As regular readers of bunkered might have noticed, over the past few years, we have had quite unparalleled access to American businessman Donald Trump.
However, recently, I was given the opportunity to get closer to him than we have ever got before, when I was invited to play golf with him in Aberdeen.
Mr. Trump was on this side of the Atlantic to inspect his two recent purchases: Doonbeg in Ireland and Turnberry in Ayrshire. During the trip, he also took the opportunity to check how things are progressing at Trump International Golf Links Scotland, which is how the chance to play golf with him came about.
On the day itself, the sun was out and there wasn’t a breath of wind in the air. Perfect conditions, then, for me to get to know the guy who splits opinion in Scottish golf a little better.
I was standing by the caddiemaster when Trump got out his car and wandered over. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and invited me to join him to warm up on the range. Fifteen minutes later, we were on the tee. It was all rather surreal but in a good way.
What was the experience like? Well, I can’t say I have any idea what he’s like in the boardroom - although I’d guess he’s not the sort of guy you mess with - but, on the golf course, Trump is great company. Trust me, I’ve played golf with enough people to know what constitutes a good playing partner. Some people are aloof, disinterested, distant. Not Donald Trump. He is genuinely good fun.
A lot of people scoff at his claims of being a low, single-figure handicapper. I saw nothing, however, to suggest that claim was in any way false. Make no mistake: Donald Trump is a good golfer. A very good golfer, actually. We played the back nine of his Aberdeenshire course, which, in my opinion at least, is the tougher nine. A solid test, therefore, of a player’s ability. From what I saw, Trump has plenty of ability. He compresses the ball (a sign of a good player) and, despite hitting it quite low off the tee, is sneaky long. When I hit the ball out the middle of the club, I can knock it a fair distance but I was rarely in front of him.
A genuine fan of the magazine, Donald Trump was keen to know how business was going.
He also knows his stuff. For example, the third player in our three-ball - a tidy golfer - persisted in trying to chip the ball from tight lies around the green. “I’d be putting that all day long, you just can’t try shots like that around here,” was Trump’s reaction. He doesn’t hang around either. He likes to play fast.
Conversation was easy. He talked about building the course, his plans for Turnberry (I can’t go into too much detail but they sound stunning, especially what he has in mind for the Kintyre Course), and his experiences of playing golf with the likes of Tiger Woods and basketball star LeBron James.
Equally, though, he asked questions. A genuine fan of the magazine, he was keen to know how business was going and so on. He even sounded me out on whether or not he should consider staging a Scottish Open in Aberdeen. “Why not just go for the Ryder Cup?” I suggested. How did he respond? Put it this way: he didn’t disagree.
Conversations about which tournament he should try and attract to Aberdeen notwithstanding, Trump was your everyday, normal playing partner. He was praiseworthy about good shots, encouraging about ‘almost good’ ones, and chatted away to the caddies like any other normal person.
At the end of the round, we shook hands on the 18th green. He thanked me for my company and gave me a message for the rest of the guys back in the office. “Tell them to keep up the good work,” he said. And with that, off he went.
How would I sum up the experience? Eye-opening. I liked the fact that there’s no B.S. with him. That’s probably why some people don’t warm to him but I liked it. If he’d had time, I’d have bought him a pint. And trust me, I don’t say that about everyone.
Donald Trump :: Should he go for the Scottish Open?
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• This article first appeared in issue 132 of bunkered