Turnberry: The little bit of Britain that belongs to Donald Trump
Away from the protests that have accompanied his visit to Britain and in between diplomatic meetings, US President Donald Trump fitted in a game of golf with his son Eric.
Trump stayed in Turnberry, Scotland — one of his luxury golf resorts — for the weekend before traveling to Finland for a summit Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the US President attended the NATO summit and visited the UK.
“I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf — my primary form of exercise! The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!” tweeted Trump Saturday.
He was was later pictured playing with his son on Turnberry’s Ailsa course. Last year Eric launched the new “King Robert the Bruce” golf course at the Trump Turnberry resort in Ayrshire.
As a private citizen, Trump slammed President Barack Obama for hitting the links and made it a campaign issue. However, since being in office himself, Trump has spent more than 100 days at a golf club that bears his name, according to a CNN count.
This portion of the US President’s trip to Britain is private and Trump and his wife Melania have no scheduled public events.
The 72-year old, whose mother was Scottish, has often spoken of his affection for Scotland and has reportedly invested some £200 million ($287 million) in Trump Turnberry, renovating an area steeped in history.
Trump’s name has been emblazoned high and wide at Turnberry in southwestern Scotland, ever since he bought its famed links golf resort in 2014.
Turnberry is one of two high-profile courses he owns in Scotland, the other the Trump International Golf Links situated amid the dunes of Aberdeen.
Police and security personnel searched vehicles waiting to enter the resort on Saturday, while outside protestors held up an array of anti-Trump placards. At a nearby beach one protestor was wearing a costume in the style of the ‘Handmaid’s Tale.
Earlier this year, the dystopian novel’s author Margaret Atwood said the US is becoming more “Gilead-like.” Gilead is a place where women are stripped of rights, separated from their children and have lost the ability to fight for better treatment without endangering their lives.
Turnberry is a little bit of Britain where the US leader holds sway and the mood was overwhelmingly positive when CNN spoke to residents during the reopening of Turnberry in 2016.
“I think it all looks fabulous and will bring a lot of revenue into the village and the surrounding areas,” said nearby B&B owner Christina Auld, describing Trump as a “lovely guy,” having met him on one of his previous trips to the area.
Willie McDines, a veteran caddie master at Turnberry, admitted he’d initially harbored misgivings about the American’s involvement, but had quickly changed his mind.
“When they started talking about redoing the course, I was saying to myself … ‘are they going to ruin this?’,” McDines told CNN. “When you see (the results), it’s absolutely stunning. Mr Trump has done exactly what he said he would.”
“I’ve seen quite a lot of comings and goings here over the years,” he added, “but this is the best one yet.”
Trump was heavily involved in the redesign of the 112-year-old resort, paying particular attention to the Ailsa course, host of the British Open on four occasions since 1977.
It was on these links that the Tom Watson defeated Jack Nicklaus in the legendary “Duel in the Sun.”
And it was here that the billionaire businessman and would-be President oversaw the radical transformation of the ninth hole, reworking it from a par four into a spectacular par three that stretches across the water alongside the famous Turnberry lighthouse.
Trump’s hope was that the revamped course would soon play host to the Open — golf’s oldest major tournament — once again.
Protests & ‘ownership issues’
Except it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Despite near-universal approval of the course itself, Trump’s political views have proven far more divisive, and it now seems highly improbable the Open will be staged there during Trump’s tenure.
“It would be very complex having an Open at Turnberry at the moment,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers in February this year, alluding to “ownership issues.”
It’s also looking increasingly unlikely that the sea breeze will be the only thing that greets him when he arrives on the South Ayrshire coast.
Around a dozen activists from “Stand Up to Racism Scotland” (SUTR) took to the course Thursday, armed with placards and banners insisting the resort’s owner is “not welcome.”
They shouted “lock up Trump, let the children go,” according to national newspaper The Scotsman, condemning the separation of families at the US Mexico border.
SUTR spokesperson Charlotte Ahmed said she hoped “tens of thousands” would take to the streets of Scotland to join the protests later in the weekend.
There were whispers of discontent in May when Turnberry banned the country’s best-selling soft drink, Irn-Bru, over fears it would stain the resort’s luxury carpets.
There may be even greater outcry when Trump takes to his own fairways this weekend.