Florida’s West Palm Beach is the location for the best of the six layouts in the growing Donald Trump portfolio of golf clubs. But if Trump’s hype is anything to go by, his new development in Aberdeen will culminate in the greatest golf course in the world. Naturally we are sceptical about that but we do hope that it will generate some serious opportunities for Aberdonians.
There are 27 Jim Fazio designed holes at Trump International Golf Club at West Palm Beach but the one is the Championship course which opened for play in 1999. The third loop is a nice nine-holer which is also a good test but it’s not quite in the same league as the main 18-holer.
With six tees per hole to choose from, try not to let bravado get the better of you. With 2,000 yards between the front tees and the tips, select your medicine wisely for maximum enjoyment on this 7,300-yard monster. Trump certainly moved the earth; in fact, some three million cubic yards were shifted to create the Championship course. Lakes were dug to a depth of more than 50 feet, 5,000 mature trees were strategically transplanted coupled with new streams and waterfalls that would make Walt Disney proud.
The Championship course was a host venue for the LPGA tour and was the location for ADT Championships between 2006-2008. The winners walked away with a $1 million paycheque, the largest in the history of ladies’ golf.
I have a close friend from the Toronto area and I remember him telling me he could define America by one word and I was very much interested in knowing. His reply -- more. America has "more" of plenty of things -- cars, houses, boats, you name it. But, as he was quick to tell me, the more discerning dimension is whether those elements are indeed "better."
That's the case with a number of the Trump properties I have played over the years. There's no question the focal point is on the affluence -- the luxury -- the finer things in life being accentuated to the max. In the Trump case -- the non-golf related items are the ones often pushed to the forefront.
The missing ingredient with a fair number of them is the so-so nature of the overall architecture. The Championship 18 was created with over 3 million cubic yards of material moved. Given the inherent liability in playing Florida golf which means dead flat land -- the need to "spice" things up can often be carried out to extreme. That's the case here.
The limited size of the property doesn't allow for much wiggle room and things are fairly compact. The features that have been created are just overdone and superimposed on the layout. That's the quandary architects face when creating golf in The Sunshine State. The lack of natural topography means the need to go into high-speed mode in producing all of the items. Knowing how much to do -- and what NOT to do -- are the central questions that need to be successfully answered.
The story of the course is really how it was created -- not what was actually produced.
The layout is the Florida equivalent of Shadow Creek in the Vegas area and I am not a big time fan of that layout either. The focal point for Shadow Creek and for Trump International Championship 18 is about the "experience" in being there. Like I said -- there's no question the pampering is done at a high level but the golf course overdoses -- as many Florida courses do -- on the insertion of water hazards. Do or die golf can be quite repetitious and a real challenge for the high handicap golfers when also confronted with varying wind velocities which is not uncommon in southeast Florida.
There's no question the course is demanding -- with a CR over 76 and a slope at 155 from the tips. However, there are also holes where quality golf shots need to be executed. The par-5 3rd and 15th holes respectively are good examples where plenty of thought needs to be weighed on just how aggressive you wish to be.
The long par-4 8th is also a real tester placing particular pressure on the tee shot. But there's also a repetitious desire to create holes turning right with water on the inside portion of the turn. The 6th, 8th, 10th and 18th are all examples of this. Often times this is done in order to deal with the lack of available acreage and that's likely the case here.
In summary, if you believe course architecture is simply no more important than the food you eat and the manner in which locker service takes care of your needs it's more than likely you'll thoroughly enjoy what the facility provides. But, if you're looking for something that truly distinguishes itself -- that resonates far deeper and lasting -- you'll have to find another golf option in the immediate area.
M. James Ward