Trump National Old course at Bedminster was designed by Tom Fazio and it opened for play as a private members' track in 2004. A second course was then designed and built four years later by the architect's nephew, Tom Fazio II, and this newer 18-hole layout (called the New course) complements the Old course, driving range, short game practice facility and restored 1930s Georgian manor clubhouse.
The USGA selected the Trump National Old course to host the 2009 US Junior and US Girls Junior Amateur Championships then it was chosen as the venue for both the 2017 US Women's Open and the 2022 PGA Championship.
As you would expect from a Trump course, the conditioning is exceptional, from pristine tees to wide, tree-lined fairways and large, white sand bunkers. Water comes into play at almost half the holes on the course, with the 438-yard 6th featuring an island-type green which is said to be the largest in “Fazio Golf Design” history at 14,000 feet -- large enough to accommodate four normal sized putting surfaces.
Some think the Trump National Old course is world-class; others find it boring and pretentious. We’d love to know what you think. Why not post a review if you've played this layout and let the world know what you think?
Once the word "Trump" is inserted into the conversation you can be sure there will be comments -- plenty of them -- on both sides. The tough past is separating the politics from the golf side of the equation. The facility in Bedminster is massive in its overall size and scope-- over 500+ acres. No question -- there are people who will be taken aback by the grandiose setting and the appeals to personal vanity with the Trump name spilled in every conceivable direction when on property.
The layout by architect Tom Fazio was created to provide a venue for top tier events. Since its opening in '04 the facility has hosted a range of competitions but this summer things really go into high gear when the facility serves as host for the USGA's Women's Open. Five years later the layout will stage an even bigger event -- the PGA Championship. While max length is in excess of 7,700 yards -- the women will play the course at just over 6,700 yards.
The scale of the property is more than capable in staging such events and the location is blessed in having two major roadways providing ease of motion for those coming from the two largest metro areas nearby -- New York City and Philadelphia. The facility also has all the elements needed to stage big time events with an elegant main clubhouse and support structures that can easily handle massive galleries.
Unfortunately, the architecture is primarily one dimensional -- maximizing difficulty over anything else. The fairways are bracketed by dense and often deep rough. Bunkers pinch in the landing areas and the greens provide a slew of internal contours that mandate precision iron play in order to avoid repetitive three-putts or more. The primary absence of strategy is noteworthy because the course harps upon top tier execution -- again and again. That would not be a major strike against the course if there was a real variety of hole types. Sadly, Trump Bedminster is one dimensional. Great courses constantly change the equation -- keeping players off balance -- not a continuous bombardment of more length, forced carries and narrowing landing areas. Good examples being the par-4 2nd and 13th holes. In each instance - the carry to get to the fairway is in excess of 260 yards from the black tee boxes.
To be fair, the facility does have a few holes of note. I am a big fan of the downhill par-4 6th -- the peninsula green protected by water provides a range of pin locations on the massive green. The uphill 12th hole is a solid hole -- can be played to a mx of 453 yards and the tee shot must be placed close to the right side -- where two bunkers lurk -- to secure the best angle into the green. The par-3 16th is also a fine hole -- especially when played at the distance the women will play it at 162 yards. When stretched to its max at nearly 220 yards the hole is an all-or-nothing shot requirement which must avoid the frontal water hazard perched to catch even the slightest of mishits. The concluding hole is also a fine closer when the risk/reward element is accentuated -- but when played at the max length of 662 yards becomes unnecessary overkill.
Without question, a tip of the hat has to go to the superintendent and staff for the excellent playing conditions. People can say what they wish about Trump but from the standpoint of course preparation it's hard to say anything less than complimentary praise for the manner by which the course is prepared.
Sometimes there are courses which focus more on how they look -- rather than the more important topic of how they play. Trump Bedminster is located in the Garden State -- my home State -- and the benchmark for top tier courses is well known not only in the USA but globally. It's too bad the unrelenting need for difficulty was given top priority. The available land could have been used in providing for a greater range of holes and for a really remarkable creation. Bigger is not always better and the adage that less is indeed more clearly applies here. Seeing how the course plays for the women may provide some real clues into what will need to be done when the world's best players show up for the PGA Championship in 2022.
by M. James Ward
What was the design philosophy at Trump National? Aside from the obvious mandate to build a course to host a major, it looks like the key factors were:
1. Forced carry shots over water (to the greens) and over ravines (off the tee)
2. Generally large, elevated greens
3. A course from the penal, as opposed to strategic, school of design
4. Very high and demanding rough
The twelfth hole was my favorite on the course, a 392-yard par four that plays sharply uphill. The tee shot, like many at Trump Bedminster, is over a ravine with a forced carry. The short par four seventeenth is one of only a few downhill shots to a green and one of the few risk-reward holes: it is 312 yards and offers many interesting ways to play the hole depending upon how aggressive you want to be both off the tee and with a watery approach.
