Donald Trump once knocked in a hole-in-one at Pebble Beach with millions of television viewers watching, but that’s not his proudest moment in golf.
For the on- and off-camera billionaire, his money shot was the January opening of Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, just southwest of Los Angeles. One of six completed courses in the growing Trump Golf family, the Southern California links are the most expensive in history but well worth the price, according to Trump.
It was funded, he says, by investment capital totaling $264 million (not all of it Trump’s, he is quick to point out), including $61 million for the 18th hole alone. Controversy concerning the treatment of the site followed the course’s development like a caddy, but with every hole featuring a view of the Pacific, the club has become a regular stop for celebrities, avid players and wherever the twain shall meet.
In comparison to that, a hole-in-one pales.
“I like building courses more than I like playing,” Trump says. “There’s something very beautiful about the movement of earth, so basic. When I had friends of mine who loved gardening, I never understood that. But when you think about it, building a golf course is like building a garden on a large scale.”
Trump learned to play golf on public courses while attending the Wharton School of Finance at U. of Pennsylvania in the late 1960s, and tries to get out once a week, saying that if he can “stretch it two days on a weekend,” he’s happy.
But when he’s in a suit and tie, his mind doesn’t wander off to imaginary rounds of golf. Rather, he’s more likely to muse about the seventh course he has in development, in Brazil.
Trump drove into golf course development in the 1990s when, while determining how to develop 350 acres of land in West Palm Beach, he realized that it would make a “fabulous” golf course.
“I’m very much involved in the design of the course,” Trump says. “I understand golf, and I understand land and earth-moving, and I have a lot to say about it.”