TYCOON Donald Trump jetted into Aberdeenshire today, and gave a one-word verdict of ‘wow’ on the championship links being built on his land at the Menie Estate.
Mr Trump, who was visiting the site for the first time since construction work began, described the view from the 13th hole as “an absolutely amazing scene.”
“It’s the first time I’ve seen it grassed,” he explained. “I said it was going to happen and it did happen”, he said, before remarking to aide Sarah Malone “This looks phenomenal.”
Mr Trump was making a three day visit to review the design and development of what he hopes will become the finest golf course in the world. Together with golf architect Martin Hawtree, Mr Trump will ‘walk’ all 18 holes of the course during his stay, as well as taking the final decisions on the finishing of the course and the location of the clubhouse.
After a year of construction, work on the course is now at the half-way point. Boasting that the development was on budget and on schedule, he said the course was turning out ‘even better than we anticipated.”
“I’ve got the number one rated course in California, the number one rated course in Florida and the number one rated course in New York State”, he said. “None of them can compare to this piece of land.”
“The Scottish economy will come back”, he said. “Things like this will make it come back much faster than other places. As the economy gets better, we’ll start thinking very seriously in terms of the hotel and the rest of the project.”
Looking towards the next year’s opening, Mr Trump expressed his hope that First Minister and local Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond, together with Sir Sean Connery, might participate in the ceremony.
“I’ve great respect for Alex”, said Mr Trump, “I’m glad he won the election. He’s great for Scotland.
“Sean Connery was one of the first to support me in building the course. I’d be honoured to have both Alex and Sean involved in the opening.
“I think my mother would be very proud. She loved Scotland – in fact, the only thing she loved more than Scotland was her family.”
Shrugging off the controversy which has surrounded the project, Mr Trump said “You know, the controversy’s been really good. The thing that people don’t know is how popular this endeavour’s been. The people of Aberdeenshire and Scotland want it, but because of a small controversy with literally a couple of people, it’s been worldwide news, and that’s been very good for us.”
Asked if he had ever harboured doubts about whether the project would go ahead, Mr Trump said he always felt that it would. “Everyone was very surprised we didn’t get the initial vote. At that point, I thought maybe there’s a chance that it’s not going to happen. But then they reversed themselves, so I guess that would be the one time.”
Asked about the ongoing dispute with the Forbes family, Mr Trump said he didn’t know whether any reconciliation would be possible.
“For some reason, some people don’t like us or like anybody. In the case of Mr Forbes, his land is nothing to do with the golf course. It’s far away from the golf course, you don’t see it from the golf course. But we’re always open to offers.” He also cited the “great friendships”, which the development had in the area, citing a study which he claimed put local support for the project at 93%.
After posing for photographers and hitting a couple of practice shots from the eastward-facing 13th hole, Mr Trump gave the stage to project mastermind, golf architect Martin Hawtree. “Every golf architect wanted to work on this land, and it’s certainly the finest site I’ve ever been able to work on”, said Mr Hawtree, who has worked on four Open Championship venues. “It’s an extraordinary, exciting landscape. I hope that this will be the culmination of my career.”