Donald Trump’s ambition of “making Turnberry great again” is proving a little harder to realize than expected.
Accounts filed with U.K. authorities show that both Turnberry and Trump’s other golf course in Scotland posted an increase in losses last year, forcing the then-candidate to dig deeper into his own pocket to keep them going.
Turnberry, which has hosted the British Open four times, more than doubled its losses as it was forced to close its historic Ailsa course for half of the year while the Trump Organization carried out refurbishment work. (As president, Trump has since distanced himself from the organization that carries his name.) Trump had bought the august old club an hour’s drive down the west coast from Glasgow in 2014, intending to remodel the club’s facilities in his signature style. According to Bloomberg, Trump Turnberry lost 17.6 million pounds ($23 million) on only 9 million pounds of revenue (down from 11 million the previous year).
Trump’s other course near Aberdeen in north-east Scotland, which has been the cause of a spectacular argument between him and the Scottish government over offshore wind turbines that Trump says spoil the view, saw its loss widen by 28% to 1.4 million pounds on a 12% drop in revenue. The Aberdeen course was hit by the fact that the regional economy depends largely on the oil and gas industry, which announced thousands of job cuts last year after oil prices fell by over 50% at the end of 2015.
The President has now sunk some 152 million pounds into the two courses (most of it at Turnberry), but it’s far from clear whether either course will make that money back. The outlook for the Aberdeen energy industry is as tough as ever, and the business case for Turnberry depends on turning it into a “leading destination for weddings, conferences and events” alongside golf. While that strategy has been the salvation of many U.S. golf clubs over the last few years, it’s unclear whether it can be replicated in Scotland, especially given the mixed emotions that the president inspires locally. According to an opinion poll in April, Trump was less popular there than in any other part of the U.K., and the least popular of 12 world and regional leaders named in the survey.
Quite whose money is at stake isn’t clear. Earlier this year, golf writer James Dodson, a co-author of books with Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and others, had claimed Eric Trump told him during a round in 2013: “We have pretty much all the money we need from investors in Russia…We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs.”
Trump Jr. subsequently dismissed the claim as “fake news,” forcing Dodson to respond: “I stand by what I said.”