Review for Trump National (Old) - Bedminster

Reviewer Score:


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

Date: May 30, 2017

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