President Donald Trump's golf empire is a mixed bag in the U.S., with some venues struggling even as Trump National Golf Club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, doubled its initiation fee from $100,000 to $200,000. In the U.K., though, his results reflect the scores golfers post when they shoot under par: In the red.
Trump, who runs two Scottish golf operations, is obliged under British law to report on the operations' finances. The most recent public reports from earlier this month from the Companies House, a U.K. financial regulator, shows that his two Scottish resorts lost a combined $23 million last year.
The village of Balmedie, just north of Aberdeen, is the site of Trump International Golf Links Scotland, a 7,400-yard layout of dunes and valleys with the North Sea standing guard. Trump built the acclaimed course (No. 46 in the world) from scratch, but it's only part of Trump's vision. He also wanted to build a second 18-hole course and a 450-room hotel as well as conference center and spa. Ultimately the resort would include 36 golf villas, almost 1,000 vacation homes, resort staff housing and a tract of 500 residential homes.
But locals hate the project. Neighbors close to the course refused to sell their properties to Trump, who called for compulsory purchases, the Scottish equivalent to a U.S. eminent domain action. Elected officials however, sided with the neighbors.
Never one to take defeat gracefully, Trump built a two-story hill to keep golfers from seeing the homes of those who refused to sell. In another instance, Trump built a fence to block out a home and sent the bill to the neighbor. Later a row of trees were planted by a Trump crew to block a different view, and when they died, more trees took their place.
A petition protesting the construction of the second course has 94,000 signatures and has been presented to the local council.
All told, the Aberdeen project carries a price tag of $1.5 billion and was projected to create as many as 7,000 jobs.
Today the project is comprised of one course and the 19-room Menie House inn, the operation staffed by 150 employees. The second golf course is on hold as Scotland's Environmental Protection Agency says the project would damage the environment, violate sewage pollution rules and jeopardize groundwater conservation. The Scottish Natural Heritage, a government conservation organization has warned local officials the project would damage the local dunes system and violated national planning policy.
The federal filings submitted by Trump for Aberdeen in 2015 shows the course generated $4.3 million in revenues. But public records filed in the United Kingdom say that the Aberdeen operation lost $1.6 million. Those are the most recent public documents available for direct comparison.
While the government has worked against Trump at Aberdeen, the other Scottish course Trump owns, Turnberry, received some love recently as it accepted a $13,000 tax rebate as part of an emergency funding for struggling small businesses.
More good news for Trump at Turnberry is a 38% bump in the annual fee to play the club, according to the Sunday Post. The annual fee now is more than $2,900 a year, a figure that may price many locals out.
And as far as attracting the world's best golfers, one of the major sponsors of the Scottish Open has said that while one of Trump's Scottish courses would be an excellent location, politics are a problem. "There's no decision made but, look, there are clear issues," Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Martin Gilbert told a local paper in Scotland this summer. "Politics aside, Trump would be an ideal venue-but you can't put politics aside."
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