WHAT on earth was Donald Trump thinking about when he came out last week and claimed that the Scottish Open organisers were looking for a “permanent home” for the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event?
Unless he knows something that no-else does, it appears to have been a case of misguided bluster on the American billionaire’s behalf, because the current policy of moving one of the European Tour’s biggest events around the country is working well and should be maintained.
There’s certainly substance to speculation about the tournament paying a visit to the Trump International Golf Links at Balmedie and why not? It’s a cracking course and would serve as a perfect pre-Open Championship test, just as Castle Stuart and Royal Aberdeen have in recent years and Gullane will do in three weeks’ time.
In my opinion, however, it would be a mistake if, as has been suggested, it is the venue three years out of four – 2017, 2019 and 2020, leaving only 2018 with a question mark against it as we already know the event is returning to Castle Stuart next year.
For starters, it would mean the momentum being built up by the event going “on tour” is going to be lost and that will be a crying shame as there’s a real buzz about the Scottish Open at the moment and the proper steps have to be taken to ensure that is maintained.
It should continue to have a rota in operation and, yes, Trump’s course should be on it. Turnberry, too, in due course because venues like it – all of them on the R&A’s course list, in fact, for the Open Championship – are too good to be sitting dormant for a decade in terms of top-level tournament golf.
As Phil Mickelson suggested, the said rota should be compact, probably consisting of four to five courses, but wouldn’t it be great to throw in a “wild card” every five years or so. The likes of Nairn or Royal Dornoch, for example, though the latter, in particular, would probably prove problematical from an accommodation perspective, but, at the same time, it’s not too far away from Inverness.
The Highland capital deserves to have the event heading back there next summer and it should also return to Royal Aberdeen as it was a fantastic venue a year ago. Indeed, while money talks, of course, it would be surely be a slap in the face of the members there if the event is held on three occasions out of four a few miles up the North Sea coast.
There’s another reason that shouldn’t happen and it’s because the spectacular nature of the Martin Hawtree-designed Trump course has come at a price in terms of accessibility for spectators. Check out the 14th hole on Google images, for instance, and you’ll see the problems they’d have getting people up either side of its fairway without ankle breaks being a serious possibility.
Despite that, I’m in favour of the Scottish Open being held there, though only once in that four-year period, because there are too many other good courses that should continue to get the chance to play host to the sort of world-class field that will gather in East Lothian next month.
Unlike many others, I think it’s great to see Trump building one splendid course in Scotland and breathing much-needed new life into another gem in the home of golf. The changes set to be made to Turnberry soon after next month’s Ricoh Women’s British Open can only help generate added excitement the next time it hosts the Claret Jug joust.
What I object to, however, is him making the sort of claim he came out with last week at a time when the Scottish Open is ticking along nicely under a partnership involving Aberdeen Asset Management, the European Tour and the Scottish Government.
It could well be the case that someone representing that alliance has given Trump the impression that a return to the scenario when the event had a “permanent home” at Loch Lomond is the preferred long-term option for the event, but I doubt that and sincerely hope not.
We’ve got something good – something very good – going with the Scottish Open at the moment, so let’s stick with the plan and not let anyone upset the applecart. Work with Donald Trump, by all means, but please don’t let him be pulling the strings on this one.