Trump International Golf Links at Balmedie will host the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Donald Trump’s course near Aberdeen has landed the honour of hosting the event after impressing European Tour officials.
An announcement on the future host venues for the tournament, which will be played at Gullane next month before moving to Castle Stuart near Inverness in 2016, is imminent.
But the Press and Journal understands plans to take the tournament to the west coast of Scotland after the Highlands have been delayed following a successful pitch from the American billionaire, pictured right, to the tournament sponsors, the European Tour and the Scottish Government.
Trump, who will formally open his new clubhouse at the Menie Estate today, hinted an announcement is expected when he said: “Well, we’ll see what happens. I think you’ll be hearing something about that pretty soon actually.”
Trump International’s 18-hole championship course, designed by Martin Hawtree, which only opened in 2012, is regarded as one of the best courses in the world by the American billionaire, with its spectacular dunes providing a stunning backdrop at the exclusive development.
With the Scottish Open enjoying an international profile due to its live broadcast on US television, European Tour officials hope the association with Trump will further bolster the event’s reputation.
The move to Trump International has also been welcomed by the professionals on the Tour.
The tournament has become a popular event for the world’s leading golfers to hone their craft the week before the Open championship.
The chance to play links golf in preparation for the third major of the season has increased the quality of the field and the prize fund on offer at the event.
The likes of Americans Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, world number one Rory McIlroy and last year’s winner Justin Rose are expected to take part.
The creation of a ‘national jewel’
When he proclaimed in 2010 he would create a national jewel and the world’s greatest golf course in the north-east of Scotland, Donald Trump set the standard high.
But the American billionaire businessman is not a man who cuts corners in his pursuit of greatness.
That’s why his bold vision for Trump International Golf Links has become a reality in little more than five years with the European Tour preparing to bring the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open back to the north-east in 2017.
The stunning course, built on the Menie Estate, Balmedie, near Aberdeen and opened as recently as July 2012, will become the new home of Scottish golf’s flagship European Tour event for three years, with the event scheduled to return to Trump International for further stagings in 2019 and 2020.
The awarding of the tournament represents a remarkable feather in the cap for the course and its owner, who can now look forward to celebrating its fifth birthday in the company of the best players in the world in 2017.
It is no more than the American, who also bought Open championship venue Turnberry last year, expected.
Trump overcame several years of objections before he was able to make his dream course a reality and the development found instant admirers among the PGA and European Tour officials when it was formally opened.
Trump was joined by Ryder Cup stalwart Colin Montgomerie, chief executive of the PGA Sandy Jones and European Tour commercial director James Finnigan for a fourball on the opening day and he could not hide his joy.
The businessman said: “I bought the land seven years ago and I looked at it and I said, ‘I really believe that we can create the greatest golf course anywhere in the world’.
“We have built something that some people are already saying is the greatest golf course in the world.
“I think this is great for golf, and what is good for golf is good for Scotland as this is the home front for golf.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie was equally impressed, so much so that he made the bold prediction the biggest tournament in Britain would one day be held there.
Montgomerie said: “I’ve played all the great links courses in Britain and Ireland. This is as good if not better than any of them.
“This course has created an opportunity to bring another course into the Open championship rota. It should be a great asset and makes us very proud to be Scottish.”
When one of Scotland’s greatest golfers is so fulsome in his praise, something has been done right.
PGA chief executive and Press and Journal columnist Jones was equally impressed by Trump International.
Jones said: “The course is in the top three in the world. It is fantastic and is set up magnificently for match play golf.
“I love this place. I came here 18 months ago and thought God had made a golf course here. I thought the architects could only mess it up, but they have polished the landscape magnificently.
“The front nine is probably a little more mature than the back nine – it maybe needs a little time.”
European Tour chief executive George O’Grady, who also visited Trump International for its official launch, knew the development deserved to host a tournament befitting its reputation.
But it also needed time. Five years in fact. Just enough to work on building the course and allow the landscaping to settle into the tournament-hosting venue Trump craves.
“People have said that great courses should have great tournaments to showcase them,” said O’Grady.
“If it’s not already today, then it’s going to be a great golf course – and we will work with Mr Trump to bring the right event to the Trump International.”
The right event will be the Scottish Open, which will be held at the Menie Estate for three of the next four years starting from 2017.
Trump’s mother, Mary MacLeod, who was born in Stornoway, provided much of the inspiration and drive for him to develop a course in Scotland and her influence remains strong today with the American planning on creating a second 18-hole course on the estate, which he intends to name the MacLeod course in honour of his mother.
He said: “My mother was a great Scot – she believed in Scotland more than anyone. She would be very proud of what we have achieved here.”
With the Scottish Open heading back to the north-east following its one year stay at Royal Aberdeen last summer, it’s clear Scotland, and the European Tour, believes in Trump as well.
The Scottish Open: Some background
The Scottish Open was first held in 1972 at Downfield golf club, near Dundee, where the assembled field competed in the event for a £10,000 prize fund.
The tournament moved to St Andrews in 1973 before a lengthy hiatus until its return to the European Tour calendar in 1986 when it replaced the Glasgow Open.
Haggs Castle was the venue for its return before Gleneagles hosted the tournament for two years while Carnoustie also enjoyed a two-year stint as host before the tournament disappeared again at the end of the 1996 season.
It was replaced on the European Tour schedule by the Loch Lomond World Invitational in 1997 and the event ran for three years before the Loch Lomond event was renamed the Scottish Open.
Loch Lomond played host until 2010 but, with interest dwindling due to the tournament’s scheduling prior to the Open championship, the decision was taken in 2011 to move the event to Castle Stuart, near Inverness.
It remained in the Highlands until last year when it was moved to Royal Aberdeen. Gullane will host the event for the first time in July before it returns to Castle Stuart in 2016.
Trump International Golf Links at Balmedie will then host the event for three of the following four years – 2017, 2019 and 2020. Dundonald Links is tipped to host the event in 2018.
Today the Scottish Open prize fund is £3million, making it the largest fund in a European Tour event which is not co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
England’s Justin Rose is the champion following his win at Royal Aberdeen in 2014.
Previous winners include Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie.