Irish golf tour operators weigh in on Donald Trump's potential impact at Doonbeg

It's no secret that Donald Trump made a few enemies while building his Trump International Golf Links, Scotland.

Tour operators who sell golf packages in Ireland said Trump has received a warm Irish welcome since buying the Lodge at Doonbeg in County Clare in February for a reported 15 million euros. But will it last? Trump does have some turf wars potentially looming against another wind farm and supporters of the rare snail that derailed Greg Norman's original vision for his links course at Doonbeg.

Marty Carr, the CEO of Carr Golf Travel, said the fact that Doonbeg previously had a popular American owner (Kiawah Partners of South Carolina) should help Trump. The 500-acre property along the Atlantic Ocean will eventually be rebranded the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

"The Irish are very resilient and open minded," Carr said. "We are closer to Americans than the Scottish. We are like the 51st state. There is a greater appreciation and understanding of what comes with (American ownership). In Scotland, he was taking on the planners with a new build. Doonbeg is already there. The previous builders and developers were well liked. You have one American owner (transferring) to another. That will stabilize jobs. The majority of people are happy and appreciate and accept this."

Trump has already hired Martin Hawtree, his designer at Trump International Golf Links, Scotland, to possibly completely rebuild Doonbeg's links and to address costly erosion caused by winter storms. Hawtree is well respected in Ireland for his work on legendary links at Lahinch, Royal Dublin and Portmarnock. Trump and Hawtree could attempt to design new holes into the dunes originally off limits to Norman: 51 acres of grey dunes and other now-fenced-in areas home to the Vertigo angustior, a microscopic snail listed for protection under the European Union's Habitats Directive.

"In my views, there is no better man to work on the links than Hawtree," Carr said. "I expect to see changes. I'm not sure how much the snail will make it difficult. I'm not sure what the state of things is there. Mr. Trump is not used to taking no."

Case in point: Trump scaled back his plans in Scotland after losing a legal challenge over an offshore wind farm. A vote to erect nine wind turbines two kilometers south of the village of Doonbeg could take place later this month, another potential snag in Trump's vision for his new resort.

No matter what happens, Trump's name recognition should ultimately help a struggling Irish golf market rebound quicker, according to Gordon Dalgleish, the president and co-founder of PerryGolf, a luxury tour operator.

"The last few years Ireland hasn't rebounded like Scotland" when it comes to golf tourism, he said. "It doesn't hurt that someone as high profile as Trump is engaged."

Justin Farrell, who founded the Links of Ireland in 2013, agreed.

"There is no doubt that Ireland will benefit from the considerable resources and marketing campaign the Trump Organization will put in place to promote both their Scottish and Irish resorts. I believe the more companies out there promoting Ireland, the better.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Irish golf tour operators weigh in on Donald Trump's potential impact at Doonbeg
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