Doonbeg a bargain for knowledgeable billionaire

Billionaire Donald Trump is a shrewd investor when it comes to golf clubs

In the golfing world, Donald Trump is a serious player. Not, admittedly, when it comes to winning green jackets or claret jugs or such like. But in terms of accumulating and developing a portfolio of exclusive golf resorts, he is the unquestioned master.

Trump International
The acquisition of Doonbeg Links – re-branded Trump International Golf Links, Ireland – for a reputed €15 million would appear to be the best bargain that Mr Trump, an avid golfer, has or will make in a career that has seen him become a multi-billionaire on the back of his real estate and property business.

Trump was introduced to golf by his late father, Fred, who started the family’s property empire and the love of the game has grown into a self-avowed passion.

In recent years, he has developed a portfolio of golf resorts that is unmatched by any other golf course owner – some started from scratch on virgin terrain, others acquired and enhanced.

Courses with the Trump name can be found in the United States, Puerto Rico, the United Arab Emirates, Scotland and, now, Ireland.


As Ernie Els, the South African who has won four Major championships in his career, put it when speaking at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami last year after Trump had acquired the property for $170 million (€120 million) and set about upgrading it: "He's buying up a lot of golf courses. I don't know if you've noticed, but he's really one of the bigger players in the world of golf."

Money, clearly, is not an object for Trump when he is creating exclusive golf resorts for his portfolio.

It is estimated that the construction cost of the Trump resort in Aberdeen in Scotland came in at close to €110 million, which puts the acquisition of Doonbeg a course designed by Greg Norman for a fraction of that cost in to some context.

Whether building a course from scratch or acquiring an existing one, Trump has used some of the world's most renowned golf course architects to put his exclusive branding on the product: Gil Hanse, for instance, was hired to redesign the famed Blue Monster at Doral; Tom Fazio was employed to refine the original design of Jerry Pate at Trump National in New Jersey; his Aberdeen course, in honour of his Scottish mother, was designed by Martin Hawtree.

Major investment
Of that "passion" for golf, Trump – speaking at the time of his acquisition of Doral – explained: "All I do is provide the canvas [for the designers]. You know, it's not my major business, but I love golf and I've had a great relationship with golf."

Once, Trump was asked why he invested so heavily in golf.

He replied: “I have friends that are very successful people and they love to garden. And I like to garden, too, I guess in a much bigger way . . . plus, my golf courses all do very well.

“They are all winners; they are all top of the line. And I started off building them, and then I started buying them.

“And I like buying them better. And I don’t buy [everything]. I turn down 10 for every one I buy, and I only buy if it’s either the best or can be the best.”

In acquiring Doonbeg, he has found a readymade fit for his exclusive portfolio. This links is one of the most acclaimed on the island, particularly because of its five-star lodges.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times