Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States last November, but before he took on the role of commander-in-chief, he was a real estate mogul opening hotels and golf courses around the world – including the UAE.
He’s now handed over the management of that business in trust to his two sons, Donald Jr and Eric, since running international real estate deals while POTUS would be something of a conflict of interest, but the deals are well and truly on-track. Trump International Golf Club opens in Dubai in mid-February, with another course, designed by Tiger Woods, is slated for 2018.
So what’s it’s like? We had a preview of the first property on Tuesday night.
The road to the golf course, located in the Damac Akoya development (which on February 8 was renamed Damac Hills) is bumpy – literally. Some parts are unpaved, and workers were employed at the roadside late into the night finishing things off. The lights in the restaurant flickered on occasion, too.
The course, however, has been open for a month, and the clubhouse is due to open to the public by the middle of February, with, we’re told, Donald Jr and Eric – who handles his dad’s golf courses – in attendance. A stage is being constructed next to the clubhouse for the big event. The signs proclaiming Trump International Golf Club are up, even though the Trump name had come down in 2015 when he ramped up talk of banning Muslims from the US.
The slant-roofed property has a large terrace overlooking the course, and a fine dining restaurant called The Fifth Avenue serving Italian food (no Trump steaks, of course, although the product of Trump’s Virginia winery will be available) where a couple can expect to pay Dh600-700 for a two-course meal. The chef there, Fernado Galbiati, used to work at Dubai’s Cavalli Club and for Heinz Beck’s Social restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria on Dubai’s the Palm. Anyone can go and dine at the Clubhouse’s restaurants – there’s also an all-day dining restaurant and a sports bar, as well as a shisha lounge and a pool bar that were not open to media. Members have their own lounge during the day, a spot where Cuban cigars nestle in a humidor and the shiny walnut paneling requires constant polishing. The course itself comes from architect Gil Hanse.
Is there gold? Indeed there is, although it is mostly brushed gold in muted tones. The Trump crest features at the clubhouse’s entrance, and in gold on a wall near the locker rooms, but otherwise the branding is subtle. The food is nice enough, and the drinks won’t be priced too far out of reach, at least at the beginning, the F&B manager tells me.
If it wasn’t branded Trump, this wouldn’t be that different from most other luxury hotels or clubs in the UAE – it’s tasteful, with plush carpeting (actually installed for the opening event, to keep noise levels down), nice furniture and views.
But it is Trump’s, in name, at least. Will that affect footfall? The Club’s marketing manager says that “inquiries have been very strong” for memberships – which cost Dh35,000 a year, plus a Dh25,000 joining fee, and a report by Golf.com says 60 memberships have been snapped up, meeting the first year’s target. One guest at the preview, not a member of the media, was already booked to play a round on Saturday with his buddies, saying the opening is a boon for players looking for places to play in the city. Trump, his sons, and Damac will be hoping they too, score a hole in one.