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Tycoon Trump tees off on controversial new course

It cost £100 million, caused fury among local conservationists and stirred up controversy in the Scottish Parliament but, in spite of all the unrest, Donald Trump's International Golf Links swung into life at the official opening yesterday.

to the fore: Donald Trump is piped on to the controversial links course, which he officially opened yesterday. Pictures: Stewart Attwood
to the fore: Donald Trump is piped on to the controversial links course, which he officially opened yesterday. Pictures: Stewart Attwood

A three-ball, featuring Mr Trump, former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the Professional Golfers' Association, finally got things rolling on what its owner proclaimed would be world's greatest course on the Menie Estate, near Balmedie in Aberdeenshire.

Mr Trump, the American billionaire whose mother Mary Anne came from Stornoway, purchased a large part of the estate in 2006. However, only the golf course opened yesterday – ambitious plans for a hotel and houses are still on the backburner until a decision is made on a proposed windfarm off the coast, which the tycoon says will ruin the views.

Mr Trump, who was led on to the course by several pipers, said: "This is going to be a very important thing for Aberdeen and Scotland. When I bought the land I looked at it and said I really believe on this piece of land we can create the greatest golf course anywhere in the world.

"It's a special place and Scotland is a special place. My mother was a great woman, she loved Scotland, would go back there every year religiously, and she would be very proud today.

"This is great for golf, and what's good for golf is good for Scotland because it's the home of the game. To my mother and to all of the people who have worked so hard I just want to say thank you and enjoy this great place."

He said he remains confident that the offshore windfarm proposal will be rejected and plans to expand the resort will continue. "As soon as we find out they are not going to destroy Scotland by building windmills all over the place we will start immediately on the hotel," he said.

Montgomerie was joined by fellow professional Martin Laird, and Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, had also been due at the gathering but bad weather disrupted his travel plans.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust recently wrote an open letter requesting that the golfers invited to the opening boycott the holes built on the most environmentally sensitive areas.

The course is on a 4000-year-old stretch of coastal sand dunes that make up a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Mr Trump was given the go-ahead for the "stabilisation" of the dunes to construct the resort in 2008.

Montgomerie said: "There has been a lot of unfortunate adverse publicity and I can't understand why. This is a development for temporary and permanent employment in the area. It's also good for tourism and everything surrounding it is fantastic for the area. I can't understand the small-mindedness of some people that can complain about this as it is simply superb. It could only happen in Scotland."

To coincide with the opening, a documentary film called You've Been Trumped was released at the weekend. It is described by its makers as a "blistering big-screen account of the destruction of one of Britain's last remaining wilderness areas".

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