Ambition? How embarrassing. Success? How louche. Initiative? How noisy. Change? Why? Today’s edition of The Herald (17th February) carries a half-page spread on Page 11 on Donald Trump’s publishing of his plans for the links golf course he is building at the Menie Estate, north of Aberdeen.
The plans show a perspective on the resort component of the plans, looking down onto the dunes complex from above. There is to be a residential village, a holiday homes complex and a hotel.
Trump is quoted as saying: ‘This is another significant step towards our goal of building the world’s greatest golf course and resort in Aberdeenshire’.
He has already taken care to employ internationally recognised top staff and consultants to drive the project. The groundsman from the revered Carnoustie Course, Paul O’Connor, will manage the complex. The designer of the 18-hole links course, Martin Hawtree has also worked at no fewer than four Open courses, including Carnoustie. He has described what is to come as ‘the most dramatic, stimulating, invigorating stretch of golf anywhere I have seen in my career’
Like the magical Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course, here in Kintyre in Argyll, the Menie course too will be built in a dune complex designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This means, of course, that there is a body of relevant recent experience available to the creators of the Menie course.
Hawtree sees the dunes area as ‘coming close to an ideal’. He believes it has every possible advantage and that, when the course is completed, there will not be a weak hole in it.
Trump has never made a secret – hardly his style, hand him a megaphone – of his intent to make the course at Balmedie ‘the world’s greatest’. Of course he has his sights set firmly on the Open being played there. The creation of an Open venue would underpin the marketing brand of the entire complex and its financial performance – and Trump is a businessman.
Why on earth would any Scot not want – not will – him to succeed? If Trump brings a fairway full of property investors and golfers to the east coast at this important Scottish city and makes it the world’s greatest – Scotland will benefit every bit as much as Trump will.
And does the imagination, the will and the stomach to set out to create the very best in the world not stir a little enterprise in the rest of us?
Not in Douglas Lowe, however, golf correspondent of The Herald. We have no idea how old Douglas Lowe is but whatever it is it’s a lot too young for the sort of attitudes leaching out of what he has published today.
He ridicules Trump’s ambition by pointing to the appointments of O’Connor and Hawtree, which make it ‘not difficult to see where The Donald is going. He wants the Open there. Oh, and the Ryder Cup as well’.
Why on earth not?
Would Aberdeen be resistant to such reverberant contests being played out on its patch?
Lowe goes on to say: ‘With barely a sod cut, the course is being hailed, breathtakingly, as better than Muirfield, Turnberry, Carnoustie, St Andrews Old Course, Royal Troon, Loch Lomond, Gleneagles: places all oozing with history and tradition, and that’s just in Scotland’.
What is clearly seen as the conclusive Lowe blow, comes next.
‘Frankly, I can’t see the understated body that is the R&A (Royal and Ancient – nuff said?) taking the Open to a course called Trump International Golf Links any time in the current geological period, even if it does fit all requirements’.
And there we have it.
The Lowe shot was so low it removed both of his own feet – and took the legs off the R&A at least to the knees.
Trump’s course at Balmedie might well ‘fit all requirements’ – repeat: ‘fit all requirements’, but with a name like Trump International Golf Links, the offence to the fragile sensibilities of the tastefully moribund would be so profound that they could not contemplate asking anyone to play there.
Golfers, as we have seen in such cases of rectitude as John Daly and Tiger Woods, are delicate machair to be protected from exposure to anything so aurally unharmonious.
Every syllable of this lifeless and death dealing piece exemplifies the British disease and the Scottish disease.
Where is the visceral drive for achievement? Where the celebration of success?
Scotland’s traditions loom large in its vast national assets. But tradition, handled with stultifying reverence rather than given oxygen to breathe and live organically in today’s world, stifles the change without which we will die.
No one is suggesting we torch St Andrews Old Course. But why are we so far beyond the excitement of the new? We could have both.
The photograph above, of the sand dunes at Balmedie, is cropped from an image by copyright holder, Richard Slessor and is reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.