The self-confessed billionaire confirmed ahead of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami that British designer Martin Hawtree will either enhance the existing course or completely redesign a new links if plans to rebuild what is now called Trump International Golf Links, Ireland prove feasible and get the green light.
“There are tremendous dunes there and they weren’t able to use them, which is sad,” Trump said of the original course design, which was unable to use 51 acres of grey dunes that were designation as a Special Area of Conservation by the now defunct agency Dúchas. “It’s very sad for tourism.”
A microscopic snail just 2mm high and 1mm wide — ‘Vertigo angustior’ — was discovered onsite during the developer’s environmental impact assessment and listed for protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. However, Trump believes that the battle with the snails is not over and he may well take it on with Hawtree, rather than Norman, at the helm.
“Greg Norman did an incredible job, considering he wasn’t allowed to work in the dunes and we are using that course and changing it,” he said of the course which suffered an estimated €1m in storm damage and coastal erosion earlier this year. “I have a lot of time and I have a lot of money and the best thing for Ireland is that you allow that great site to have one of the great courses of the world. And I have hired for that purpose, Martin Hawtree, to study it.
“Depending on the study, we may leave it and enhance it or go for an entirely new course. It’s a shame because the microscopic snail is found all over the world. When they did that, they thought it was endemic to that site but it is found all over the world. We are not talking about an endangered species. And they were restricted from building a great course because of that.”
Asked if he feared conflict with ecologists or environmentalists, he said: “If the environmentalists kick up, I am not concerned. If we build one of the great courses of the world, that’s a great thing for Ireland and a great thing for tourism. If a microscopic snail that’s all over the world can hold that up, I would think Ireland would not be happy about that and I would think they would be on my side.”
Norman said at the Honda Classic last week that he had spoken to Trump about Doonbeg but had no idea about his plans.
However, the Australian was more forthcoming on the snails that prevented him from routing the course through many of the great dunes.
“We weren’t allowed, and that was 15-16 years ago,” he said. “Maybe times change, but I doubt it. I think those snails have a bigger voice than us. And they have multiplied since then.”
Trump is concentrating his European investment in Doonbeg, which he purchase for a reported €15m last month, having decided not to build a second course at his Scottish links resort near Aberdeen, having failed to stop plans for a proposed wind farm there.
“Until they give up that charade of these ugly turbines that kill all the birds and probably make people sick with the humming noise and just destroy the environment, until they give that up... I’m focusing our efforts on Doonbeg in terms of Europe,” he said. “I said I’m going to build a second course and other things (in Scotland), when they abandon that nonsense of the wind farms. In the meantime, I bought Doonbeg, and I’m sure Scotland is not exactly thrilled about that; I can tell you for a fact they are not.”
As for a planning application, due for decision on March 30, by Clare Coastal Wind Power Ltd to erect nine 85m wind turbines 2km south of the village of Doonbeg, Trump is not worried. “There is a plan for a wind farm but I think the people of Ireland and the representatives of Ireland are too smart to allow that to happen,” Trump said. “It will kill tourism.”