When one of Ireland’s top luxury golf resorts rolled off the green and into the red earlier this year, Donald Trump went and found a bargain. For $11 million (bankrolled by a further $36 million in investment), the most thoroughly gilded name in real estate bought himself one of the world’s most iconic golf courses. It was uncertain news for duffers—the hairpiece plays off four, but has a Floridian approach to course design—but there was a catch. The Donald didn’t just buy 18 premier holes and a shining estate, he purchased the last remaining redoubt of Vertigo Augustior.
Otherwise known as the Narrow-Mouthed Whorl Snail (well, it’s not really known at all), Augustior is a protected species in Ireland. Landing in the new-found homeland of the endangered creatures (all 60 million of them) looked like it a bad bounce for Trump. He had already been pouring millions of euros to reverse the course damage suffered from a ferocious cyclone last winter, and suddenly he looked like he was going to have to take a mulligan.
Trump’s development work was halted by Irish authorities; truckloads of rock armor hauled in to protect the site from coastal erosion were stalled and plans to expand the course into Augustior’s hallowed habitat were thwarted. While the hot money might have been on an environmental collision course, Trump reached an agreement to save the mollusk. All he had to was change his plans for the course. In so doing, he may have ultimately changed the history of Irish golf.
Rather than pursuing a heftier reroute, Trump drafted acclaimed course architect Martin Hawtree to sensitively airbrush the terrain. The result is a championship (originally mastered by Greg Norman) commands epic panoramic views over the ocean, which mercilessly batters its greens. “It’s wild and woolly. A classic links course with a lot of soul—all created by the elements,” explains Brian Shaw the Head Golf Pro presiding over the par 72. “You really have to play with the land here and use it to your advantage. That means lots of ‘bump and run’ and a complete arsenal of shots to keep the ball down.”
It’s an awesomely raw affair. But the lack of tree shelter and man-made water features doesn’t mean the course comes without its own natural hazards. Due to the undulating nature of the terrain, which dips and dives between swallowing sand bunkers and plunging cliff faces, self-drive golf buggies have been 86ed at the resort, all for the greater good, according to Shaw. “We’ve had a couple of incidents here…so we prefer folks not to drive out there alone." Perhaps when on a Trump course, it’s only fitting that guests are caddy-chauffeured.
Back toward the 19th, Trump’s luxury home range itself is just as arresting. A gear-shifting driveway sweeps along fairways and thatched cottages before eventually weaving its windswept path toward the estate’s baronial manor, classically pimped with a fleet of private Mercs. Built in 2002 to retro-capture the grandeur of a historic Irish homestead, the hotel’s resulting vibe falls somewhere between the pomp of Downton Abbey and the plush five-star cushiness of a Nantucket country club. That’s not to say there’s a shortage of high-end Irish trademarks; wilderness massages in the hotel spa, sea-kayaking trips to the local village, reserve Irish whiskeys in the clubhouse bar. But most people tarry to this edge of Europe, for one reason and one reason alone: swinging and sinking.