Players give Trump National Golf Club rave reviews at Senior PGA Championship

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Players give Trump National Golf Club rave reviews at Senior PGA Championship

Professional

Players give Trump National Golf Club rave reviews at Senior PGA Championship

POTOMAC FALLS, Va. — There’s an obvious interest in the site of this week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C., is the second course from Donald Trump’s portfolio of 12 golf clubs in the U.S. to hold a professional tour event, following the WGC-Cadillac Championship two years ago at Trump Doral in Miami, Fla. Two more are on the horizon — this year’s U.S. Women’s Open and the 2022 PGA Championship, both in Bedminster, N.J.

The players in this week’s field have universally agreed on two points: Trump Washington, D.C., is a great test of golf on a beautiful piece of property.

“I like it very much,” said Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, who turned 50 three years ago but is making his Senior PGA debut this week. “It’s a long golf course from the back. It has all kinds of distance. And the greens, there’s a lot of movement on them. I think it’s going to defend itself very well. It’s a great golf course.”

Having spent so much time in Maryland, Fred Funk had visited this week’s venue before but remembered little from the first time he played here. That was back in the early ’90s, when the 36-hole facility was known as the Lowes Island Club. One 18 was designed by Tom Fazio; Arthur Hills did the other.

“The only thing I really remember about it was that you couldn’t see the river back then,” Funk said. “It was all trees. It was like, ‘It’s on the Potomac. Where’s the Potomac? Should be right there.’

Funk returned two weeks ago to get a bit of a refresher course on the facility that has since been renovated with input from Trump, director of golf Kevin Morris, director of grounds Brad Enie and golf course architect Tom Fazio II.

“When Donald bought it, and I don’t even know how long that’s been . . . but the view of that river is spectacular,” Funk said. “It’s just absolutely beautiful, a spectacular backdrop and setting. When you’re up here on the hill, you look down and it’s great. But actually, when you’re down there playing . . . that whole golf course is mainly on a flood plain down there and it’s really pretty. It’s just a really good golf course.”

There are two particularly memorable stretches at Trump D.C. Starting with what is playing this week as the eighth hole, four consecutive holes play parallel to the Potomac River on the left. Later in the round, the excellent and pretty par-3 15th plays directly toward the river, then players make a left turn and play along the Potomac for the final time.

“It had such a British Open feel Tuesday morning,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, “because it was cool, gray, a little misty, there’s no trees and you’re near the water. Obviously it’s not the British Open, but I like the feel of the golf course. I think this is a very good test.”

Said Senior PGA defending champion Rocco Mediate, “The golf course is a perfect major championship course. They could have the young kids’ PGA here in a second if they wanted to because they’ve got the length. It’s really solid. It’s right in front of you; no craziness, just good.”

From the most recent renovation, there were two noticeable changes. The grand, unobstructed water views missing during Funk’s visit of 25 years ago were created, and the greens were expanded and more undulation introduced.

“Some of the putting surfaces have quite a bit more slope than others,” said Morris, “but they’re all distinguished by quadrants that allow for interesting and demanding hole locations. If a player misses in the wrong spot, the ball often will funnel to an area from which it can be difficult to make par.”

As highly regarded as the golf course is thought to be, what the PGA of America learned this week is that conducting a modern-day tour event here requires a high level of logistical creativity.

Because the 18th hole as the members play it closely parallels the first hole and there’s dense woods on the other side, there’s no room for hospitality tents, grandstands, TV towers and the like. So the PGA of America reconfigured the routing for the Senior PGA and implemented a player shuttle service to accommodate players who start at 1 or finish at 18, both spots some 500 yards from the clubhouse. The renumbered sequence means the Senior PGA field isn’t playing any hole in the same order as the members do.

In another unusual twist, players whose rounds begin on the back side for the first two days are starting at No. 11. That hole is easier to reach with player shuttles and it causes less disturbance than had the PGA of America tried to use the 10th hole, where the teeing ground is close to two other greens.

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