As Donald Trump led a fleet of golf carts on a tour of his newly remodeled Loudoun County course Tuesday, he was asked by a staffer whether it was okay to have the helicopter take off.
“Yes, tell him to take off,” said the magnate, in a baseball gap and sport coat despite near 100-degree heat. “Have him swing around in a big circle, real low.”
Minutes later the helicopter — “TRUMP” emblazoned on the side — took off from its landing spot near the clubhouse and buzzed around the course in plain view of the 15 golf carts, filled with reporters, photographers, golf critics, sponsors and Trump staffers.
The hovering advertisement was part of the theater Tuesday as the newly announced presidential contender formally showed off his $25 million overhaul of the Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C., an 800-acre property along the Potomac River in Sterling that is set to host the 2017 Senior PGA Championship.
At the course’s unveiling, the golf carts, bottled water and clubhouse merchandise were all branded “Trump.” The championship course, one of two, is actually named the Donald J. Trump Signature Course and bears the fingerprints of its namesake, who pored over the views, slopes, type of grass used on the greens and the distance from one green to the next tee box.
“What we did is basically blew up the property. We built a brand-new championship course that is built to the highest standards of championship play, to the highest standards of audience and viewership, to the highest standards of golf,” he said.
This involved cutting down a lot of trees, approximately 465 of them, causing consternation among environmentalists and some public officials. Trump said he didn’t buy the property to have a “little glimpse” of the Potomac.
“Originally we had massive trees — you couldn’t see anything,” he said, standing onan overlook above a man-made waterfall. “And through lots of hard work, and lots of environmental impact statements and lots of everything, we were able to clear the area and now we have unobstructed views of the Potomac Rover. There’s nothing like it. You can go 20 miles up and down the river and there’s nothing like it.”
Trump’s political persona was on display as well, bringing a top political adviser with him for the event and taking questions about his nascent presidential run. What does he think about the Confederate Flag? “I think it’s time for it to come down.” What woman should be on the $10 bill? “My mother.”
While showing off the course to reporters, Trump got wind that a new poll found him second among GOP candidates in New Hampshire, behind only Jeb Bush. “I’m far more accomplished than the other candidates,” he said.
Trump bought the former Lowes Island Club in 2009 — “at the height of the bad market,” as he trumpeted at the press conference — for $13 million, according to property records. He bought other properties around it and built a $10 million tennis center, which star Serena Williams joined him in opening in April.
Six years later, the club has about 1,000 members, according to Lawrence Glick, who manages Trump’s golf businesses as executive vice president at the Trump Organization. Members pay an initial fee of “close to 100 grand” and a monthly fee of $698, Glick said. About 850 of the memberships include golf privileges in addition to tennis and other facilities.
Weddings have also provided routine business for the club. Glick said it will host 65 in the second half of this year, sometimes five or more in a weekend, and could host more than 200 next year.
Trump has expanded his golf business globally since the recession. The Trump Organization, in addition to residential projects and hotels like the Old Post Office Pavilion, scheduled to open in 2017, lists 18 golf courses it owns or operates.
Its courses have also gained stature with the PGA of America, which plans to bring its Grand Slam of Golf event to Trump’s course in Los Angeles this fall and the PGA championship to Trump’s course in Bedminster, N.J. in 2022.
“There’s a reason we’re doing these events with Donald Trump,” said Peter P. Bevacqua, chief executive of PGA of America. “It’s because he believes in the game. He creates really just masterworks of golf courses and golf properties.”
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz