Trump Has Only Played One Non-Trump Branded Course Since Becoming President

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The reporting by S.V. Date of Huffington Post into President Donald Trump’s golf expenditures is pretty impressive, down to accounting for the cost different to fly depending on locales, types of planes used, etc… The headline numbers are amazing: 174 of 853 days in office President Trump has played at a Trump golf property and at a cost of $102 million to U.S. taxpayers, with a couple of pricey trips coming up this summer to the UK and Ireland, including a stop at Doonbeg without a legitimate diplomatic purpose yet attached.

Maybe even more incredible though is this:

He spent one additional day golfing: Nov. 5, 2017, at the Kasumigaseki Country Club outside Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is the only time thus far that he has played golf at a course he does not own.

That insistence of frequenting his own properties, in fact, has driven his total golf expenses disproportionately higher than Obama’s at the same point in his presidency.

By Obama’s 853rd day in office, he had spent 70 days at a golf course. But 48 of those golf days were at courses on military bases: Joint Base Andrews or Fort Belvoir, both in suburban Washington a short motorcade ride from the White House.

Past presidents have enjoyed using their job as a nice excuse to play top courses. Still, just one time venturing from properties with his name is not easy to pull off!

Trump Golf Properties Showing Mixed Financial Results In The Presidential Era

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Lachlan Markay and Sam Stein breakdown President Donald Trump’s financial disclosure form for 2019 and while losses at Mar a Lago garnered much of the headline attention, we learned more about where golf stood in his empire revenues of $352 million, down $387 million from 2017.

The Trump National LA number stood out:

His Mar-a-Lago club brought in about $2.5 million less than it did in 2017. Income from the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles dropped by roughly $3 million. And the Trump Organization’s hotel management arm saw its income plummet by nearly $16 million, though its numbers for 2018 were more in line with those prior to Trump assuming the presidency.

Other Trump properties fared better. His Doral resort in Miami hiked its income by about $2.2 million in spite of internal concerns about declining residency reported by The Washington Post this week. Trump Turnberry, a golf resort in Scotland, saw income increase by $3 million.

The Post story by David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell focused on Doral’s revenue decline, noting this:

At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent.

Wacky Times: From A Villa Ribbon Cutting At Doral To A Rose Garden Medal Of Freedom Ceremony

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Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger provides some on-site observations from Tiger Woods’ Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House. He reminds us that it was just five years ago these two were cutting the ribbon on a Woods villa at Doral.

Woods is studiously apolitical. He takes his cues not from Steph Curry but from Michael Jordan. Why he said nothing about his foundation work or learning from his past mistakes is hard to imagine – he had tens of millions watching – but what he did say was heartfelt, that was clear.

Anyway, this country, which takes so many of its cues, social and sporting and otherwise, from Great Britain, does ceremony well, and Monday night at the Rose Garden was pure ceremony. Dozens of cameramen filed out of the grungy White House press briefing room, as crowded and stifling as an inter-island commuter plane, and setup their cameras beyond the white ropes that defined the seating area. The band played “Hail to the Chief.” Tiger was referred to as “Eldrick.”

Also of note, Woods controlled the guest list that was mercifully free of representatives from golf’s major families.

The full ceremony as it aired on Golf Channel:

Medal Of Freedom Ceremony At 6 PM ET: Will Tiger's Foundation Work Be Acknowledged?

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I’m ambivalent on Tiger Woods receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the grand scheme of world issues. It’s an award. A special one at that. And he probably would have gotten it at some point in his life.

The timing seems odd a week before the second major of 2019 given that Woods seems to be back into his win-at-all-costs mode and in a year he has a phenomenal chance to pick off another major or…three.

But he’s only mildly superstitious compared to other athletes, and it’s not exactly an award you can ask to be delayed. Nor is it a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.

The timing could also be viewed as a negative given that Woods should receive this award both for his contributions to sport and culture, but also because of the foundation he has established with already-tangible results in changing lives. So far, it seems like his charitable work has been getting little play in the build-up to today’s 6 pm ET ceremony from the White House (that will be carried live on Golf Channel).

In today’s NY Times front page story by Annie Karni and Kevin Draper, the odd business ties between Woods and Donald Trump are revisited, as are some of the past ties between presidents and medal recipients.

But by honoring him, the president leaves the appearance of using his office to reward a business partner.

“Tiger Woods is obviously a very talented golfer,” said Aaron Scherb, the director of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a watchdog group. But Mr. Trump awarding him the Medal of Freedom “shows he’s willing to use any tool of government to benefit his business and political allies.”

The White House defended Mr. Woods’s selection. “The president thinks Tiger is not only a tremendous athlete but also has a great comeback story,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “He is undisputed as one of the great golfers in history and has broken barriers in the game.”

