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Donald Trump Jr. on the Family Courses

He always figured he would wind up in the family firm. But he had made himself a promise, and after he graduated from Wharton he kept it. "I'd always planned on going out to Colorado, and I didn't want to have any regrets, so I did go. I stayed for a year. I was a fly-fishing guide and worked in a bar, just enough to pay for my ski pass and the other outdoor stuff. I had a good time, but after awhile your mind starts to atrophy. I wanted to get back in the real world and take care of business."

What finally brought him around to the game of golf?"My father started building courses, and I started running out of excuses why I wasn't playing," he said. "At first it was just a good way for me to spend time with my dad in a nonwork environment. But lately I've grown to like it."

"It's important for him to be a good golfer," his father had said. "I mean, he's going to end up having four or five of the best courses in the world."

Before he left for the day, Trump joined Don Jr. and me on the range as we warmed up for the second nine. As he arrived, his face rumpled into its signature pout, familiar to every viewer of The Apprentice.

The range is built on a gentle treelined slope. "I can't understand why we lose so many trees here," he complained. "In Bedminster, I didn't lose one." I asked which trees he meant.

"See the little ones?" he said, pointing far down the slope. "See, they didn't take?" He then pointed to the sides of the teeing area. "Here they take. Red maples and sugar maples. They cost one hundred and six dollars and fiftythree cents each. I just don't understand. They must be doing it wrong."

"Maybe it's that spot," I ventured.

"They're putting them in too deep or something," Trump insisted.

Don Jr. offered his own theory: "Normally, I'd say the balls are whacking 'em before they get big enough to . . ."

"No," said Trump abruptly. "They're putting them in wrong. Pure and simple."

Casting his gaze at all the trees on or near the range, many of them quite old and grand, his eyes lit on the steel girders behind us. His mood lightened. "That's a big-looking clubhouse, eh?" he asked me. It was, I said.

"That's just the first story," he said proudly. "This will open in May. One year to build. Less than a year. This'll be great." Rejuvenated, he turned back toward the range.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go hit balls."

"From a business standpoint, there's just nothing better. I can sit down with you for lunch, and at the end of lunch I know nothing about you. But I can play eighteen holes of golf with you and I know you better than you know yourself. You can't really say, 'If a guy can't putt he's got nothing,' because I see the greatest players in the world missing threefooters. So it's not necessarily the way someone hits the ball. It's intensity. And perseverance. I respect a guy who, even when he's screwing up, doesn't pick up and say, 'Man, get me out of here,' but keeps going until he gets it right."

"In general, I think I've been more low-key than my dad throughout my life. I avoided the media growing up, but as I've evolved into more of a businessman I've come to realize he's very much right: No one's going to give you credit if you don't give yourself credit first. You have to be a confident person. You have to believe in what you're doing and believe you've done a great job with it. As I'm completing the projects I'm working on now—and they're the first things I've really had pretty much full rein with, obviously with guidance—I think I'm becoming more that person every day."


TRUMP INTERNATIONAL GOLF CLUB, West Palm Beach, Florida (1999). The first course Trump built. An eventful par seventy-two by Jim Fazio, replete with big bunkers, elevation changes and waterfalls—7,300 yards of fun where once there stood . . . nothing, or at least nothing but flat, empty land adjacent to the Palm Beach International Airport.

TRUMP NATIONAL GOLF CLUB, WESTCHESTER, Briarcliff Manor, New York (2002). Home of the one-hundred-foot-high sheer stone waterfall that cascades behind the green on the par-three thirteenth hole (price tag: $7 million). The rest of the course ain't bad, either: 7,291 yards, par seventy-two, with a slope of 153 from the back tees. Designed by Jim Fazio.

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL GOLF CLUB, Canouan Island, the Grenadines (2004). Another Jim Fazio eighteen, which opened last summer at the Raffles Resort (which also has a Trump casino). The front nine is fairly compact, the back nine stretches out to make the most of the available ocean views.

TRUMP NATIONAL GOLF CLUB, BEDMINSTER, Bedminster, New Jersey (2004). Opened in September, this 7,600-yard Tom Fazio layout was built on 520 acres of rolling horse country that was once the estate of John Z. DeLorean. It is said to be so perfectly suited to golf that it even brought out the minimalist in its to-the-max owner. "I didn't have to do anything to the land," Trump says. "It's Winged Foot with lakes." A second eighteen is planned, but what Trump most wants to see here in the future is a U.S. Open.

TRUMP NATIONAL GOLF CLUB, LOS ANGELES, Rancho Palos Verdes, California (2005). Much of the eighteenth hole of this Pete Dye-designed seaside course ignominiously slid into the Pacific after a pipe burst under the fairway in 1999. Trump bought the course, then known as Ocean Trails, out of bankruptcy for $27 million in 2002. After extensive renovation and Trumpification, it is scheduled to reopen next spring at 7,200 yards, with wider fairways, island greens and three man-made waterfalls.

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL GOLF CLUB, Itatiba, Brazil (2006). Trump's second course outside the U.S. is a partnership with a young Brazilian entrepreneur, Ricardo Bellino, who wangled an audience with The Donald and sold him on backing a luxury residential and private golf development in the hills outside S‹o Paolo. Jack Nicklaus will design the course; construction is scheduled to start next year.


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