It’s been an eventful year for the planet’s most famous golf course owner. And for a President focused on ratings, the evaluation of his golf course empire—like his performance in office—has come with mixed results.
Two of President Trump’s international properties cracked GOLF’s ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the World, but none of his domestic properties appeared on GOLF’s Top 100 in the U.S. list for the first time since 2003.
GOLF’s biennial rankings are determined by a 100-member-strong international panel representing 18 countries. Voters include major championship winners, Ryder Cup players, architects, leading amateurs, administrators, journalists, photographers, and more than a dozen connoisseurs who’ve managed to play all of the world’s Top 100 courses. Each panelist evaluates a ballot of 522 courses, and points are accrued based on how the panelists rank them.
In GOLF’s 2015 U.S. rating, Trump National (Old Course) at Bedminster and the Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral—each coming off of redesigns—made the top 100. But as minimalism and subtlety have come further in vogue, Trump’s opulent American properties have dipped in the rankings. Doral, his Miami-area resort-style course, had played host to a PGA Tour event since 1962 until this year, when the event moved to Mexico City. Bedminster, which Trump dubbed the “Summer White House,” played host to this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. Trump International in West Palm Beach, the lavish property linked to Mar-a-Lago (aka, the Winter White House”), last made the U.S. Top 100 in 2011.
President Trump’s international properties fared better. Trump International in Aberdeen, Scotland, a 2012 design by Martin Ebert set against a dramatic North Sea backdrop, earned the No. 46 ranking on the World list—a two-spot improvement from 2015. Trump Turnberry, which was a highly rated course long before Trump purchased the property in 2014, underwent a series of well-received changes in the past two years. The renovation improved Willie Fernie’s original 1909 design in the eyes of raters, with the course jumping from No. 23 in 2015 to No. 16 this year.
Several new Trump designs could vie for Top 100 rankings in the coming years. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point opened in 2015 and has garnered attention as the first course built in New York City in a half-century, and could contend for GOLF’s next edition of Top 100 Courses You Can Play, which comes out next year.
Trump Dubai recently opened for play in an expansive development outside the wealthy city, and from a purely golf perspective, the course has received near-universal praise. Our Alan Shipnuck noted that the Gil Hanse design “is one helluva course,” and that “rather than the flat, boring target golf that is typical of Middle Eastern courses, Trump Dubai evokes the style and substance of Hanse’s Olympic Course in Rio.” Tour pros Graeme McDowell and Tyrell Hatton also offered glowing reviews.
But Shipnuck also reported the ways in which the course has raised questions. Potential conflicts of interest arise from the course’s ties to the U.A.E. government. The New York Times reported that migrant workers on the property, who generally make between $200 and $400 per month, were being paid weeks or even months late by subcontractors involved in construction. And the Trump name was also temporarily removed from the property following his campaign promise calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S.
Tiger Woods is designing another course in conjunction with Trump’s company, also in Dubai, slated to open next year.