Did Donald Trump Copy His Hairstyle From Nature?

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We played Spyglass and Pebble last Sunday, at Maggie McFly’s. Here’s Mike B., holding the stick for me on the second green at Pebble:

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The weather had been so bad that playing anywhere but on the simulators wasn’t a possibility. Then the weather got worse. The snowstorm that the Weather Channel had such a cow about earlier this week turned out to be a dud in our part of New England, but we still got six or seven inches Then on Friday morning we got a few more. As a consequence, I’ve spent a lot of time staring at a bird feeder my wife gave me for one of the windows in my office —which our dog has also been interested in. Anyway, I think I’ve figured out where my close personal friend Donald Trump got his hairstyle: nuthatches.

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I mentioned in a recent post that Jägermeister’s official sponsorship of the Sunday Morning Group had had a measurable impact on sales because Other Gene’s wife had ordered some in a restaurant and a non-golf-playing bridge partner of mine in Mississippi was thinking about buying a bottle. I’d now like to update those results: my non-golf-playing bridge partner in Mississippi not only did buy a bottle; he also served it to three people he has been teaching to play bridge:

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“Each of the guys said he hadn’t drunk any since college,” my friend reported. “The one with the baseball cap said his first and only experience with it had been at a Cornell fraternity party he went to his freshman year. He drank so much that night that he ended up throwing up from a balcony at the front of the fraternity house, and a crowd gathered below to cheer him on. The other guy said his story was similar, but he didn’t tell it.” They’re grown-ups now, though, and I think I can safely put all four of them in the plus column, along with Other Gene’s wife.

Let’s check that bird feeder again:

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The Muny Life: Hidden Art Treasures of New York City Golf

Hacker, Pelham Bay, Bronx, New York, March 1, 2013.

Hacker, Pelham Bay Golf Course, Bronx, New York, March 1, 2013.

Hacker (real name), Rick, and I played in Pelham Bay Park, in the Bronx, on Friday. There are two golf courses, both owned by the City of New York—Pelham Bay and Split Rock—and they share a clubhouse, which you can see in the background in the photo above. It was built in 1936, and it has a cobblestoned driveway and front courtyard, and it has neoclassical columns made of white Tuckahoe marble. Here’s what the building looked like when it was under construction (beyond the sign):

Pelham Bay, 1936.

Pelham Bay clubhouse, under construction, 1936.

And here’s what it looked like when it was finished:

Pelham clubhouse, 1936.

Pelham Bay clubhouse, 1930s.

The first time my friends and I played Pelham and Split Rock, in 2004, the clubhouse was a mess. Glass was missing from many windows, and the front door had a hole that was big enough for rats to walk through on their hind legs. The Parks Department had bolted cheap outdoor floodlights to a pair of hemispherical hammered-bronze light fixtures in the Club Room, and it had installed an institutional drinking fountain in front of one of two basalt-and-marble fireplaces. The building was no longer heated, if it ever had been, and on one frosty winter morning we saw piles of construction debris burning in both fireplaces—Irish guys in front of one, Korean guys in front of the other. Here’s what the Club Room looked like in the 1930s:

Club Room, 1930s. The Parks Department later bolted flood lights to the Art Deco light fixture at the top of the picture, and installed a drinking fountain in front of the fireplace.

Club Room, 1930s. The Parks Department later bolted flood lights to the Art Deco light fixture at the top of the picture, and installed a drinking fountain in front of the fireplace.

A year or two after we first played there, American Golf, which operates both courses on a twenty-year lease from the city, spent millions to restore the clubhouse. The architect was Page Ayres Cowley, and she and her colleagues did an extraordinary job. Here’s what the Club Room looked like on Friday:

Club Room, 2013.

Club Room, 2013. The floodlights have been removed from the hammered-bronze light fixtures. Why don’t you quit fooling around, and rent the clubhouse for your daughter’s wedding reception?

When the Pelham clubhouse was built, the artist Allen Saalburg created a Surrealist mural for the wall above each mantle. (Saalburg was a friend of Dorothy Parker, S.J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, and other early New Yorker contributors.)  His murals—one of which is visible in the 1930s Club Room photograph—were still there when my friends and I first played the courses, but today the spaces they occupied are filled by a pair of hokey recent paintings, which depict what are supposed to be period scenes. The murals, Cowley told me, haven’t been destroyed, unlike similar ones that Saalburg painted, at around the same time, for the restaurant Tavern on the Green. But they need significant restoration work before they can go back up. Here is one of Saalburg’s sketches for the murals:

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There’s not a lot of golf iconography in there, at least as far as I can see, but I hope somebody rich steps up and pays for their restoration. (Hey, Donald Trump!) And here’s how Saalburg visualized the fireplace wall you can see in the photos above:

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The round windows, and their wavy muntins, are still there—and they have glass in them now. Cowley told me she thinks some of the original bunkers on the course may have been designed to echo the shape of the windows, or vice versa. Here’s one of them, from the 1930s:

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Maybe so. Anyway, Hacker, Rick, and I arrived at 10:30, and teed off almost immediately. (My greens fee was $39, walking; theirs, because they’re seniors, was $20.) There were pretty many other golfers, although we weren’t held up too seriously. We played skins and Ball Marker Stymies, and we finished in less than four hours. These guys were teeing off on the first hole as we putted out on the ninth:

IMG_0386The big rusty thing you see in the woods beyond them is part of a commuter rail line, which separates the two courses. And the grass you see through the trees is the eighteenth hole at Split Rock, which was closed—probably because it has more trees and takes longer to dry out than Pelham Bay does. I got home at 4:30 and took the dog for a nice long walk.

