Donald Trump Profile
|Born||Jun 14, 1946|
|Birthplace||Queens, New York City, United States|
Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is not just an enthusiastic golfer – it's fair to say that the sport has come to define him.
Donald Trump fell in love with golf when a student in Pennsylvania and, far from dimming with age, that affection for the sport has only intensified.
His passion has even withstood the rigours and distractions of office, as has been the case with so many Presidents before him.
Nor is his relationship with the game merely one-dimensional. Trump built his first course in the late 1990s, added more to the portfolio in the 21st Century, and also began to acquire existing courses and resorts which he developed or re-designed.
Some of his projects have been controversial, most famously his Aberdeen property which created political and social acrimony within Scotland, and also prompted clashes with environmental protesters.
His courses have hosted two Major Championships, the 2015 Women's British Open at Trump Turnberry and the 2017 US Women's Open at Trump Bedminster, but in early 2021 both the PGA of America and the R&A distanced themselves from future championships on Trump courses.
His experiences playing the game have been little less controversial than his forays into ownership.
Whilst many of his partners report that he is a very fine golfer, they also cast doubt about the validity of his handicap.
Accusations of his cheating have also been rife, but he remains a committed golfer.
Indeed, in early 2021, Vanity Fair reported a golf industry saying: "Anyone who knows (Trump) knows he's far more emotionally invested in golf than politics."
Developing his passion
Trump became a keen golfer during his college years at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the introduction to his book The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received, he wrote: "For me and millions of people-men, women, young and old around the world-golf is more than a game. It is a passion."
He told Golf Digest's Jaime Diaz he is more or less self-taught and added: "I think of golf as a very natural game. I never really wanted to know a lot about my technique. I really trust instinct a lot, in golf and a lot of things."
Like many of his partners, Diaz recognised that Trump is well-versed in golf and understands his game inside out.
"For me, it's all about the hips," Trump told Diaz. "Just get them out of the way as fast and as hard as I can and let the arms really swing through. I read about the hips a long time ago in Ben Hogan's book, and it became my simple key, and I've stayed with it."
Golf is his only known form of exercise and he always uses a cart, believing that the body, "is like a battery, with a finite amount of energy."
In 1999 his love of the sport developed into course ownership, starting with his building of Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump is a famously quick golfer.
"He goes superfast. Speed rounds. He hits and runs and hits and runs," Politico reports a Republican close to the White House saying. "Everyone else tries to keep up with him and that's basically how it goes."
Golfers who have played with Trump are in no doubt that he is at home on the course. They also rate his golf.
Rory McIlroy played golf with Trump in 2017 and stated: "He probably shot around 80. He's a decent player for a guy in his 70s."
Tiger Woods wrote on his website: "What (is) most impressive was how far Trump hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash."
In his book Commander in Cheat Rick Reilly asked the many professionals who have played with Trump for their assessment of his golf.
Brad Faxon reported "a legit 10", Annika Sorenstam "a 9 or 10", Ernie Els "8 or 9".
His USGA handicap index is 2.8. By way of comparison, Jack Nicklaus, six years older than Trump, plays off 5.2.
The consensus view of his partners is that Trump is a solid driver of the ball, good with his irons, a very poor chipper and an aggressive putter, the latter helped by knowing he'll pick up from inside 10-feet.
Reilly reported that in seven appearances at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Trump's team never made a cut and he also never finished in the top half of the field at the annual Tahoe Celebrity tournament.
Reilly's book lists many examples of Trump being liberal with the golfing laws.
His willingness of grant himself gimmes is almost a given. The fact he once gave himself a chip when playing against Reilly, less so.
The book also claims broadcaster Mike Tirico had his ball thrown in a bunker by Trump, that he wins club championships without actually competing in them, and that his nickname among the caddies at Winged Foot is "Pele" because he kicks ball out of the rough.
