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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.
British Open 2012: The best photos
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