Is Trump’s Doonbeg Acquisition Good for Irish Golf? (Conclusion)

By Kevin Markham

Copyright © Kevin Markham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Following is the final installment on Donald Trump and Doonbeg. Read Part 1.

Changing Doonbeg’s Fairways

Is Trump's Doonbeg Acquisition Good for Irish Golf? (Conclusion) 1
The rugged beauty of Doonbeg. (Kevin Markham)

Greg Norman’s course will be updated. No question. Trump likes to fiddle and he’ll find things he doesn’t like about this course. He’s also in the position to do something about it. The question is, who will get the call to upgrade/redesign? Will it be Martin Hawtree, fresh from the Aberdeen project, or will he bring in an American who is less familiar with natural linksland? Waterville brought in Fazio, a move that delivered, despite initial scepticism.

Is that good for Irish golf?

Broadly speaking, yes. It will employ people while the changes are being made, and it may well attract golfers who have already played it and wish to play the revised course/layout.

The Environment

Trump hasn’t a clue what the environment is. For starters, he is a climate change denier. He also proudly boasted that at his Aberdeen resort he had anchored a major dune system, which just happened to be one of the last moving, shape-shifting, natural networks of sand dunes in Europe. And he thought this was a good thing.

What will he do/change at Doonbeg? The tiny snails (Vertigo Angustior) that caused such controversy in the early years and were subsequently protected should be safe… should! So should the right-of-way across the course.

But now that there’s a million Euros-worth of storm damage to the coastline, he has an opportunity to make changes repairs that might not otherwise have been possible. The local council, the Department of the Environment and the EU will be hard-pressed to stop him if he sets his mind on a particular change repair.

Is that good for Irish golf?

No. The environment should never be jeopardised for the sake of a golf course.

Doonbeg’s Saviour

Has he ‘saved’ Doonbeg? No, of course not. He saw a bargain to add to his empire and he snatched it up. Who wouldn’t at that price? And that’s the point—Doonbeg would have been purchased regardless. The receivers said they had 12 interested parties. A world class resort would have remained a world class resort with or without Trump, so jobs would have been saved, the local economy would have ticked over and visiting golfers would continue to be pampered.

Is that good for Irish golf?

On the basis that he brings more money and a big golf brand to the table, yes, it should be good for Irish golf. But he’s no saviour.

An Irish Open

Could he, should he, would he hold an Irish Open given the chance? Of course he would. If Ballybunion can host it, why not Doonbeg?

Is that good for Irish golf?

Yes. Any Irish Open held at a premier resort, and a links course at that, is a good thing. And with Trump’s access to media channels, not only would it get wider coverage in the USA, and attract potential sponsors, it would also appeal more to American professional golfers.

Cashing in with a Casino

The fact that the Trumps have already mentioned ‘casino’ a number of times in these early days is worrying, depending on whether you’re pro or anti casinos. I’d hate to see casinos in Ireland. It’s not as if the Irish don’t like to gamble enough already (which is why we’re still in the mess we’re in right now), so giving them the Las Vegas buzz will only make matters worse… assuming they can afford the extravagance of the resort in the first place.

Is that good for Irish golf?

It would bring additional visitors to Ireland, but it would cheapen our image.

There is one final question which takes Ireland out of the equation: Is Trump’s purchase of Doonbeg good for golf in general?

And the answer to that depends on your view of golf. To many, golf is an elitist, expensive sport. Trump’s model does nothing to dissuade people of this view. On the flip side, there are always wealthy people/golfers who want the luxury experience and will pay for it. If Trump wasn’t doing it, somebody else would.

Is that good for golf?

Decide for yourself. Ireland offers golf courses at very different levels, appealing to a wide variety of golfers. That can only be a good thing, for Ireland and for golf, but I hope that Trump appreciates what local/national golfers can bring to his new Trump resort, and gives them an opportunity to play this wonderful golf course.

Kevin Markham is the author of Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland and writes about Irish golf courses and related topics at his blog.

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

1 thought on “Is Trump’s Doonbeg Acquisition Good for Irish Golf? (Conclusion)”

  1. As a huge fan of Doonbeg, which is second only to White Hart Lane in my list of favourite places, I sincerely hope Mr T doesn't f**k it up. Having recently been battered by the storms, the course would almost certainly benefit from a bit of a makeover. I just hope Trump respects the friendly, welcoming and open character of Doonbeg and doesn't try to drag it to the very top of the 'high end' of the market.


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