Monday, May 7, 2012

The Week That Was, may 6, 2012

scotland The Verdict on Trump’s “Irish-style” Links

Trump International Golf Links Scotland opens in just two months, and one of golf architecture’s foremost opinion-makers has concluded that it’s “one of the most polarizing courses in all of golf.”

Donald Trump may wince when he reads that phrase. For years, he’s predicted that his much-discussed track in Aberdeenshire would be “the world’s greatest golf course.” Its unveiling was supposed to be a personal triumph, one that cements his golf bona fides.

But that’s not how Darius Oliver sees it. Oliver, the architecture editor of Australian Golf Digest, likes the site -- heck, he gushes over it -- but not the “Irish-style links” that’s been laid upon it.

“While there is obvious quality here and literally dozens of gorgeous vantage points across Trump Scotland,” Oliver reckons, “the big issue purists will have with this layout is the lack of truly outstanding design and the number of awkward architectural features.”

It’s hard to imagine a verdict that would sting an architect worse. What Oliver is saying is that Trump has been let down by the hired help.

In this case, the help is Martin Hawtree, the course’s British designer. The way Oliver sees it, Hawtree hasn’t done the property justice. Oliver manages to muster some faint praise for Hawtree’s layout -- “on a superficial level, at least, he succeeded” -- but he suggests that “pushing some of the golf out onto the flatter surrounding land might have yielded a more playable course.”

Of course, Trump might have rejected such a suggestion. So if Hawtree gets a pass, it’s found in this sentence: Given the client and his early proclamations about this being the world’s best golf course, it might have been difficult for the designer to sacrifice scenery for the sake of routing balance.

Clearly, Oliver was underwhelmed by Trump’s course. But Trump has always had trouble with people who believe that beauty should be more than skin deep.

And in Other News . . .

. . . ireland  Is Mike Keiser looking to invest in a golf resort in Northern Ireland? This summer, the Chicago-based developer recently told Golf Digest, he’s going to size up a pair of potential sites in places where golf began. One of them is on the Inch Peninsula in southwestern Ireland, and the other is “Bushmills Dunes in the north.” I presume Keiser is referring to Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort & Spa in County Antrim, where a New York City-based developer, Alistair Hanna, recently secured permission to build a David McLay Kidd-designed golf course. This is the course about which Kidd famously said to Hanna, “If I can’t get your course into the top 50 of the world, you should shoot me.” If I’m right -- and I’m willing to bet that I am -- this will be the second time that Keiser and Kidd have worked together. Kidd, you’ll remember, designed the first course at Bandon Dunes, the one that put Keiser’s property in remote Oregon on the proverbial map.

Some information in this post originally appeared in the October 2011, November 2011, and December 2011 issues of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.

. . . england  Regarding those Asian and Malaysian investors who were ready to pounce on the famed Belfry resort in suburban Birmingham: Much ado about nothing. It turns out that a U.S. company, KSL Capital Partners, is “close” to buying the 550-acre property, which features a luxurious hotel, three Dave Thomas-designed golf courses (two of them in collaboration with Peter Alliss), and a spectacular heritage, as it’s hosted the Ryder Cup matches four times. This is a distress sale, as the Belfry is controlled by the banks and insurance companies to which Sean Quinn’s investor group was beholden. The Belfry will unquestionably be a sweet addition to KSL’s portfolio, which includes ClubCorp and some highly regarded U.S. golf properties, including the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia and La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. And it comes at bargain price: According to the Sunday Independent, KSL will likely pay “less than half” of the $38 million (or so) that the now-bankrupt billionaire once known as “the Mighty Quinn” shelled out in 2005.

. . . talking points  Sad but true: A new driver may impress your friends, but it isn’t likely to improve your game. If you need proof, consider that U.S. golfers spend ungodly amounts of money on golf equipment every year -- nearly $4 billion in 2011 -- and they haven’t lowered their scores a bit. “Despite all of the mind-bending technology that has revolutionized golf in the past decade, golfers aren’t getting any better,” writes the Newark Star-Ledger. “The average golf score still remains at around 100, according to the National Golf Foundation, and that number hasn’t changed since your grandpa was knocking balls around with hickory sticks.” Here’s another noteworthy but distressing stat from the article: The number of rounds played in the United States has fallen from 518 million in 2000 to 475 million in 2010. Do all these facts add up to a story? You tell me.

. . . wild card click  Shall we cut to the chase?