Boxer Oscar De La Hoya told the Associated Press in 2016 that he witnessed Trump cheating. "'Yes, I caught him," he said. "It was unbelievable. But I guess it was his course, so it was his rules."
LPGA star Suzann Pettersen told the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang: "He cheats like hell. They say that if you cheat at golf, you cheat at business.
"I'm pretty sure he pays his caddie well, since no matter how far into the woods he hits the ball, it's in the middle of the fairway when we get there.
"In all the times I've played him, he's never come close to breaking 80. But what's strange is that every time I talk to him he says he just golfed a 69, or that he set a new course record or won a club championship some place. I just laugh."
The 2008 financial crisis marked a turning point in Trump's course business dealings.
In 2007 he owned four courses, but in the aftermath of the crisis he took to purchasing existing properties and renovating them.
He currently has 12 courses in the United States and has expanded his golfing empire across the world.
He owns two courses in Dubai, one in Ireland and another two in Scotland.
The latter three have proved especially controversial projects.
He purchased Doonbeg in 2014, changed the name to Trump International Golf Links Ireland, and introduced Martin Hawtree for a re-design.
Original architect, and Trump friend, Greg Norman said: "I'm incredibly disappointed he's not using us. You won't hear me talking much about it from now on."
The construction of Trump International Golf Links Scotland, in Aberdeen, has been even more rancorous.
It involved accusations of the vandalism of 4,000-year-old sand dunes, fights with local residents, fury about an off-shore wind farm, political hostility, and the production of the documentary You've Been Trumped.
The Daily Mail reported in January 2021 that the Trump Organization's two Scottish courses filed a $4.6million loss in 2019, bringing the total losses in eight years to $75million.
Trump is very proud of his portfolio of courses, regularly talking them up and once placing five of them in his top ten in America. None of them, however, appear in the top 150 of Golf Digest's Top 200 in America.
It is generally accepted, however, that the re-design of Turnberry has transformed it from a very good course to a great one.
In an effusive review Golf Digest's Geoff Shackelford concluded: "Turnberry is a marvel in every way … an essential stop … don't be in a hurry to leave."
Major Championship & WGC controversy
Shortly before the 2015 Women's British Open at Turnberry, Trump purchased the course and hotel.
During the first round he arrived at the course in a helicopter, flying across the back nine, and holding a press conference in the hotel to address his potential Presidential bid.
His American course, Trump Bedminster, was opened in 2004 and 13 years later hosted the US Women's Open.
In early January 2021 the PGA of America announced it would no longer be visiting Bedminster for the 2022 PGA Championship.
The following day the R&A released a statement that read: "We had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future.
"We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances."
Trump Doral, in Florida, had been a long-time host of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but the 2017 tournament was moved to Mexico City, angering the then-Republican candidate.
"This decision only further embodies the very reason I am running for President of the United States," Trump said.
He also told Fox News: "I hope they have kidnapping insurance."
The tournament returned to Florida in 2021.
Golf while in office
Trump has always known the value of the sport to his business activities.
In 2015 he told Fortune: "Golf is the sport of business. I've made deals on a golf course that I would have never, ever made over a lunch. I've actually told the people at Wharton, 'You should give a course in golf.'"
That approach did not change when he moved into the White House.
A frequent critic of Barack Obama golfing activities while in office, Trump said at a rally in August 2016, shortly before winning that year's election: "I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf. Believe me, believe me folks."
The website TrumpGolfCount.com detailed 298 daytime visits to a golf club during his Presidency, with evidence of 150 confirmed rounds of golf within that tally.
His further involvement in the sport is difficult to predict, other than that he will continue to enjoy playing the game.
Maggie Haberman, the New York Times White House correspondent, tweeted in January 2021: "A lot has happened in the last week, including the president losing his Twitter feed, impeachment coming to the fore and the PGA withdrawing from Trump National. He's "gutted" by the PGA move, a person close to the White House says.
"He's angry about impeachment, people who have spoken to him say. But the reaction to the PGA decision was different order of magnitude."