Businessmen eye Heritage Hall at St. Andrews

A view of Hamilton Hall beside the 18th hole at St Andrews, Scotland.

A view of Hamilton Hall beside the 18th hole at St Andrews, Scotland.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The home of golf seems to be up for sale. Donald Trump and Herb Kohler are living proof that money can buy anything.

Trump’s planned golf course on the Menie Estate near Aberdeen keeps thundering on toward realization. Trump received good news last night when Aberdeen Council refused to rule out compulsory purchase orders for four properties hampering the project.

The prospect of four families being turned out of their homes for the sake of a golf course does not bear thinking about. I’m sure whole villages have been shifted in other parts of the world to make room for golf courses, but we’re supposed to be civilized over here. Imagine what the families feel like not knowing if they are going to continue living in their own home.

The argument for building the golf course is the business it will bring into the region. I’m not so sure.

Scotland already has golf courses that don’t seem to be making much of a go of it in this financial climate. Look at Turnberry and the ludicrous money Leisurecorp has spent on it. The £85 million spent will take a long time to recoup.

Why Trump and his people think a luxury resort in Aberdeen will have any better chance of success than Turnberry is beyond me. Aberdeen is a nice city, but the season doesn’t last very long.

Besides, Scotland doesn’t need any more high-end resorts. What it needs is affordable, well-run hotels and golf courses. We’ve got courses in this country charging upwards of £150 per round. Why pay that when you can visit any number of gems for a fraction of the price?

As for here at St. Andrews, Trump is said to be interested in buying Hamilton Hall, the former student residence behind the 18th green that was recently earmarked to become luxury apartments.

Trump has competition from Old Course Hotel owner Herb Kohler and Irish businessman Dermot Desmond. Kohler visited the property during this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship and is said to be considering an offer to buy the now derelict sandstone building.

Former golf course designer Richard Wax is dismayed that this part of St Andrews heritage might fall into the hands of wealthy businessmen and will only be for the elite.

“The town’s core message is ‘golf for all’ but increasingly, ‘Private/Keep Out’ signals are being generated to the detriment of the image of the town,” Wax told The Times newspaper.

Wax is fronting a consortia to try to buy Hamilton Hall. “Our project is conceived to regenerate the economic life of St. Andrews and Fife. It would bring quality business into town on a year-round basis for the benefit of hotels, bed and breakfasts and the commercial activity across the board.”

Small businesses in the town already feel aggrieved that Kohler’s Old Course hotel gets preferential treatment from the Links Trust because wealthy guests can get tee times through booking rooms in his hotel. Needless to say, any chance that he might take over another part of the town would not go down well.

There is a good chance both projects will get the go ahead and be for the wealthy elite only. The endangered residents on the Menie Estate are living proof that cash is King in Scotland for Sale.

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