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Trump's challenge to the world's greatest golf courses

By David Wilkinson, CNN
July 20, 2012 -- Updated 1051 GMT (1851 HKT)
Hailed by owner Donald Trump as "the world's greatest golf course," the American's new Scottish project mixes breathtaking views from elevated tees with classical links bunkers and wild rough. Dramatic, tall sand dunes frame many of the photogenic holes at Trump International. The true test of the course's standing will be its longevity and whether it matures into a stern test of championship golf. Hailed by owner Donald Trump as "the world's greatest golf course," the American's new Scottish project mixes breathtaking views from elevated tees with classical links bunkers and wild rough. Dramatic, tall sand dunes frame many of the photogenic holes at Trump International. The true test of the course's standing will be its longevity and whether it matures into a stern test of championship golf.
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Trump International Links
Cypress Point
Augusta National
Pine Valley
Old Course, St. Andrews
Royal County Down
Royal Melbourne
Pebble Beach
Turnberry
Royal Lytham & St. Annes
Cape Kidnappers
Shinnecock Hills
Muirfield
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donald Trump's Scottish golf course has opened at a cost of $150 million
  • American billionaire hailed it as the best in the world before the ribbon was cut
  • It faces stiff competition for the accolade from several other British links courses
  • Trump's project is also up against iconic contenders from the United States

(CNN) -- Hailed as the "world's greatest golf course" by its owner before it had even opened, Trump International Links has a lot to live up to.

The statement would have been ridiculed by the golfing community had it not been made by a man who has pumped $150 million into his dream to date, with plans to spend over $1 billion by the time the controversial Scottish project is completed.

It has already bulldozed past environmentalists' concerns, but Donald Trump is reluctant to continue development due to a planned offshore wind farm.

The fact that some of the key names in European golf attended this month's opening -- surrounded by bagpipers and the miles of towering sand dunes along its Aberdeenshire coast site -- is testament to the power of his brand.

Trump (second from the right) cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Trump International Golf Links. Trump (second from the right) cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Trump International Golf Links.
Making the cut
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Trump opens Scottish course Trump opens Scottish course
A tour of Trump International Links
Trump threatens to sue Scotland
Donald Trump received a bagpipe welcome on one of his visits to the site of his championship course in Aberdeenshire. Donald Trump received a bagpipe welcome on one of his visits to the site of his championship course in Aberdeenshire.
Scotland welcomes Trump
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Are Trump plans set to be blown off course? Are Trump plans set to be blown off course?

The American billionaire owns a dozen luxury golf resorts -- including Florida's faded Doral and its renowned "Blue Monster" course which he plans to renovate -- but can his UK venture be considered a contender for top spot so early on?

Blowing in the wind? Trump threatens to ditch $1B Scottish golf resort

Of course, criteria for judging the "greatest" vary from golfer to golfer, with emphasis ranging from degree of challenge to spectacular views or history.

For Trump International to be considered as one of the greats, it first has to establish itself as a venue among Scottish links courses. That will be no mean feat, with illustrious company including "the home of golf "St. Andrews and other current Open venues Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Troon and Carnoustie.

Turnberry stands out as the most picturesque of those courses, while Muirfield hosts the world's oldest golf club and Carnoustie is often regarded as the toughest.

On the other side of the Irish Sea, there are the two outstanding links courses currently vying to host an Open; Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.

There's also hot competition south of the border in England, including the traditional highly-rated links of Royal St. George's and this year's Open venue, Royal Lytham and St. Annes. The latter has seen the great amateur golfer Bobby Jones in 1926 and flamboyant Spaniard Seve Ballesteros in 1979 and 1988 among its victors.

Trump International is starting on the back foot against its British rivals, but with broadcast cables already running beneath the course and a plan in place for several thousand spectators, it has a strong case to one day host major tournaments.

Perhaps a fairer match for the new course would be against eight-year-old Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, which runs along and around ridges on a secluded stretch of jagged coastline. It has already jumped up magazine rankings and attracted visitors from around the world with its spectacular views.

