The project director in charge of Donald Trump’s Scottish project says that if a deal cannot be struck with holdout property owner Michael Forbes the situation will “not be in our hands any more.”
Neil Hobday, who first introduced Trump to the Menie Links site in 2005, told the European Golf Course Owners’ Association conference, held in Amsterdam last week: “Michael Forbes owns a strategic piece of property in the middle of the golf course. We have tried for four years to have a cordial discussion about the acquisition of his land, but regrettably the media has inflamed matters so it is very difficult to have a constructive discussion. If we can’t come to an agreement with him then it is not in our hands any more.”
“A lot of our critics say this project is really about housing but I can tell you this project started with golf and will finish with golf,” Hobday told the conference, adding that course construction is currently expected to start next May, with a projected opening date of June 2012. He added that four of the top golf course contractors in the UK were currently bidding on the project, and that an announcement should be made within a few weeks.
Challenged by Jonathan Smith of the Golf Environment Organisation as to why the most sensitive part of the site could not have been left alone, Hobday said: “The best of the land for the golf course is in the environmentally sensitive area. There are a lot of mitigation and compensation measures we have to comply with and a lot of those are quite pioneering in terms of translocation of sensitive habitat. The full economic impact assessment showed the benefits to the region are of national significant. No-one challenged these benefits, they are bulletproof.”
Asked whether the current economic situation would have an impact on the project, Hobday was bullish. “The economic downturn, for us, has turned into the perfect storm,” he said. “We’re not currently spending money in terms of building hotels or other things, and it’s helpful to us that our golf course will open in two to three years time when we expect things to be better. We have an agreement with the council that market conditions will dictate the build out. If it all gets built out, it’s a ten year project but the golf course is our primary objective right now.”
Meanwhile, former Carnoustie assistant superintendent Paul O’Connor, has been appointed to head the project’s greenkeeping team. He said: “I enjoyed 18 years at Carnoustie and understand the high standards required of a leading championship course. I am extremely proud to be involved in the construction and development of what will be the finest links course ever built – it is a privilege to work on this spectacular terrain.”