As you may have noticed, Donald Trump favors a wild and wind-blown look.
We don’t mean his hairdo.
We’re talking golf design. Like his pompadour, The Donald’s newest course -- Trump International Golf Links, in Aberdeen, Scotland -- cuts a distinctive profile, snaking through a heaving coastal dunescape, its holes cut hard along the North Sea.
The source of controversy before it opened (critics complained that Trump played the bully in getting it approved), the layout has since inspired widespread praise: most notably among Golf Magazine course-raters, who ranked it No. 50 on Golf Magazine’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World -- making it the highest-rated new course on the 2013 list.
Lofty praise, indeed.
Or so we thought.
Saying he was “honored but not thrilled,” Trump took time this week to discuss the rankings while offering his take on golf course architecture, describing what makes his links in Aberdeen so different and why he believes it’s destined to achieve its rightful place -- above the likes of Muirfield, Pine Valley and the Old Course -- at the very summit of the Top 100 list.
GOLF: Congratulations on your Top 100 ranking.
Donald Trump: Thank you. I’m honored but not thrilled.
GOLF: No? How come?
DT: A lot of the greatness in any course is the land, and this land is unique. I looked at more than 100 sites around the world, but I really wanted to do something great in Europe. Preferably Scotland. And there was nothing like this land. It sits right on the North Sea, with waves crashing right beside you, and it has these incredible giant dunes. If you take the biggest dune at Bandon Dunes, it’s like a toy compared to what we’ve got. They’re just amazing. They’re like mountains. You can’t build dunes like this. They’re a million years old. Older than the Old Course.
GOLF: Which you’ve played?
DT: I have. I love it. It’s a wonderful course with incredibly rich history.
GOLF: But not better than yours?
DT: St. Andrews is spectacular, and it has that legacy, and legacy has real value. But in terms of the physical course, there’s no comparison. I don’t think there’s any course that compares.
DT: I love Muirfield, too. But it’s not really on the ocean. And it doesn’t have the dunes system. You won’t find any course in the world like mine.
GOLF: But you’re Donald Trump. Of course you’re going to say that.
DT: Others have said the same. Sandy Jones, the head of the PGA in Europe. He said, “Your course is in the top three and I can’t think of the other two.”
GOLF: What are your top three?
DT: I’ve played many of the Top 100, and I love them. I have great respect for them. I was just invited to play in a tournament celebrating the 100th anniversary of Pine Valley. I played with the chairman of the club. It’s a spectacular course, and the reason it was built where it was is the land. The land is spectacular. I have a course, Pine Hills, that sits right next door on land that is just as great. And the course itself is, in my opinion, as good or better than Pine Valley.
GOLF: You don’t entirely agree with the Top 100.
DT: I have great respect for many of the courses on the list. I could also say there are some serious mistakes on it.
GOLF: Such as?
DT: Why would I want to be controversial?
GOLF: Your course in Scotland caused a fair bit of controversy.
DT: It did. And that was great because a lot was written about it. When I told people I was going to build there, everybody laughed. Those dunes were earmarked. People said, You can’t even walk on them, let alone do what you want to do.
GOLF: So, you’ve got the dunes. What else makes the course so great in your eyes?
DT: I got Dr. Martin Hawtree to design it. I went to Peter Dawson of the R&A and I asked him who his top architect choices were. He said his first was Martin Hawtree, and that after that he’d go with Martin Hawtree, and Martin Hawtree. He’s just been incredible. When you see the work he did there, you can’t believe it. It’s set in these giant dunes, but the course is very easy to walk, which is difficult to do in land like this. There are beautiful footpaths that wind through the dunes and they’re surrounded by these incredible high grasses, but you don’t have to go up and down a lot of hills. The purpose of the dunes is to protect you from the weather, so when you’re playing the course, it can feel still even though there are 50 mph winds swirling just above you.
GOLF: What’s your best score on it?
DT: I’ve played it probably six times, and each time, I’ve gotten better. I’m learning its nuances. It’s a very challenging course, but it’s fair.
GOLF: A lot of people have said it feels much older than it is.
DT: Legacy has value. You can’t buy time. You can’t open course and immediately have 200 years of history behind you. But my course has all the ingredients to be the best in the world.
GOLF: So 50 is way too low?
DT: As I said, I’m honored. But if you were to call me five years from now and say it’s number 50, I’d be very disappointed.
The Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses in the World:
Photo: Donald Trump at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland.