Less than a year after "blowing up" Doral's Blue Monster to create what a radically different challenge for world's elite in this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship, Donald Trump is considering a complete rebuild of Doonbeg that could put him on another environmental collision course.
A bigger and better Doonbeg sounds fantastic but Trump's master plan could bring him into conflict with environmentalists over the protected dunes and the microscopic snails that stymied the original Greg Norman project and forced the Australian to create a less than satisfactory course routing.
A self-confessed billionaire, Trump confirmed at Trump National Doral in Miami on Wednesday that British designer Martin Hawtree will either enhance the existing Doonbeg course or completely redesign a new links, providing the 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, designated as a Special Area of Conservation by the now defunct agency Dúchas. “It’s very sad for tourism.”
A microscopic snail just 2 mm high and 1 mm 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 that 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 €1 million in erosion damage from the January and February storms that lashed Ireland.
“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. We they did that, they though 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 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.”
Trump is concentrating his European golf investment in Doonbeg, which he purchased for a reported €15 million 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 85 metre wind turbines 2 km south of the village of Doonbeg, Trump is not concerned either.
“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."
While Trump is an admirer of Norman, the Great White Shark is now out of the loop. Hawtree, who works extensively for the R&A and created Trump International in Scotland, is the preferred option for links work in Europe.
Asked about Doonbeg during last week's Honda Classic, Norman said 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 that us. And they have multiplied since then."