President Trump Makes Turnberry Golf Course Great Again

President Trump
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Will Donald Trump Make America Great Again? That remains an open question depending upon your political persuasion. Delving into his history of reclamation projects though, there is a lot of evidence that the man has made many properties great again.

He turned the aging New York Commodore Hotel into the sparkling Grand Hyatt. He restored 40 Wall Street into a centerpiece of the city and renovated the Wollman Ice Rink, under budget, making it a Central Park fixture. The man can fix things up. Add to that list Trump Turnberry, the Scottish golf links that is getting rave reviews even from the sports media, an entity notorious for their leftist politics.  Ask any sportswriter over the age of 55 who their favorite athlete is and the answer will invariably be Muhammad Ali. It never fails. To win these red-diaper babies over, Trump Turnberry really must be amazing because they certainly didn’t want to like the course.

Turnberry was established as a golf resort in 1906 along the Firth of Clyde in southwestern Scotland. During both World Wars it was used as an airbase and has a monument to fallen airmen on the 12th hole. The course has hosted 4 British Opens, the most famous being the “Duel in the Sun” when Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus separated themselves from the field on an unusually clear day with some of the best golf ever played. Watson went on to win by one stroke with a birdie on the final hole and the course became part of the legend. Turnberry had many ownership changes over the years being purchased by Starwood Hotels in 1997, then by Leisurecorp in 2008 until Trump purchased it in 2014 for 60 million dollars.  He promptly changed the name to Trump Turnberry and put 200 million dollars into renovation hiring Martin Ebert to redesign the course. Ebert redesigned every hole placing special emphasis on the Par 3’s.  Billy Satterfield, a course reviewer from Golf Course Gurus, called it one of the best courses in the world and “if I could pick only one course to play [in Scotland] it would be Turnberry’s Ailsa course.”

Recently on the No Laying Up golf podcast, David Cannon, a well-respected Getty sports photographer, said what Trump has done to the golf course is “beyond sensational.” He did preface his remarks by saying, “the fact that a certain President of the United States owns that golf course is oblivious to me.” It sounds like he begrudgingly has to admit that the “certain president” did a damn good job of transforming Turnberry into a masterpiece.

Good for him for being honest about it though.

The next step to international acclaim for the course will come when it next hosts the Open Championship.  When or even if that happens is somewhat in doubt. Turnberry is part of the Open “rota” as the Brits call it.  That means it is one of 10 courses that they will play their championship on and it rotates every year. St. Andrews usually hosts every 5 years but some of the other courses in the rota have to wait a little longer. Turnberry’s turn should be coming around soon. It hosted in 1994 and then again in 2009. By that timeline it should be due for a major in 2024 or sooner. The spots are all filled until 2022 with Royal Liverpool hosting then.  It’s important to mention that the vast majority of the other courses in the rotation can’t hold a candle to Turnberry which should be near the top of the list; second only to St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game.

I can’t imagine that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the group that assigns the majors will let politics deprive golf fans of seeing the majesty of Turnberry. Their CEO Martin Slumbers did seem to relent in February when asked about Turnberry’s chances of hosting The Open, “We have 10 courses that we look to stage the Open Championship on, of which, Turnberry is one of them.” That bodes well for Trump Turnberry’s chances.  That’s also about how I would expect the CEO of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to talk especially the “of which” – nice turn of phrase. I would expect Turnberry to receive either the 2023 or 2024 Open Championship. If that doesn’t happen, the Royal and Ancient will be depriving golf fans of seeing a crown jewel course out of pure political spite.

Follow Dan Redmond on Twitter @danfromdc

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