Both the story and the press secretary never once mention the Woods foundation efforts. Again, not a huge shock and maybe not appropriate until the ceremony takes place, but it’s also a disappointing element to what should be a primary reason for receiving this prestigious medal. If it ends up just being a chance for the President to enjoy positive attention off of Woods’ Masters win, that will be a shame.

The Morning Drive gang’s discussion touched on the Medal making Earl Woods’ declaration many years ago look a bit more prophetic:

"Trump's budget would steer $20M to Jack Nicklaus-backed hospital project"

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From Politico’s Dan Diamond, reporting for Politico on the White House-released 2020 budget steering $20 million to fund a mobile children's hospital project at Miami's Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Thanks to reader HR for sending this.

Nicklaus had lobbied Trump on the golf course in Florida, and he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, D.C., to request funds, say two individuals with knowledge. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds to help Nicklaus develop mobile children's hospitals, one individual said. 

Jack Nicklaus, lobbyist. That’s something I never thought I’d see.

But, as far as pork goes, hard to argue against something that helps pediatric care.

Trump Calls Aberdeen Links Perhaps The Greatest Course In The World And A Relationship Builder

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President Donald Trump retweeted a Martin Hawtree quote regarding the Trump International Links (that Hawtree designed and Trump developed).

Even after years of protests, legal battles, documentaries, financial losses and a huge shift in his popularity in Scotland since initial plans were announced, the President is still calling it a relationship builder of a project.

What exactly prompted the Sunday morning re-Tweet isn’t entirely clear, but it hasn’t gone over well with ethics experts. But I say, what about poor Trump Turnberry? I’m pretty sure it clobbers the Aberdeen design by Hawtree about 9&8.

Slumbers: There Is No Rota But Turnberry One Of Ten Courses In That Thing Where We Rotate Going Around To The Same Facilities

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His English teachers will be proud that R&A Chief Martin Slumbers is sticking to the proper definition of “rota” that actually references a fixed rotation of courses. And with both Turnberry and Lytham on the bypass list, they are not in a rota.

But not out of the Open rota. Or whatever it’s called.

Will Gray for GolfChannel.com included this quote. He’s not wrong! Well, maybe except the Turnberry under consideration part.

"Turnberry will be in consideration for 2023, but it's not a rota," Slumbers said. "We look at all the issues in the round, but Turnberry remains as one of the 10 courses where we could stage the Open Championship."

Trump Properties, E-Verify And The Golf Industry

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After reading Joshua PartlowNick Miroff and David A. Fahrenthold  Washington Post story on the pipeline of illegal Costa Ricans working at various Trump Organization properties for years, it’s easy to see how this will put pressure on the golf industry to either suggest this is a one-off situation, or adopt E-Verify.

Many of the immigrants interviewed worked on the construction of Trump Bedminster, home of the 2022 PGA Championship.

“Many of us helped him get what he has today,” Angulo said. “This golf course was built by illegals.”

The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, including six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were employed at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. All of them said they worked for Trump without legal status — and that their managers knew.

While Mr. Trump now villifies such illegals, the company has adopted the E-Verify system at select properties.

Of 12 Trump golf courses in the United States, three of them — in North Carolina, Southern California, and Doral, Fla. — are enrolled in the E-Verify system, according to a federal database. Eric Trump said that “a few” other clubs, including a Trump course in the Bronx, use a private vendor to screen new applicants. 

The Post story noted that competitors in the industry more consistently rely on E-Verify. But shouldn’t the golf industry, presumably supportive of this policy, proactively push for industry-wide use of the program?

Oh right, they like cheap labor more. Scratch that thought!

Trump Organization Instituting E-Verify At All Golf Properties After Post Story

After a WaPo exclusive on Trump National Westchester firing undocumented workers who had been on the payroll—including one course maintenance worker on staff for nearly two decades—the company will be instituting the E-Verify system at all properties, starting with their golf locations, reports Jonathan O’Connell, Elise Viebeck and Tracy Jan.

“We are instituting E-Verify on all of our properties as soon as possible,” Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said Tuesday, acknowledging that the company currently uses the program only at some locations. “We’re starting with the golf properties, and we are going to be doing all of them.”

The move is the first acknowledgment by the president’s private business that it has failed to fully check the work status of all its employees, despite Trump’s claims during the 2016 campaign that he used E-Verify across his properties. At the time, he called for the program to be mandatory for all employers. 

That should liven up some Golf Industry Show conversations next week!

Presidential Order: Trump Orders Tweaks To Turnberry's New Lighthouse Par-3's

Rear view of the par-3 11th.

Rear view of the par-3 11th.

The MacKenzie and Ebert-revamped Turnberry Ailsa course is spectacular in many ways, with the three-hole stretch at the 9th to the 11th able to stand with any three-hole stretch in the game.

