‘World’s greatest golf course’ opens for business

Mr Trump, flanked by Colin Montgomerie, cuts the ribbon to declare the course officially open.
Mr Trump, flanked by Colin Montgomerie, cuts the ribbon to declare the course officially open.

DONALD Trump’s dream finally became a reality this week with the official opening of what he has described as “the greatest golf course in the world”.

The ceremony at Menie Estate on Tuesday marked the completion of the first phase of the billionaire’s £750 million development on the Aberdeenshire coast near Balmedie.

There was a strong hint at the opening that the championship links would be lined up for a prestigious tournament in the future.

Trump International Golf Links has been seven years in the making and has encountered considerable controversy along the way.

On the eve of the opening, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, which opposed the development, called on top golfers to boycott some of the holes.

To date, the Trump Organisation says that more than £100 million has been spent on the championship course and related services, maintenance and infrastructure, and the restoration of historic estate properties.

The facilities also include a 22-acre driving range, a 10,000 square metre short game area and a 3,000 square metre putting green.

The tycoon had dedicated the Menie links to his late mother Mary McLeod, who was born in Stornoway, and he fondly mentioned her in his opening speech.

Mr Trump, family, friends and guests, including Scots golfer Colin Montgomerie, were piped to the first tee for the ribbon cutting ceremony. PGA chief executive Sandy Jones and European Tour chief executive George O’Grady also attended.

The businessman thanked everyone who had been involved in creating the course which he said would be very important for Scotland, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, adding: “I think you will enjoy it. I think it is something that’s going to be very special, hopefully iconic.

“It is a special place, Scotland is a special place. My mother loved Scotland and she would be very proud today.”

Colin Montgomerie, who partnered Mr Trump in the opening foursome, described the course as “a marvel” and “fantastic”.

He added: “I am sure that on behalf of all the pros who are playing up at Inverness I can go back tomorrow to tell them how wonderful this site and this occasion is today.

“On behalf of the European tour we do hope, and I am sure Mr Trump does as well, that this is the start of something very very large here, very big here in Scotland. Let’s hope we can have many tournaments here in the future.”

But the path to the creation of the new links has been far from smooth. It has involved planning hearings, a public inquiry and even a parliamentary hearing.

A planning application was first lodged with Aberdeenshire Council in November, 2006, and the local authority’s Formartine area committee later supported the project.

However, the development was dealt a blow when the council’s infrastructure services committee turned down the plans on the casting vote of chairman Martin Ford.

Scottish Ministers then called in the application due to its “national signifcance.”

Following a public inquiry in 2008, Finance Minister John Swinney announced the Government’s approval of the proposals.

Even now the future of the remainder of the Menie Estate plans remains uncertain. They include 950 holiday homes, 500 houses and 450-bedroom hotel - but Mr Trump has called a halt because of his opposition to a windfarm proposed for Aberdeen Bay.

The European Offshore Windfarm Deployment Centre would include 11 turbines and a decision is expected later in the year.

Meanwhile, the new course will open to the public on Sunday and players can use it from 7.30am daily until October 31. A programme of events and activities is scheduled for the winter months and access to the course will continue with prior booking.