100 million was the realisation of a “long-sought” ambition.
“When I bought the land years ago now I looked at it and I said, ‘I really believe on this piece of land we can create the greatest golf course anywhere in the world’.”
He dismissed criticisms by the environmental lobby, which he claimed was now supportive.
Mr Trump pledged to continue to invest in the resort, with the development of a hotel and residential housing scheme – provided plans for an offshore wind farm were abandoned.