When Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point opened, in the spring, many people were surprised to learn that New York City owned a golf course in the Bronx--but it actually owns four, and one of them, Van Cortlandt Park, is the oldest muny in the United States. Three friends and I recently took a day trip to find out whether the new one is as good as people have been saying. And I can report that it is.
Ferry Point was built on an old landfill. Construction was blocked for more than 20 years by environmental concerns, protests from neighbors, problems with contractors, and mismanagement by the city, but the result is terrific. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, Jim Lipe and John Sanford, and it's a worthy tribute to Scottish and Irish links golf, including wind, but with backdrops that feature the Empire State Building, the cemetery where Charles Lindbergh attempted to ransom his kidnapped son, and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. The course is operated for the city by Donald Trump, who has a 20-year lease--hence the name.
My only beef about Ferry Point is that, even though walking is supposedly encouraged, pushcarts and pullcarts are not allowed. My friends and I ran into the superintendent during our round, and I asked him whether that prohibition had a basis in agronomy. He said that it did not, so when I got home I called the man whose name is spelled out in stone letters on a grassy bank next to the parking lot, facing the bridge.
"It's an amazing place, and I did a great job," Trump said when I told him we had loved the course. "I know how to build. I'm a plus-5 at building." I complained about the pushcart ban. "Yeah, that's because they don't look proper on a course like that," he said. "You know, we're doing a very high-level job, and we don't like the look of a pushcart." He said he doesn't like golf carts, either, although Ferry Point has lots of those.
Trump's prejudice against pushcarts is mostly unknown in other high-level golf places. You can use a pushcart on the Old Course at St. Andrews (much of the time), and at Royal County Down, and at Bandon Dunes. And if you have the good fortune to play Royal Melbourne, you'll be asked to roll your pushcart over the greens. (Why not? It weighs less than a mower.) My friends and I picked up the pushcart habit in Scotland in 2008, and in the years since then many other members of our club have become converts. Pushcarts are good for junior golfers, because they take the strain off growing bones, and they're good for older golfers, because they allow people with increasingly tender knees, shoulders and backs to keep walking. It's only in this country that they're looked down on as the sort of thing that the sort of people who play public golf courses might be interested in.
Trump told me that he wants golfers to take caddies. I'm all for caddies, but Ferry Point has a limited number, and, besides, they're $115 per bag. And golf with caddies can be very slow. My friends and I walked and carried, after dumping excess gear in our cars, and we were held up on every shot by the group ahead of us, which consisted of four golfers and two double-baggers. They played as slowly as four golfers in two golf carts--which is saying something--mostly because the golfers had to stand around doing nothing while their caddies traversed from hook to slice and back again.
Well, complaining about slow play is like complaining about the weather. I asked Trump how his presidential campaign was going.
"We're doing well," he said. "I'm No. 2 in the polls."
"I saw that," I said. "It's frightening." I told him that, even so, I hoped he'd stay in the race through the first debate. He said he didn't think that would be a problem.
What might be a problem is hanging on to Ferry Point. At the time we talked, Trump had just been dropped as a business partner by Univision, NBC, Macy's and Serta, over remarks he had made about people from Mexico, and the City of New York, for the same reason, was reviewing his contract for Ferry Point. If the city's lawyers do find a way out, I have just one suggestion...