I think the back nine is the more difficult of the two, even though it is shorter in total yardage. Net-net, I think the course is unnecessarily hard. It's trying to prove that it is tough enough to host a major. The rough is just too hard for all but scratch level golfers. If the rough were cut and some of the water holes were filled in, it would be a better course. It would also be more consistent with the other great courses in New Jersey such as nearby Somerset Hills, Pine Valley and Baltusrol, all of which have normal rough and very little water hazards. It's just not in character for this part of the country.
A singular focus on hosting a major championship has led to golf design reductio ad absurdum. Almost everything you see and touch at Trump Bedminster is branded Trump and some of the interior is a bit too glitzy.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Before I made it to Trump National, or simply “Trump” as it is known by locals. I had heard so many mixed opinions, ranging from “the most overrated course in the World” to “the finest golf course on the eastern seaboard” with as you can imagine a lot of others mixed in between. Therefore I vowed to myself to approach Trump National with an open mind and afterwards form my own opinion. In hindsight this I feel was a wise decision.
From the moment you enter the property you are bombarded with the over the top branding of Trump. Everywhere you look is Trump, the water in the coolers is “Trump ice”, the machinery is Trump and at almost every turn you take the Trump Crest is staring at you. Myself and my playing partner for the day(a fellow golf architecture nut) teed off on a Saturday afternoon and were virtually the only people on the property, we both thought to ourselves this is a dream, the course to ourselves, little did we know it was soon to become more like a nightmare.
The course opens with an easy par 5 and a short Drive and flick par 4. It is when you reach the 3rd hole that you are greeted with a sight which you will see for the rest of the round. A long par four, featuring a forced carry from the tee to a relatively narrow fairway, guarded by large expanses of sand and extremely penal rough. From here on in the course manoeuvres its way through the lush countryside with an almost stereotypical mix of holes, all four short holes involve a mid/long iron shot to a green guarded at the front by water and at the sides by sand. The par fives long and for the most part bland with the exception of maybe the eighth which features a ravine which asks the question of the player with his second shot. The best hole on the course I felt was the short par 4 17th. Which is one of the few downhill holes on the course, asking, my personal favourite, the risk/reward question of the golfer.
This course was most definitely designed with a penal mindset by Fazio, with enormous greens, the “original” deep lush greenside rough and as we have come to expect from modern courses the inclusion of water as a easy means of testing the player. It is widely know that Trump Bedminster is “The Donald’s” personal favourite and the amount of time he spends here is testament to that. Trump definitely built this course with the notion in the back of his head of one day it hosting a major championship and as such I have discovered he had quite a role to play in it’s design,which in my opinion explains a lot!
Looking back on Trump National, I have mixed opinions. In someway I feel it comes under undeserved criticism, the golf course is what many of the greater golfing public would consider to be top notch, its conditioning is second to none, lots of water, slick greens and unparalleled service in every aspect off the course. However due to its high ranking across numerous course listings I feel it should be compared to the courses it ranks alongside and in this sense it does not belong in the upper echelons of course design. It is too false, far too penal for the average golfer and the design has made too great an attempt to be a “big” course, overlooking many other important factors in the design process, playability etc. I tried to separate my opinion of the golf course from the whole atmosphere and experience of the place, but in reality this was impossible.
On the day we played when we reached the 16th hole just as we were about to tee off, we were stopped by a ranger who told us that the hole was closed for a children’s fishing competition in the lake below the tee and as we looked on there were mother’s in stiletto heels and screaming children traipsing across the green in front of us, we both looked at each other and shook our heads. One of the areas I like to grade courses on is how they uphold the tradition of the game and in this sense Trump gets a zero, never have I been at a course where golf is treated as such a second class citizen to all other goings on at a club. In short it is an extremely well conditioned golf course, a decent layout and typical of what one would expect of a modern day parkland course, but totally undeserving of the lofty position it enjoys within the golf magazine rankings.