WaPo Headline: “Business sags at Trump’s New York golf course as players stay away”

Thanks to all who sent this story and apologies in advance for questioning what I think is a poor bit of headline writing.

Our late, great friend Frank Hannigan always pointed out to me that the New York Times seemed spectacular until they covered a topic near and dear to your heart by exposing their weaknesses or all-out knowledge blind spots.

So while I’d respect the Times and Washington Post’s efforts to scrutinize the goings-on in Washington, the WaPo’s story on sagging business at Trump Ferry Point seemed like a headline reach (“Business sags at Trump’s New York golf course as players stay away"), which didn’t reflect a mostly-balanced piece of reporting from a small sample-size.

After checking with a few folks, it seems the headline overreached in the effort to see if President Donald Trump’s style, stances and overall forceful nature would impact his businesses.

This is certainly something to watch with his overseas properties and more importantly, with corporate sales at tournaments hosted by his courses. And while the story by Drew Harwell and David Fahrenthold presents signs of reduced play, the copy never matches the headline suggesting golfers are withdrawing in mass numbers from Trump Ferry Point rounds.

In reporting a 12% decrease in revenue over the last year, they write:

These records provide an unusual glimpse inside a business unit of the Trump Organization, during the period when Trump was seeking, then winning and then assuming the presidency. Nearly all of Trump’s other business interests are privately held and offer little transparency regarding their revenue and profits.

The reports show that, in the period between April 2016 and March 2017, golfers played 26,127 rounds at the Bronx course. That was a decline of 2,164 rounds — or about 7 percent — from the previous 12-month period.

As the writers concede, “From the records alone, it is impossible to tell whether politics played a role in the business decline at the Trump course.” And credit to them for citing Tom Stine’s assertion that a one-year 12% drop isn’t alarming enough in such a fickle weather market.

The rough summer of 2016 saw a 15% uptick in inclement weather days for Ferry Point according to The Trump Organization when contacted by this website. Also, private outings were limited to free up the tee sheet for residents, also cutting into rounds recorded.

Most interesting, the story does not cite whether play was up, down or flat at other New York City courses where similar weather or other trends could have impacted rounds played.