We may have been too hasty to assume that the Trump Organisation has no plans to complete a major overhaul of Doonbeg — golf course designer Martin Hawtree met with Donald Trump's sons Eric and Don Jnr in Doonbeg today.
Speaking to the Clare Champion's Peter O'Connell earlier this week, Eric Trump said: "Quite frankly, there’s no one better in the world at building than us. It’s what we do. We build golf courses. Not that the golf course here is for rebuild. But we’ll make sure that those areas that are damaged are fixed better than ever."
Given the recent storm damage to the Greg Norman designed course — estimated at €1m by Clare County Council for January's erosion damage alone — it makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity to make changes.
How big these changes will be depends on the new owner and the red-tape that prevented Greg Norman from going near the areas featuring the famous snail Vertigo angustoir, not to mention 51 acres of grey dunes that the Australian was prevented from working into the design.
We're told that Mr Hawtree – the man who redid Lahinch and many other Irish links including Royal Dublin and Portmarnock — and the Trump brothers are to meet with Michael O'Leary, managing director of specialist golf course construction company SOL Golf tomorrow.
Sol Golf has carried out numerous construction and remodelling projects at links and parkland courses across Ireland and Europe, including Doonbeg.
The company has had a hand in the remodelling of venues such as Ballybunion, Muirfield, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal Portrush, The Island, County Louth, Dooks, Lahinch, Rosapenna, Royal Dublin, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Tralee, to name but a few.
Knowing Donald Trump's propensity to take on a major challenge, we wonder if he will be tempted to enter the fenced off areas at Doonbeg and take on Vertigo angustoir, the grey dunes and with them, the Department of the Environment and an army of ecologists.
The snails and the dunes shaped the golf course in that the routing might have been very different had all the terrain at Doonbeg been open game.
The Doonbeg "Factfile" produced by the PR company used by the previous owners, featured the heading "ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION", which explained the special relationship between the owners, the dunes, the snails and red tape:
The Lodge at Doonbeg has taken extreme measures to protect two significant environment elements located onsite: The grey dunes – the designation applied to only the oldest intact dunes – and the endangered snail, Vertigo angustior.
The former are designated a candidate for Special Area of Conservation by Dúchas, the Irish Heritage Service. Under agreement between The Lodge and Dúchas [an executive agency of the former Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, abolished in 2003], 51 acres of grey dunes are permanently fenced off for preservation, while the remainder of the site, including the course, is designated as a proposed Natural Heritage Area.
"Vertigo angustior, a microscopic snail just 2 mm high and 1 mm wide, was discovered onsite during the developer’s environmental impact assessment and is listed for protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. Analysis by the leading Irish expert concluded that snail can coexist in the dunes and on the course. A management plan carried out by the developer continuously monitors and protects the snail habitat. Due to this effort, the snail population has grown to over 60 million from 11 million when the course was developed in 2000."
No doubt the environmentalists, and Vertigo angustior, will be watching developments at Doonbeg with interest.