Report: Trump International Golf Links Scotland under fire again for damaging dunes

The Trump International Golf Links Scotland can't seem to escape controversy.

Donald Trump's links in Scotland has been generating drama ever since the project was announced and eventually opened in 2012, from local protests to Trump's failed lawsuit over nearby wind farms. It is back in the news for the wrong seasons again.

The Guardian recently reported that documents show that Martin Hawtree's design has negatively impacted the surrounding dunes in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire. The paper reports:

"Scottish Natural Heritage, which has been under pressure for years to speak out on the issue, now acknowledges that serious damage has been done to the site of special scientific interest (SSSI) at Foveran Links on the Menie estate, north of Aberdeen, since the course opened in 2012, the documents show. As a result, Foveran’s SSSI status – given because of its unusual shifting sands and diverse plant life – now hangs in the balance. ... A decision to remove the scientific status of the links could affect the U.S. President’s recently announced plans to invest a further £150m in the resort."

This latest news could have serious repercussions not only for its future but the future of another high-profile links project, Coul Links, trying to move into the construction phase near Dornoch. Several days after the Trump news broke, it has been reported that the Scottish Ministers have extended their review period of Coul Links for essentially another month. The Highland Council has received more than 1,800 objections and more than 10,000 signatures opposing the Mike Keiser-led development within a similar sensitive environment.

Another links project currently under construction is steering clear of the nearby dunes protected by an SSI designation. Golf Course Architecture reports that the new Dumbarnie Links course at Lower Largo on the south coast of Fife hopes to open by 2020. Located on the 5,000-acre Balcarres Estate 10 miles from St. Andrews, the project by golf architect and former BBC TV analyst Clive Clark features 13 holes with views of the Firth of Forth.

Trump's original plans promised to create roughly 6,000 jobs by building a large five-star hotel, shops, a sports complex, two courses and residential and timeshare units. Trump did transform the original manor house onsite into the five-star MacLeod House & Hotel, but nothing else has materialized.

I visited in 2015 a few days after the grand opening of the new clubhouse, which is nice - albeit small compared to the grand vision for the rest of the place.
I came away impressed, like almost everyone does, but I certainly couldn't proclaim it the "World's Greatest Golf Course," which Trump did in its early days. I gave it four stars in my review on Golf Advisor.

I thought Hawtree did fine work creating playing corridors through the towering dunes, some of the largest in the world. The third is one of the great par 3s of Scotland as the waves and wind of the North Sea reveal themselves behind the green. The 281-yard seventh remains one of my favorite drivable 4s, but I do admit the pushed-up green is a bit extreme. During my round, there were too many divots in the collection areas to chip or putt effectively. I saw one player in my group volley his ball from one side to the other.

Just north of Aberdeen, Trump International features some of Scotland's most spectacular dunes.


We've all seen pictures of the scenic elevated tee at No. 14 (pictured above), which cuts a diagonal path through the mountainous sand hills. The view going the other direction on the 18th hole is equally special, although I'm not a fan of a par 5 on a links with two ponds and more than 15 bunkers. That's out of character for what's supposed to be a natural links.

Which brings us back to something worth noting within this ongoing political and environmental battle. Natural dunes along the coast shift all the time, affecting plant and wildlife. Look no further than an hour down the road at Montrose, one of the world's oldest links. It has been impacted by erosion recently, most notably around the exposed 2nd tee box. In 2014, the Trump International Golf Links Ireland in Doonbeg, Ireland, had to be reshaped after a major storm. It's Mother Nature's way.

So did the efforts to shape and continually manicure Trump International Golf Links Scotland really alter the landscape of this sensitive eco-system or would it have happened regardless? It's a key question, one that could determine what eventually becomes of Trump International Golf Links Scotland.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
45 Comments
Commented on

Seriously? You must be naive as a Christmas goose if you think Donald Trump gives a farthing for the impact his courses, any of them, have regarding a damaging impact on the natural environs. One need only take a passing glance at his policy positions on the environment to see where he stands. I love golf and have played some beautiful courses, along the coast, in the desert, in the mountains. The first thought for any course should be does it respect the the natural setting with it's design and does it integrate with its environs in ways that are not harmful. Kudos for the review. There are ample links courses in Scotland and Ireland without the concieted influence of Mr. Trump.
Bob Blackford
Dallas Texas

Commented on

I just returned from playing Scotland. The Trump course is one of the finest courses I or my low handicap brother and nephews have ever played.

Every experienced Golfer should place this on the Bucket list.

PS We all thought the course was " better" than Pebble Beach

Bryan

Commented on

Well done article.
Informative.
Concise
Factual.
Common sense , unbiased, nonpolitical opinion the last two paragraphs speak volumes of truth.

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Commented on

the owner can do what he likes with the course - if they have a problem with that, don't sell it in the first place

Commented on

I think whether or not Scotland gets a new golf course is up to Scotland and its citizens and no one else, not even the President of the United States. Scotland should do whatever is right for its own people and it's land.

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totally agree

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I truly thought golfers would be above the political nonsense when rating or commenting on a course. Never played the course, and might consider it still, but now any comments +/- here = zero. Pity.

Commented on

Having played many times and courses in both Ireland and Scotland, my comments to you all who have written here is , reguardless of how you stand politically, you have to admit Trumps courses in Scotland are built for rich Americans. Scots probably make up a tiny fraction of players. In the old days locals could play Turnberry at different rates. Those days are gone I am certain

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Let's table this discussion until at least 2145 and see if the course and environment hold up like Prestwick, Troon, St Andrews, and all the other Scottish courses currently well over 100 years old!

Commented on

My wife and I played Trump Aberdeen in 2014. The setting is spectacular, with dunes unlike any that I have seen in Scotland, England or N Ireland (I haven’t played Ireland’s great courses). I have no idea if this course abused the privilege of building on such a beautiful site - I never saw it before the course was there. But while the scenery is truly incredible, the course is clearly a level below Dornoch or Royal County Down or Royal Portrush or Royal St. George’s or Carnoustie or it’s neighbor up the coast, Royal Aberdeen. My wife, twice a Curtis Cup player, found it to be unstrategic. I just found it to be a nice course in a marvelous location, worth paying for once.

Trump is no doubt getting grief due in part to his current position in the world and his abusive and crass behavior. But he got crosswise with the local population long before he entered politics. Whether they would have accepted anybody’s golf course in that location - who knows - but he went out of his way to jerk around the homeowner who wouldn’t sell his property. His arrogant and stupid efforts to prevent offshore windmills from being built reminds me of similar attitudes by the rich and famous on Matha’s Vineyard, who also think that they should get what they want and to Hell with the rest of us.

It’s too bad that Trump is screwing up Mike Keiser’s efforts. Keiser is far, far above Trump as a golf course developer and has contributed to the world of golf far more than anything Trump could even imagine, and all the while apparently taking a reasonable and classy approach to business.

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Sounds like politics and anti Trump sentiment. Liberal tree hugging Scots seem misguided. I have been at the course myself. The complaints are groundless and venal. Be suspicious if the political agenda the critics promote

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Commented on

yep!!!

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Report: Trump International Golf Links Scotland under fire again for damaging dunes