By Jack Purcell, 2013
In 1984, when I was working as a junior ad sales rep at Sports Illustrated, I had the good fortune of getting a membership to Winged Foot. On my first day I was assigned a locker in the upper locker room right next to Donald Trump’s. That afternoon, as I was changing after my round, he came in and we introduced ourselves. Despite his blustery public persona, he couldn’t have been friendlier.
I knew he was passionate about the game, but I had no idea just how passionate. I’m amazed at the golf empire he’s built up 28 years later. He now owns 15 courses counting his recent purchase of the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, for which he paid $150 million just five years after Morgan Stanley bought it for $501 million (he might be a five-handicap golfer but he’s a plus-five businessman).
What also amazes me about Donald is how hands-on he is with his golf portfolio. He returns phone calls and emails very quickly when they have anything to do with his courses. After I sent his executive assistant an email congratulating him on Doral, a return email quickly arrived from her with an attachment. He had written on a printed copy of the email with a black Sharpie, “JACK THANK YOU—IT WILL BE GREAT!” and signed it with his distinctive, EKG-like signature. And when none of his courses made our LINKS 100 lists, I heard from him quickly about that, too.
But cracking our world rankings shouldn’t be a problem after the opening of his newest course, Trump International Golf Links, this July in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the subject of our cover story. After talking to our editor, George Peper, about it and how big the dunes are, I’m really looking forward to experiencing it myself. For once, the reality should live up to his legendary hype. It really will be one of the best.
“Because of those huge dunes, it really is breathtaking, both literally and figuratively,” says Peper, adding that the course might cause a seismic shift in the travel patterns of golfers visiting Scotland. “St. Andrews will continue to be No. 1, but with the opening of the Trump course—combined with Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay, Nairn, and a couple others—a trip to the northeast is now more enticing than one to Turnberry, Troon, and Prestwick in the southwest.”