Donald Trump the golf course mogul is at it again. If his deal to buy bankrupt Doral Resort & Spa for $170 million stands up through the bidding process, he’ll not only own one of South Florida’s iconic properties, he’ll have his second PGA Tour venue — this time a true bedrock stop for the world’s best players: The World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
But that, in a sense, is secondary for Trump. He wants to take a somewhat downtrodden yet respected brand and bring it back to high-end prominence as only he says he can.
“I made a deal to buy it, absolutely,” Trump told Fairways + Greens on the heels of the Oct. 14 announcement that the sale was imminent. “I’ve known [Doral] for years. I like doing things like this. You’ve seen what I’ve done in California [Trump National Los Angeles], where we’re going to do 48,000 rounds this year. It’s been a real success. So Doral is another example of a turnaround; we’ve got to make it something special. It’s got some great things going for, but it’s going to need a lot of investment, a lot of imagination, a lot of intelligence.”
Built in 1962, the Doral property sits on 650 acres with a pool complex, water slide, and five golf courses. The Marriott-managed hotel is also a popular destination for large groups, meetings, and local events.
While Trump has made a habit of buying golf courses and resorts over the past several years — usually snatching them from the jaws of bankruptcy, as is the case with Doral — he’s mostly gone with private clubs in the Northeast. Trump National Los Angeles, which he bought in 2004, was an exception; it’s fully public and on track to do a respectable 48,000 rounds this year. Then came his acquisition of a Puerto Rico course next to Gran Melia Resort, which hosts a PGA Tour event every March (ironically, directly opposite the Doral event). And next summer, his much-anticipated and controversial new course in Aberdeen, Scotland, will open among what Trump calls “the world’s tallest dunes.” But right now, Doral is front and center in his developer’s mind; beyond the $170 million sale price, he and his financial partners expect to put another $150 million into stem-to-stern improvements.
“It’s got to go to the golf course, but the bigger money has to go to the hotel rooms and the amenities surrounding the course, the infrastructure — the buildings, the convention areas. The Blue Monster is a great course, but it can be enhanced substantially to make it even better.” According to Bloomberg News, Trump is paying all cash, and the he entire revival process will take up to two years.
In the short term, Trump sees his relationship with the PGA Tour strengthening. After all, the Doral event now has the high-profile WGC imprimatur on its side, and players respect the Blue Monster as a fine test. “I don’t see the Tour wanting to make a change,” Trump says. “It’s a great course; it’s probably the greatest 18th hole in all of golf. I’ve seen so many tournaments won and lost, mostly lost, on that hole. It’s brutal. I think the Tour is very happy I bought it. I have the kind of money necessary to pout it back into pristine condition.”
Trump Doral (or whatever it ends up being called) is, of course, his second South Florida golf address. Trump International in Palm Beach is a fully private concern, a Top 100 course, and also hosts a Tour-related event, the ADT Skills Challenge.
No doubt Trump is also angling to bring a big event to his Martin Hawtree-authored new course on Scotland’s northeast coast, which, he says, “will go down as the greatest course anywhere in the world.” It’s slated to open for public pay July 1, 2012.
“The course is finished other than growing in; it’s spectacular even beyond what I thought. I own the Great Dunes of Scotland, the largest in the world, right next to Royal Aberdeen. There are no dunes like these.”
According to longtime golf journalist George Peper, who keeps a home in St. Andrews, the course has the bones to back up the boss’s bombast. It’s easily Top 100 material. Eventually it will also be the centerpiece of a huge resort development.
“It’s a 2,000 acre project; the golf course is on 600 acres, with nothing built around it,” Trump continues. “I don’t want to build anything around it. But the other phases of the development will open up as the economy gets better.”