Trump's swing is like one of his self-titled buildings— he puts everything he has into it. You want shoulder turn, hip turn, weight shift, torso rotation?His swing gives you more of them all. The wonder is, it works. Much occurs between address and impact. Forget "quiet lower body." Trump is strong and surprisingly flexible for a fifty-eightyear-old who spends most of his time in a suit. Watching him, you think that if the clubface gets back to where it began he's going to murder the ball. It does, and he does.
Typical was the par-five fifth, 490 yards from the blues. Trump walloped a tee shot that left him 175 uphill. "You like five-iron, Alvin?" he asked our caddie. Alvin shook his head. "Six-iron," said Trump, pulling the club. "You like it, Alvin?"
"I like it," said Alvin.
Trump hunkered down and swung. The ball soared, then started to drop straight at the just partly visible pin.
"Perfect," said Alvin.
"Be the club," said Don Jr., already handy with the lingo.
We trooped up the hill. "You gotta remember this," Trump called to me. Then, louder, he announced, "If I read that I'm a shit golfer, I'm going to be very pissed off."
We got to the green. Trump was seven feet from the flag. He had hit each approach that tight, good ball striking even if it is your own course.
Not that he hit every shot that well. On the par-five twelfth he pulled his drive into the left rough, sliced a wild second onto a hill on the right, topped his third and chopped a recovery that bounced down into the fairway. But from there he pitched brilliantly over a creek to seven feet and holed a slippery downhiller for a heroic bogey. After which, even he was momentarily speechless.
Trump has an unusual putting stroke. He lifts the stick as he pulls it back. I asked why. "I was with Nick Faldo the other day," said Trump, in case we had forgotten, "and he asked me the same thing. I do it because I don't want to scuff the ground coming into the ball."
"He's an amazing putter," offered Don Jr. "The best he plays is under pressure. If he's playing a relaxed round, he doesn't care. If he's playing with the best golfers in the world, he'll give them the game of their lives, and they can't believe it. If there's money on the table or he's competing with someone, it's a different level of intensity with him."
Don Jr. is a natural athlete. His swing is compact and relaxed. He doesn't have to sweat length. Keeping the ball in play is another matter. When one of his shots would take off for parts unknown, his father would say, "Whoops. Take it again, Hon'. We've got plenty of time today." After a good shot, he'd offer genuine encouragement.
"What a nice shot, Hon'. That's a great shot. C'mere." At one point he threw his arm around Don Jr.'s neck and pulled. I thought he was going to give him a noogie, but he stopped short of that.
Walking back to the clubhouse, I asked Trump if he offers Don Jr. any instruction. "I leave him alone on the golf course," Trump said.
"He's helpful on the driving range, though," Don Jr. volunteered. "I can work with the pro for an hour, then he'll come by and say, 'Just do this.' He makes things very easy to understand."
"Now, in business," Trump resumed, "I give him plenty of instruction. But he loves it and he's doing a good job. Donnie's very smart. The biggest question I had with him in terms of the business was whether or not he would like it. And it turns out he loves it. And I think that's my biggest surprise."
Don Jr. says that his father cuts him no slack, businesswise. "If anything, he holds me to perhaps a higher standard, simply because he expects me to know this stuff. There are certain things where he'll go"—growl voice—" 'How do you not know that?' Like, I don't know how I would have ever known that, but okay. There may be times when he is not quite reasonable, but I don't think he's ever been unfair with me."
How do people in the company respond to him, knowing he's the boss's son?"Our organization is so tight that if you make it there a year, you'll be there twenty years. So a lot of the people who work there have known me since I was trick-or-treating in the office. I think they understand that I've kind of been brought up to do some of these things, that I've gotten the education. I work with them. I don't feel I pull rank."
The unexpected thing about all three of Trump's grown kids is that they seem down-to-earth and at ease with both themselves and their famous father. "We were spoiled in many ways growing up," Don Jr. said later that afternoon as we played the front nine, Trump having headed off for a ribbon cutting. "Culturally, we could travel and see the world. We had the best educations money could buy. But I think both of my parents were always very strict." Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric's mother is Ivana Trump, who is not only a high-energy perfectionist in her own right, she was also a ski racer known for her daredevil attitude.
"We weren't given exorbitant allowances," Don Jr. continued. "I started out working summers in Atlantic City when I was fourteen or fifteen. I was a dock attendant at Trump Marina, docking boats nine hours a day for minimum wage plus tips. If I wanted to spend money during the school year, I had to earn it then."
Don Jr. looks back on those experiences fondly. "My parents really instilled the value of a dollar," he said. "I notice it now in business, when I'm dealing with people, and they say, 'It's a rounding error. Who cares?It's a couple bucks.' Well, a couple bucks is a couple bucks. And those couple bucks add up over the course of an $800 million project."