Well it seems President Donald Trump’s July visit—his first since the revamp—prompted some notes. Specifically, making the 9th and 11th greens more receptive. The Daily Record’s Stuart Wilson reports on the Presidential tweaks at 9 and 11:

Turnberry members have been told the 11th, where the most extensive work will take place, could be out of action for up to three months.

The President’s son, Eric, told the Ayrshire Post this week: “We will always look to tweak and make things better where we can.

“This is part of the natural bedding -in process of a new course and we’re making the changes in line with the R&A.

“We want every hole to be perfect and if that means making a few changes like this, we’ll do it.”

I’m curious how much input the R&A has had on any post-reconstruction tweaks. Turnberry is not scheduled to host any R&A events at present.

Go Figure: PGA Tour LatinoAmerica Finale Headed To Trump Doral

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Last I heard the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica was played in…drum roll…Latin America.

Also, multiple sources have reminded me that the PGA Tour was one of several organizations to scold the now President Of The United States for his comments about Mexican immigrants.

The then-candidate Donald Trump then assailed the PGA Tour when it moved the WGC at Trump Doral to Mexico City.

Voila! We have a match made in heaven: Ponte Vedra is jumping at the obvious natural fit by bringing the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica finale to Trump National Doral’s “Golden Palm” course.

Brentley Romine with the confusing details for Golfweek. Did I say confusing? I meant synergistic fit.

Trump Turnberry Misses Profit Forecast By £3 Million

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The Guardian’s Severin Carrell reports on Trump Turnberry’s annual revenue report falling shy of 2017’s predicted income of £18.5 million.

Trump Turnberry’s last accounts show the luxury hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire had an income of £15.2m in 2017 because its takings jumped after he spent more than £100m refurbishing its buildings and courses, and with rooms available at a steep discount.

In January last year, Turnberry’s general manager, Ralph Porciani, told the Guardian he expected 2017 to be the best-performing in the hotel’s history – more than a century – by beating its previous record takings of £16.2m in 2007 by 15% to 20%.

Trump had told the Times that month Turnberry was doing “unbelievably” well because the value of sterling had fallen after Brexit, boosting US and overseas visitors. Turnberry’s earnings for 2017 were much lower than Porciani’s forecast of at least £18.5m though.

The story says the resort is still £107 million in loan debt to President Trump.

Anecdotally, I was struck this summer by how many were still going to Turnberry to test out the courses, but had no plans to stay there for a few days to enjoy the entire facility. Whether this was due to the typical structuring of the traditional American group golf trip or due to cost or for philosophic reasons, was not where you go with a friendly conversation!

Golf Players Poll: Brandel Up, Trump Down, Tour Setups About Right, A Third Concerned About Distance

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The old SI and now all-Golf Magazine/Golf.com players poll is great fun as always, with bad news for President Donald Trump, good news for Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee and a host of other fun topics covered.

But since this blog leans toward course setup, architecture, history and distance debates, the obvious questions of note for yours truly:

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT TOUR PLAYERS ARE HITTING THE BALL TOO FAR?

YES: 32%
NO: 76%

“I just wish I hit it farther.”
“Equipment has taken a ton of skill away from the game.”
“The problem is that the ball goes too straight.”
“Yes — 300 yards doesn’t cut it anymore.”

32% is a steady number given that 100% believe they are paid to say all distance, some manufacturers are actively pressuring players to preach distance and the PGA Tour and PGA of America leadership believes more distance will grow the game.

Three years ago, the number was at 29%, so the slight increase is amazing given the pressures exerted on players to brag about that athleticism and declare the joys of modern technology advances.

As for bifurcation:

SHOULD THERE BE TWO SETS OF EQUIPMENT REGS: ONE FOR PROS, ANOTHER FOR EVERYONE ELSE?

YES: 39%
NO: 61%

“It would ruin the golf industry.”

Amazing to think the golf industry is seen as dependent on what the players play, not on how much people are enjoying the sport or buying equipment based on need or design intrigue or something other than pro golfers.

This one is a huge win for the PGA Tour Rules referees. Huge!

TOUR SETUPS ARE GENERALLY…

…TOO SHORT: 0%
…TOO LONG: 7%
…ABOUT RIGHT: 93%

“Tour setups are typically, well, too lame.”
“Fact: No one bitches when they’re leading the tournament.”

That 44% thought Phil should have been DQ’d does not suggest much admiration from the PGA Tour set for the USGA rules committee.

SHOULD PHIL HAVE BEEN DQ’D AT SHINNECOCK?

YES: 44%
NO: 54%
NO COMMENT: 2%

“He acted like an idiot. If it were me, I’d be out.”
“He should’ve been praised.”

