Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire course set to host Scottish Open
The European Tour will come under fire if favoures venue is indeed selected for event
Donald Trump is escorted by Scottish pipers at the official opening of the Trump International Golf Links course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on July 10th 2012. Photo: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images
Donald Trump’s relationship with golf is poised to remain in sharp focus, with the US president’s course on the outskirts of Aberdeen in the frame to host the 2019 Scottish Open. The event’s sponsors, Aberdeen Asset Management, are keen that the tournament returns to the north east of the country; Trump International Golf Links is currently the favoured venue.
The European Tour confirmed on Thursday that Gullane in east Lothian will be the home course for the 2018 Scottish Open. No mention was made of the 2019 venue – and an announcement is not expected in the near future with the European Tour publicly adamant no decision has been made – but Trump’s course, opened in 2012, is understood to be in pole position having initially been put forward for next year.
European Tour officials are understood to have visited Trump International on several occasions as they assess the site’s tournament viability. Such checks are standard, especially for an event as high profile as the Scottish Open. Royal Aberdeen, which hosted the 2014 Scottish Open, is among alternatives being considered given the level of backdrop noise which will be attached to any Trump plan.
Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset’s co-founder and chief executive, is close enough to Trump to have attended the president’s inauguration in January. With the Scottish Open broadcast live on the other side of the Atlantic, there is a growing link between that tournament and the United States.
Any such move would, however, be highly controversial. Among those who would need to be happy about it are Rolex, who have included the Scottish Open in their new and enhanced series on the European Tour. The Scottish government is also a partner in the tournament but did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment regarding it being held at Trump International.
A spokesperson for the European Tour said: “No decision on future venues of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open has been taken beyond 2018. Our focus is on delivering a successful championship, with its strongest field to date, at Dundonald Links next month followed by our return to Gullane next year.”
It has become a recent trend for the Scottish Open and women’s equivalent to be held on the same course. Trump’s link to the Scottish Open is nothing new; in 2015 on a visit to Aberdeenshire he stated: “The Scottish Open is coming. The Scottish Open wants to be here forever, they think this is the best course they’ve ever seen.”
Golf’s authorities have wrestled with how to align Trump’s series of controversial comments with the concept of an inclusive sport. A World Golf Championship was removed from Trump’s Doral venue on the outskirts of Miami after incoming sponsors became concerned regarding the all-consuming narrative of the president surrounding the event. It is now played in Mexico City.
The US Women’s Open is set to take place next month, despite protests, at Trump National in New Jersey. The R&A has been continually vague regarding its stance on Turnberry, which also falls under the Trump umbrella, as an Open Championship venue. One of the world’s leading players, Rory McIlroy, suffered a wave of criticism after accepting an invite to play golf with Trump earlier this year.
Trump’s Aberdeenshire course, which employs 95 people, has been mired in negative publicity since before it was built owing to disputes with local residents and authorities over planning and environmental issues.