Never Count a Course Before It’s Hatched

Trump International Golf Links 2 (Image: Trump International Golf Links)

Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Image: Trump International Golf Links)

How trouble with environmentalists and reluctant locals has slowed progress at Scotland’s Trump International and Northern Ireland’s Bushmills Dunes, two of golf’s most exciting new projects.


Donald Trump and other golf course developers have learned the hard way never to announce an opening date until environmentalists and other potential naysayers have signed off on a project — and maybe not even then.

Construction on Trump International Golf Links, the centrepiece of a $1.16-billion resort development near Aberdeen on Scotland’s northeast coast, was stalled for more than two years prior to its opening last July by locals who didn’t want such a large, North American-style development in their backyard. Environmentalists also protested that the project would damage the area’s rare 4,000-year-old sand dune system, a site of scientific interest and an important habitat for plants and animals.

Already unpopular with his neighbours, Trump then engaged in a public row with the Scottish government over plans to build an offshore wind farm within sight of his course. Trump argued that the windmills would blight the landscape, and said he wouldn’t invest further in the project until the government backed off. But that was just the usual Trump bluster. Now comes the announcement that a second course is definitely being planned. There are also hints that construction of the resort’s hotel may soon begin.

No word, though, about a proposed opening date for Trump’s second course. The detailed application process, still to be vetted by environmentalists and the notably prickly Aberdeenshire Council, has only just begun.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, another highly anticipated golf development is also encountering problems.

Several months ago construction was set to begin on the $160-million Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort, which was slated to include a championship links by acclaimed Scottish architect David McLay Kidd on natural dunes near the famous Giant’s Causeway.

But then the National Trust — a government agency whose mandate is to protect both natural and man-made treasures — appealed the decision by Northern Ireland minister Alex Attwood to let the project proceed.

Though that appeal was struck down on February 27, the Bushmills Dunes project is now said to be awaiting an infusion of cash before construction can finally begin. A potential investor is rumoured to be Mike Keiser, the Chicago-based visionary behind Oregon’s Bandon Dunes and a partner in Cape Breton’s Cabot Links, Canada’s only true links.

Bushmills Dunes would make a fabulous adornment to an all-star roster of Northern Ireland links that already includes Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.