x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The game of Trump's

As a new course in Aberdeenshire opens, John McAuley examines its potential for the European Tour.

Donald Trump is escorted by Scottish pipers as he opens Trump International Golf Links.
Donald Trump is escorted by Scottish pipers as he opens Trump International Golf Links.

It is highly unlikely that Ivor Robson, regular announcer at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, was flown to Scotland on Tuesday, but imagine his familiar velvety tones introducing this threeball.

"On the tee," he'd begin, "seven-time Order of Merit winner, Colin Montgomerie. Next up, Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion. And finally, American tycoon, and The Apprentice overlord, Donald Trump."

If that last name jars, think how the denizens of Menie Estate feel. Trump cut the ribbon this week on his controversial Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, a £100 million (Dh571m) project that has met with considerable opposition since its announcement seven years ago.

The development, carved from protected sand dunes on the Scottish coast, has forced Trump into the Scottish Parliament, initiated the "Tripping up Trump" action group and spawned the environmentalist documentary You've Been Trumped, released at the weekend in the United Kingdom. It will also be aired in New York and Los Angeles. Perhaps Trump should have picked that fight with Barack Obama, instead.

Trump, typically, remains unfazed. "It's been worth it because we've created something iconic," he trumpeted with customary hyperbole. "This is truly the greatest golf course in the world."

Montgomerie, no doubt handsomely rewarded for his guest appearance, labelled it "one of the best, if not the best, links courses I've ever played".

"I will be able to go back to the rest of the professionals playing in the Scottish Open and tell them how wonderful this is," he said. "On behalf of the European Tour, I hope this is the start of something very large here."

That's the attraction. Tuesday's delegation included George O'Grady and Sandy Jones, chief executives of the European Tour and the PGA respectively, who both confirmed they hope to bring major events to the course.

The Scottish Open, starting today at Castle Stuart, would welcome investment having faced extinction last year following Barclay's decision to withdraw as title sponsor.

It remains to be seen if Trump's vision for high-end golf in Scotland - a five-star hotel on the site is planned - is a success. He will hope the absence of Lawrie, deprived at the 11th hour of an appearance by the uncompromising Scottish weather, isn't a harbinger of future troubles. The Scot could always have wrapped up warm in one of the pro shop's cashmere sweaters, although maybe the £169.95 price tag put him off.


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