Trump has big plans for Trump International Golf Links in Scotland

Trump International Golf Links opened last summer to nearly universal acclaim. The wild and wooly dunes-strewn land through which the 7,428-yard links course runs -- some 1,500 acres in total -- is unlike anything else in Scotland. Although the development of the links just outside Aberdeen has been a long and involved process, the positive impact on the area and on Scottish golf cannot be denied. Legal wrangling continues over a wind farm that has been proposed along the coast near the course, but the notoriety from that ongoing debate has raised the course's profile in the national and international media.

To get the latest word on developments at Trump International Golf Links -- and the world of Trump Golf in general -- we spoke exclusively with Donald (Don) Trump, Jr., eldest child of Donald, Sr., and Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions for Trump Industries. What's your official capacity within your father's empire?

Donald Trump, Jr.: As Executive Vice President of Developments and Acquisitions, I focus on golf, residential developments, resort developments, hotels -- let's call it an all-encompassing role within Trump Industries. Being a "Jr.," how often do you at first get mistaken for your father?

Donald Trump, Jr.: I don't know if I get mistaken for him, but internationally, I hear, "You're much younger than expected." Especially in foreign locales, when I hand people my business card, I certainly get double-takes. Do you have any interest in someday taking on the PR role and public profile that your dad seems to relish in?

Donald Trump, Jr.: I think that's an interesting question. Obviously I and George Sorial, also an EVP with the organization, and other executives in the company still do quite a bit of that. A lot of that certainly comes with the territory, as in our current negotiations with the Scottish government about the proposed wind farm [off Trump International Golf Links]. In time, I may take on some of that role, but no one can do it quite like [my father] does. I understand your father's actually a pretty good player. Do you play?

Donald Trump, Jr.: My father's a very good player, actually. I play, but I spend more time building golf courses than playing them. At 35 with four kids, I just don't have the time to get out there much.

My dad says that if I could just get out to play more often, I could likely be a single-digit handicap, but that will have to wait for now.

That said, my 6 year old has been playing for three years already, and my 4 year old has been playing for two, and they're great for their ages. My son said to me the other day, "Dad, I want to play 100 holes today!" So they will help me get out to play more in the future. What is the current state of development at Trump International? Hotel? Second golf course?

Donald Trump, Jr.: The current state of development is, yes, we're working on a second course, to the west beyond the driving range. My father decided to name it the Mary MacLeod Course after his mother who hailed from Scotland. It'll follow parallel to the coast just west of the first course along the front nine, and then it will cut out to the sea for the same dunes and links feel. Permits for the course should be finished up by fall, and shovels will be in the ground shortly thereafter.

As for the hotel, we'll wait until the talk of the wind farm is settled. The concept is approved and done, but we're not going to start building until we're certain it won't be overlooking an industrial site [the proposed wind farm]. What will be the size of the hotel?

Donald Trump, Jr.: We're approved for 450 rooms, but a lot will depend on what the market will support. When and if construction begins, we'll build in phases, starting with 150 plus or minus rooms, and as the market matures, we'll keep adding on up to that number. Just about everything I've read about Trump International has been very positive. What are the best and worst things you've read or heard about it?

Donald Trump, Jr.: Honestly, other than a very small but also quite vocal opposition, I haven't heard anything negative about it. We've had some people interviewing there who have seen what we've done in person and actually tear up. That might sound strange, but it's happened. They're overwhelmed by the scope of the place.

[PGA Chief Executive] Sandy Jones perhaps said it best at the opening, that it's one of the top three courses in the world, but the problem is that he can't name numbers two and three. If you talk to some of the other course managers who run courses in the area, they'll say their bookings are up because of the traffic we've created. They come up to us and thank us, and they can't believe the way our course has grown in and the experience we've created. I can't frankly name another course that's opened to the accolades that we've received from the golf community. I can't count the number of writers I've met who told me that they wanted to not like the course, but came away thoroughly impressed.

Donald Trump, Jr.: Yeah, I have heard that, too. I think that for whatever reason, perhaps because we are so confident that what we created is so outstanding, that there are people who would like to put down what my dad has created, and therefore they don't want to like his courses. However, once they play them their minds are quickly changed. The courses speak for themselves. We bring in the best talent, buy the best equipment and never skimp on any aspect of quality, and it shows; others do not often have the luxury or the balance sheet to be able to do that. In this case, [course architect] Dr. [Martin] Hawtree and my father, who have very different personalities, got along perfectly in the process. He was perfect for this job. About the only concern I've heard is that it may be too tough for the average player when the wind is screaming. Have you heard anything to that effect?

Donald Trump, Jr.: We really haven't heard much of that. As long as people understand their limitations, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. The way the tee boxes are placed -- staggered from high to low and presenting different angles -- the course can look completely different. There is no doubt that this is a championship links, it was built with that in mind, but as long as [the average player] is not going out there and deciding to play it from the black [back] tees, the course is very playable. It's truly the best of both worlds. Any other areas of Scotland (or the UK, or Europe or Asia) being considered for more golf?

Donald Trump, Jr.: We're always looking, and we do have some projects in the works, but it's too early to discuss them. The second that happens, I'll give you a shout and let you know. We've got 14 golf developments, some with multiple courses (like Doral, which we recently acquired and are giving a major facelift to) currently in the portfolio, and are probably the top high-end golf course development operation in the game right now. We've done a very good job of taking some good courses and turning them into world-class courses, along with building new courses on some of the best land in the world. Trump has developed several courses in the U.S. What are the major differences between golf development in the U.S. and in the UK?

Donald Trump, Jr.: In the U.S., it's our backyard. We're used to working within the system. There are cultural differences we have to understand and work within. In Scotland, it's much more of a process-driven society, so things function differently. We are accustomed to doing business deals all over the world so it's easy for us to adapt to cultural norms and be able to get things done. For land as good as what we have here we will figure it out. My father knows great pieces of land, and that's what he looks for. He has done a great service to the golf world in developing these amazing courses.

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.
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