Nearly 30 years after Donald Trump bought the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., the renovation of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s former estate offers a blueprint for how the real-estate magnate has built a golf empire.
The Mar-a-Lago property, constructed in 1927, needed help when Trump bought it in 1985. Trump, per his modus operandi, poured millions into what the club’s website proclaims as “the crown jewel of Palm Beach.”
The Mar-a-Lago purchase, subsequent cash infusion and eventual elaborate end product illustrates how Trump has become a key player in golf.
Earlier this week, Trump added his 17th and perhaps most distinguished course, Turnberry Resort in Maidens, Scotland, on the Ayrshire coast. The acquisition injects Trump, who already hosts an annual PGA Tour stop via his 2012 acquisition – and subsequent makeover – of Trump Doral in Florida, into the Open Championship rotation. The Turnberry price tag, according to U.K. media reports, was £35.7 million ($60.2 million), but Trump would not confirm the price in an interview with Golfweek.
And now comes news from the PGA of America that Trump has landed two more marquee golf events: the 2017 Senior PGA to Trump National Golf Club near Washington and the 2022 PGA to Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, which also will be the site of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open.
Speaking from his office in New York, Trump said he intends to preserve the Turnberry links, site of four Open Championships, notably the 1977 “Duel in the Sun” in which Tom Watson outlasted Jack Nicklaus. He will, however, make over the Turnberry clubhouse, which looks down on the Ailsa course and the Firth of Clyde in southwestern Scotland.
“I have no intentions of changing one thing of the Open course without the R&A’s saying they want the change to take place,” Trump said.
Even Trump is willing to recognize golf’s hierarchy and defer to the body that governs the game beyond the U.S. and Mexico.
Trump got a good deal on Turnberry. He is, after all, a master dealmaker who typically buys low and sells high. He bought Doral two years ago out of bankruptcy, for a reported $150 million.
Trump maintains that both deals were good, as well as some of the other properties he has purchased during the past five years, after the economic downturn made golf properties relatively cheap versus their inherent value today.
“I never anticipated having such a portfolio,” Trump said.
In reality, the economy allowed Trump to expand his collection of golf properties.
“If not for the economy, I would never have expanded this much, but it’s getting much more difficult to find deals going forward,” he said.
Today, Trump will stand at the dais with PGA president Ted Bishop and chief operating officer Pete Bevacqua to introduce the New Jersey property as host to the ’22 PGA, Trump’s first men’s major.
It certainly won’t be the last.