Flashback Review: Trump National Golf Club

It seemed like a good time to post a flashback review of this course. Donald Trump has been in the news this week, partly because the new season of Celebrity Apprentice started up Sunday and partly because he made his intentions known that his “renovation” of Doral might be more extensive than anyone realized—potentially a complete redesign of the course! Having not played that course, I can’t comment whether or not a redesign is a good move, but it’s a very well-known property that gets plenty of praise, so it seems like a questionable move.

Note: This article was posted long before Trump decided to run for president, and I will abstain from commenting any further on that subject. : )

The other reason I thought I’d write this review is because I got an up-close reminder of what makes Trump National in Rancho Palos Verdes so special this past weekend. I played The Links at Terranea just up the street, which features similar great views and conditioning. That said, it’s still more of the baby brother to the Trump course.

Trump National was formerly known as Ocean Trails before Trump bought the property and completely renovated the course from top to bottom. Though I never had the chance to play there before the transformation, it was a course that was always pretty well regarded with an oceanfront Pete Dye design. Unfortunately, nature was its worst enemy as several holes eroded significantly and more or less began sliding off into the ocean. After that, Ocean Trails played with less than 18 holes for awhile and experienced troubles. Whether you like what Trump’s people did with the property or not, it was more or less saved by the new ownership and renovation process.

I know many people who consider Trump National overpriced and overhyped. They will say, “sure it has great ocean views, but the design is flawed because of this, that or the other.” I fully agree with the overpriced sentiment. It is expensive and garish, which you would expect from a Trump property, especially in one of the most desirable waterfront real estate markets in the country (Rancho Palos Verdes). But when I played there in 2008, I was very impressed with the course overall. Great views aside, I thought the design was fun, challenging and diverse.

Because the course is built on a hillside, some people don’t like the severe slopes found on many of the fairways. There are a few awkward semi-blind tee shots, as well. The greens are big, fast, unusually shaped and feature plenty of undulation. However, I am a fan of courses that aren’t “straightforward.” I like some funky angles, slopes and undulation. Truth be told, I don’t remember that many specific hole designs out here, but I do remember I had a lot of fun on the course and was definitely never “bored” on any hole.

What I do remember most are the incredible ocean views that can be found on almost every single hole on the course. I am reminded every day at work when my screensaver pops up with rotating golf course pictures I’ve taken over the years. Plenty from Trump National shots are in the rotation and they always make me smile. What helps is that the day I played there was absolutely picture perfect. There was not a cloud in the sky, the ocean shimmered in the late afternoon and you could see Catalina Island as clear as day.

Trump National is a beautiful course in a beautiful setting. I don’t think anyone can argue with that.

I also can’t remember exactly what I paid to play there. I know it was around $100 for a twilight time on a Friday afternoon. I took a half-day off of work and walked on at the course. I got out immediately and played the round by myself. There were plenty of people out there, so it wasn’t a super quick round, but it was a nice relaxed pace on a gorgeous day that made it a very enjoyable experience overall.

For what I paid that day, the course was well worth it. The conditioning was exceptional, the service was top-notch and the facilities are great. Of course, the decor is a bit over-the-top in the clubhouse, but that’s Trump’s style and it didn’t bother me too much here.

Because of the price tag, I am in no hurry to go back there and play again. I’d love to play there every day if money wasn’t an issue, though. I’m glad I have played it and to have experienced it with perfect conditions at a somewhat reasonable price. To me, it’s worth a one-time splurge, but deals can be found from time to time, so it pays to be on the lookout!

Some pictures from Trump National Golf Club (2008):

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