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Trump Chasing No. 17

I played golf once with billionaire Donald Trump a dozen or so years ago, while doing a feature for Golf Magazine. In those days, handicaps were kept on a computer printout in the locker room. While waiting for Trump to appear, I checked his handicap on the sheet and he was listed at plus-2.

This was at Winged Foot, one of America’s most prestigious and most difficult 36-hole venues. Major championships have been played on the West Course, but for some, the East Course is just as tough.

After we played, all I could think was that I’d like to play him every day for a living at plus-2. We call that a vanity handicap.

After watching Trump collect golf courses the past half-dozen years, the same could be said for his golf portfolio. According to Trump’s website, he owns 16 golf properties and is hoping for a 17th – the legendary Turnberry golf links in western Scotland, a regular host of the Open Championship.

Only one of his courses has been built from scratch, Trump International Scotland, near Aberdeen. He believes – really – that it’s the best course in Scotland and that the R&A should beat down his door for an opportunity to play an Open there.

He also owns Doral and pumped a few million into its renovation and just recently purchased Doonbeg (Trump International Ireland), which was distressed. If he buys Turnberry, it will be interesting to see whether the R&A keeps Turnberry on the list of Open courses.

Trump has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times – in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. According to Forbes, all the bankruptcies were connected to over-leveraged casino and hotel properties in Atlantic City. He has never filed for personal bankruptcy.

What that really means is that if you’re a Trump creditor, you roll the dice by doing business with The Donald. Corporate bankruptcy is a way for principals to restructure debt and come out unscarred and unscathed. For a creditor, pennies on the dollar is a real possibility.

It’s been five years since a Trump bankruptcy and five years before that was the previous one. That’s doesn’t necessarily mean anything but buyer beware.


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