The edge that Trump International possesses is that it can be classed as links golf, which is favored by purists as the "true" setting for the game.

Acclaimed English golf architect Martin Hawtree has skilfully routed holes around and between the massive dunes, some measuring 80 feet in height. His family business has worked on course designs for a hundred years and put its hand to several British Open venues.

Ernie Els of South Africa celebrates with the Claret Jug after his victory during the final round of play at the British Open at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England on Sunday, July 22. See all the action as it unfolds here. Ernie Els of South Africa celebrates with the Claret Jug after his victory during the final round of play at the British Open at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England on Sunday, July 22. See all the action as it unfolds here.
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Mission Hills lies in the volcanic region of Hainan Island, China. The resort has 10 courses, with each one incorporating the native lava rock formations. There are also 518 guest rooms and suites, a three-story clubhouse and 12 restaurants in this impressive complex. Mission Hills lies in the volcanic region of Hainan Island, China. The resort has 10 courses, with each one incorporating the native lava rock formations. There are also 518 guest rooms and suites, a three-story clubhouse and 12 restaurants in this impressive complex.
China's impressive complex
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Golf\'s luxurious holiday resorts Golf's luxurious holiday resorts
After narrowly missing out in the 1960 British Open at the home of golf, St. Andrews, Arnold Palmer won the tournament for the first time the following year at Royal Birkdale and then again in 1962. After narrowly missing out in the 1960 British Open at the home of golf, St. Andrews, Arnold Palmer won the tournament for the first time the following year at Royal Birkdale and then again in 1962.
The King in his pomp
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The first golf major of the year is one of sport's great spectacles as the world's best players vie for the coveted Green Jacket at Augusta National. Like the course itself, getting in to watch the Masters at the notoriously exclusive club is fiendishly difficult. The waiting list for tickets is famously long, but many patrons who do make it inside the hallowed grounds flaunt their accreditations (old and new) with pride. The first golf major of the year is one of sport's great spectacles as the world's best players vie for the coveted Green Jacket at Augusta National. Like the course itself, getting in to watch the Masters at the notoriously exclusive club is fiendishly difficult. The waiting list for tickets is famously long, but many patrons who do make it inside the hallowed grounds flaunt their accreditations (old and new) with pride.
1. The best?
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The Masters by numbers The Masters by numbers

To get to the very top, Trump's new creation must surpass several private and exclusive courses in his home country, which have dominated magazine rankings for decades.

Cypress Point in California boasts some of the most dramatic holes in the world, playing over Pacific Ocean bays where seals bask on the rocks amid crashing waves.

The course was styled by Alister MacKenzie -- a renowned architect who also designed Augusta National, the lush and colorful Georgia setting for the annual Masters Tournament since 1934.

Most golfers can only dream of setting foot on these courses, along with Pine Valley in New Jersey, often considered the most perfect example of golf architecture on land that -- unlike the stunning natural beauty that awaits players at Trump International -- was previously unremarkable.

The notable exception to the top-ranked private clubs in the U.S. is Pebble Beach, the picturesque Californian coastal course which is a video-game favorite and open to the public. It's not cheap though, with a round costing $495 per person.

One venue that every other struggles to compete with is St. Andrews' Old Course, which is at the top of every golfer's bucket list. It might not be the most dramatic or challenging course but it will always be the home of the game, where hard wooden balls were thrashed around wasteland almost six hundred years ago.

Trump International cannot compete with the history of its Scottish neighbors and it won't echo the exclusivity and originality of some of its American cousins.

Unlike many of its iconic rivals, it has no "signature" hole, but is comprised of a series of stern but fair tests that will suit different players according to personal preference.

However, as it matures into its "championship course" billing with the backing of the professional game's organizers, it certainly has a fighting chance of one day becoming the most dramatic of tournament venues.

Which are your favorite golf courses? Have your say in the comments box below.

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