Tom English: 'Nothing looks as beautiful to Trump as something with his name on it'

AREPORTER ONCE asked Donald Trump about his portfolio of golf courses, about the stories behind each one, the characteristics that made them different. Ah yes, said The Donald. They're all unique. They're all so distinctive.

Well, to kick-off with there's Trump National in Los Angeles. Then there's Trump National in New York, Trump National in New Jersey and another Trump National in New Jersey.

Oh, they all have the same name, noted the interviewer.

Not all, said Trump.

Great, what else you got?

Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump International in The Grenadines and Trump International in Puerto Rico.

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Right, said the reporter. You're not thinking of calling them anything else? You know, I tell somebody I'm playing Trump National and they don't know what state I'm in, right? Tell somebody I'm on the back nine of the Trump International and they don't know where the hell I am.

That's not a problem. The site we've got our hearts set on in Aberdeen, that'll be called something very specific.


Oh yeah. Trump International (Golf Links). Very different.


Hmm, how disappointingly understated. Heck, America's a country that gave us golf clubs called Spooky Brook and Useless Bay and Devil's Knob and Phantom Horse. Trump International doesn't quite cut it, does it? It pays homage to the owner (the only prerequisite it seems) but all it summons up is an image of a billionaire with a dodgy barnet. What about combining a bit of Trump flash with a little local legend in the naming of the new place? What would be so wrong with Miller's Moustache (golf and country club) or Hewitt's Head or The Dandy Don? Come on, are you saying those names are any more stupid than the Kissing Camels club in Colorado Springs or the Possum Trot in Myrtle Beach?

Guess it doesn't really matter in a sense. Only thing that counts is that the courses are good. Not good in Trump's case, of course. We're talking great. Each and every one he owns; truly great. That what The Donald says. Says it all the time. Said it last week when describing what one of the new courses on his site at Aberdeen is going to be like. "We're going to build the greatest golf course in the world," said Trump. Not the greatest in Aberdeen. Not the greatest in the north of Scotland. Not the greatest in all of Scotland or all of Britain or all of Europe. All of the world!

Better than St Andrews and all its history. Better than Turnberry and all its beauty. Better than Muirfield and all its history and beauty. Better than all of them. Fair play to Trump, the man thinks big. You can't fault him. He's shovelled countless millions into his golf designs over the years. In 1999 a freak landslide saw the 18th hole of his place in Los Angeles disappear into the Pacific Ocean. Trump rebuilt it at a cost of $61m, so he says. "It's the most expensive hole in the history of golf," he boasts.

Money clearly is no object to him. On his course in Westchester, New York, he's got a 100ft waterfall that cost an estimated $7m to create. Westchester cost him $60m, one of his places in New Jersey cost him another $60m, the layout in Los Angeles cost $264m. His clubs are for the elite. The mega-rich. Plebs need not apply. We don't know the finances of his Aberdeen project just yet – it ain't going to be municipal that's for sure – but if his other ventures are anything to go by then to get in the door you're going to have to have a fairly obscene amount of money. To become a member of his LA course it was $200,000 last time I checked. Westchester is $250,000. The Trump International in West Palm Beach, Florida is $350,000. World class prices for the planet's great golf courses.

Or are they? Trump says they are but, then, he says a lot of things. We don't doubt that his vision is going to bring much-needed investment into the Scottish economy but his bluster about building the masterpiece to beat all masterpieces, that's a different story. That deserves all the cynicism we can muster and then some. Should the home of golf really take seriously the notion of Trump breezing in here and creating something that's better than all the historic courses that have stood for a hundred years and more? The question is not can Trump build the best golf course on the globe, it's can he build the best golf course in Aberdeen? Frankly, even with all his millions, I doubt he can do even that because Royal Aberdeen, founded in 1780, takes some beating. The Balgownie Links is the sixth oldest golf course in the world and it is majestic. Trump should swing by there one day and check out what greatness and history looks like. He might readjust his bold prediction once he gets a view at it. Or not.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and nothing looks as beautiful to Trump as something with his name over the door. He calls his various courses world class but independent experts would beg to differ.

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Take Golf Digest magazine, the bible of all golfers in America. Since 1966 it's been analysing the country's courses and every two years it produces the definitive top 100, not just nationally but state-by-state too. Its judging panel is made up of more than 800 golfers, the criteria for the courses based on seven separate qualities; shot values, resistance to scoring, design variety, memorability, aesthetics, conditioning and ambience. It's forensic stuff.

In May last year they updated their rankings. Trump International in Florida ranked 84th in America in 2005 but it failed to make the top 100 in 2007. None of his other layouts came close in the national poll. In the state-by-state, he ranked ninth in Florida, the Bedminster was seventh in New Jersey, the Westchester was considered the 22nd best course in New York and Trump National in Los Angeles didn't figure in the top 30 in California.

Trump wasn't happy with this. "Golf Digest is a disgrace to their profession," he roared. "They should be ashamed of themselves." He alleged that his flagship course in Florida dropped out of the top 100 only because Trump refused to advertise with Golf Digest, a charge the magazine denies."I think he's kidding," said its editor Jerry Tarde. "He knows it never happened (that way]. Nobody can buy their way on to the list."

Interesting to note that Golf Digest also ranked the top 100 outside of America. Five Scottish golf courses made the top 10; St Andrews (2nd), Royal Dornoch (3rd), Muirfield (5th), Turnberry (8th), Carnoustie (9th).

These are the places that The Donald intends to improve upon. In his effort to out-do nature and rewrite history, we wish him well.

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