Rick Reilly's Trump Book Coming In May...

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Because this is the wonderful world of book publishing, it has a cover but the book won't be out until May 2019.

What could happen between now and then? What could happen between today and Friday? 

Anyway, USA Today's Adam Woodard on Rick Reilly signing a book deal for Commander In Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump. 

The two do have a history, as Woodard notes...

Reilly has written numerous books, including a handful about golf, such as 2003's Who's Your Caddy, where he details a round in which he caddied for Trump.

Guardian: "Trump golf resort wrecked special nature site, reports reveal"

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Thanks to all who sent Robin McKie's Guardian shocker that running bulldozers, installing irrigation systems and planting new turfgrasses has fundamentally altered the sensitive dunes at Foveran Links, home now to Trump International Links north of Aberdeen.

The news here is in how long it has taken to reach this conclusion publicly and how it might impact recently announced plans to go forward with the remainder of the development.

Scottish Natural Heritage, which has been under pressure for years to speak out on the issue, now acknowledges that serious damage has been done to the site of special scientific interest (SSSI) at Foveran Links on the Menie estate, north of Aberdeen, since the course opened in 2012, the documents show.

As a result, Foveran’s SSSI status – given because of its unusual shifting sands and diverse plant life – now hangs in the balance.

“Construction of the new golf course involved earthworks, planting of trees, greens and fairways, drainage, irrigation and grass planting,” states one of the reports released by Scottish Natural Heritage inspectors. “This has affected the natural morphology of the dunes and interfered with natural processes. Most of its important geomorphological features have been lost or reduced to fragments. Nearby marine terraces have also been reduced to fragments.”

 

The New Yorker On Trump Turnberry And Financing

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The New Yorker's Adam Davidson takes the opportunity created by Donald Trump's weekend trip to Turnberry to examine how the President financed the renovation. 

Davidson's description of the project itself suggests a bit of ignorance about Turnberry's place in the game, its stature as a world class property and as a potential Open rota venue. 

Nonetheless, the question of why Trump took such a huge financial risk compared to his previous project financing methods. 

 

In this case, the questions are simple. Did Trump take a turn, in the midst of his years-long frenzy of overseas deals with questionable partners, toward the sentimental use of his own cash to fund a hopeless money pit? Or has Trump’s business practice stayed constant? Did he purchase and rehabilitate Turnberry, as he did so much else, with other people’s money?

#liveunderpar Files: Paraglider Tells Trump He's "Well Under Par"

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Fearing a call from PGA Tour lawyers looking to protect the greatest slogan in the history of great slogans, a Greenpeace protester flew disturbingly close to President Donald Trump with a "Well Under Par" banner in tow.

Jack Aitchison of the Daily Record with the story and a video clip of the President walking into the Turnberry hotel and the protester getting shockingly close. 

Doral Revenue Falls $41.1 Million In One Year

Harvested from President Donald Trump's asset disclosure, Trump Doral has shown a massive revenue decline from 2016 to 2017. 

Without a PGA Tour event and other lost business, this is a pretty steep decline:

The statement, released Wednesday by the Office of Government Ethics, show how much his properties, golf clubs and businesses earned last year. The highest-grossing Trump property was the Trump National Doral Golf Club at 4400 Northwest 87th Avenue with $74.7 million in 2017, according to Business Insider. While it raked in the most cash last year, the Doral resort also experienced the biggest dip in revenue compared to the previous year’s $115.8 million.

WaPo On Trump's Move To Cash Acquisitions: $240 Million "In The Hole So Far" For Doonbeg, Turnberry

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 Jonathan O'Connell, David A. Fahrenthold and Jack Gillum take a close look at the Trump Organization's shift from loans to cash or mostly-cash purchases in recent years. 

The President's company has infused way more of his own money into golf than he has with is past real estate ventures. The Trump Organization did not dispute the figures listed in the story.

Of most note were the figures associated with Trump International Aberdeen ($62.5 million to date), Doonbeg and Turnberry.

He began buying up land near Aberdeen, on Scotland’s North Sea coast. Trump ultimately paid $12.6 million for the property. He’s spent at least $50 million more to build a golf course there, which was wrapped up in land-use fights and didn’t open until 2012.

In 2014, he shelled out $79.7 million for the huge golf resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland, and Turnberry, Scotland — both of which were losing money at the time. 

The Trump Organization pursued pricey renovations of both courses, during which time the properties have continued to suffer losses. Under Trump, the two courses are at least $240 million in the hole so far, according to British and Irish corporate records. 

While the story is obviously focused on the shift in philosophy, the expenditures at Turnberry involved an aging luxury hotel that is obviously far more expensive to renovate than the two golf courses there, both remodeled in stellar fashion by Martin Ebert.