PROPERTY tycoon Donald Trump has said he will invest millions of pounds in the Turnberry Golf resort after completing a deal to buy it from its Dubai-based owners.
After days of speculation, the US businessman officially became the new owner of the South Ayrshire Open course yesterday after buying it from Leisurecorp for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £36 million.
It represents a big U-turn for Trump, who two months ago said he was turning his back on Scotland after losing a legal battle to block an offshore windfarm development. He had said it would spoil the view from his other golf course in the country.
Steven Camley's cartoon
However, the lure of owning a course due to welcome the Open Championship in the coming years appears to have proven too great for the property magnate, whose roster of golf resorts already includes courses in the US, Ireland and the Middle East.
The deal sees Trump take ownership of the entire Turnberry resort, including its five-star hotel, which he says he will transform into one of the most luxurious in Europe.
Turnberry is also home to six restaurants and a spa and will continue to be managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. It sits on more than 800 acres of land and has views of Arran and the Irish Sea.
Mr Trump said: "It is an honour and privilege to own one of golf's greatest and most exciting properties. I intend to invest many millions of pounds in order to bring the hotel up to the highest levels of luxury. When completed, I believe that the Turnberry Hotel will be the finest and most luxurious hotel in all of Europe."
He said the course would not in any way be "touched or altered" other than with the approval of the Royal and Ancient, which organises the Open Championship.
The developer first set his sights on Scotland more than eight years ago when he promised to build the best golf course in the world on protected sand dunes at the Menie estate to the north of Aberdeen.
Since then, he has been involved in damaging rows with locals and politicians. In February, he lost a legal battle over plans to build wind turbines in the North Sea within sight of the north-east resort.
But the Turnberry news was welcomed yesterday by both golfers and community leaders.
Lesley Bloomer, executive director of economy, neighbourhood and environment at South Ayrshire Council, said: "Turnberry has a vital role to play in terms of tourism and the economy in Ayrshire. We welcome any development that would contribute to the continued success of this wonderful resort, with which we have a close working relationship."
John Scott, Scottish Conservative MSP for Ayr, said: "This is very exciting news for golf at Turnberry, Ayrshire and the west of Scotland. Mr Trump's canny investment in the only privately-owned Open Championship golf course will attract golfers to Ayrshire from all over the world. It will have the potential to bring more visitors to our already world-renowned Clyde coast golf courses and will provide a welcome boost to our tourist industry."
Sandy Jones, chief executive of the Professional Golfers Association, said Trump's arrival would not make a great deal of difference to players and fans when the course hosts the Open. He said: "I'm sure it will still be a world-beating event and owning Turnberry will be more beneficial to Trump himself as it will raise his profile. He's known in America as someone who's been good for golf and I'm sure he will be good for the course and the local economy."
Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R & A, said that Turnberry would remain an Open course.
He added: "Donald Trump is investing in golf properties in Great Britain and Ireland. He must have great faith in the future of the game, which is heartening from a businessman of his stature."
l The official painting of the 2014 Ryder Cup has been unveiled and will be on display at the Scottish Parliament until November 4. The picture, by Scots golf artist Graeme Baxter, shows the second hole on the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles. Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick held the cup and examined the painting after the unveiling.