Some moron re-contoured several greens at Pelham by driving an R.V. over them.  This one didn't  look too bad.

Some moron re-contoured several greens at Pelham by driving an R.V. over them. This one didn’t look too bad.

My Close Personal Friend Donald Trump

Donald T. and David O. in front of the waterfall at Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach, Florida, March, 2012.

For the July issue of Golf Digest, I wrote an article about Donald Trump and his newest golf course, Trump International Golf Links, near Aberdeen, Scotland. Back in March, Trump and I played  a round at his course in Palm Beach (photo above), and I spent one night at Mar-a-Lago, which Trump saved from demolition in the 1980s and now operates as a private club (photo of in-room amenities below).

Mar-a-Lago: only the best.

Trump is unimpressed by golf courses he doesn’t own, especially when he compares them with his Scottish course (which will open next week). “I know Bandon Dunes,” he told me over lunch. “The biggest dune there is like one tenth the size of our smallest dune. It’s a toy. And they get such great reviews. Every one of my courses is, like, amazing.”

Trump’s courses really are amazing; the one in Bedminster, New Jersey, was recently chosen by the U.S.G.A. to host the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, and the others are stand-outs, too, although they aren’t necessarily as great as he says they are. A few years ago, he bought a bankrupt course in southern New Jersey, called Pine Hill, and turned it into Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia (it’s just over the state line from Pennsylvania). According to him, it should probably be considered the best course in the world (other than his course in Scotland).

“It’s a better course than Pine Valley,” he told me, “because it has much better elevation. And I love Pine Valley, but this course is better. Now, it will never be judged better, because nobody will ever give me the fair shake of doing that. But that’s OK. It’s a better course than Pine Valley—and the Pine Valley people say that, too, although they won’t say it publicly. Two of them came over to me and said, ‘Mr. Trump, this is better than Pine Valley, but please don’t ever quote me.'”

Trump’s courses, wherever they are, do often have cool cars parked in front of them:

Three Ferraris plus my rented maroon Kia, Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach.

Automobile arrangements like that don’t happen by accident. When I told the parking attendant I didn’t think I’d ever seen three Ferraris in a row, he said the boss had told him to be sure I noticed.

Trump is a very good golfer, even though he says he is.

In the photo above, Trump’s hair is hidden by his hat, which he didn’t take off during golf or at lunch, but I got to study it over dinner that night, at Mar-a-Lago. From straight on—which is presumably how he sees it in a mirror—it looks almost normal, but if you get any kind of an angle on it you can tell how structurally complex it is. And he must do it himself, because his wife wasn’t with him and I don’t think he was traveling with a hairdresser. I was impressed.

D.T. and John Nieporte, the head pro.

Off the record, I had a swell time hanging around with Trump. (Trump uses “off the record” not to protect confidences but to give emphasis to public knowledge he hopes you’ll quote—as in, “Off the record, I took down the trees and made the front page of the Washington Post four days in a row”—and I’m going to start doing that, too.) He’s a little exhausting to be with, because his only real topic of conversation is himself, but he doesn’t make you feel nervous or inferior, the way so many billionaires seem to do nowadays.

He’s also accessible. A decade ago, I wrote a long article for The New Yorker about concrete, and in it I quoted him at some length, since he built the first concrete office building in New York and knows a lot about the subject—although he was sometimes hard to understand because during our entire telephone conversation he was eating an apple. But he took my call, and he had interesting things to say.

Back-Roads Scotland: Fraserburgh

Fifteenth green, Fraserburgh Golf Club, Scotland. Photo by Ian Stephen.

For the July issue of Golf Digest, which is on sale now, I wrote an article about Donald Trump and his newest golf course, Trump International Golf Links, in Scotland. The course is on the North Sea coast, a two-and-a-half-hour drive north from the Old Course at St. Andrews and about ten miles beyond the port city of Aberdeen. You should definitely play it if you have a chance—it will open July 10—and after you’ve done that you should get back on the A90 and drive another hour north, to the town of Fraserburgh, at the easternmost end of the Moray Firth. It’s the home not only of the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, but also of Fraserburgh Golf Club, the seventh oldest in the world.

Fraserburgh foghorn, April, 2012. It was built in 1902. It's not still in use, but the museum keeps it painted.

I played Fraserburgh with two older members: Bill Maitland, who owns a furniture store in town, and Andrew Tait, a member of family of extremely successful fishermen. The morning was cold and the wind was blowing hard, and I wore two pairs of rain gloves, one on top of the other, in the hope of maintaining feeling in my fingers. Tait, in contrast, didn’t wear even one glove, and the explanation was what I guessed: after you’ve spent  a few decades fishing in the North Sea, it takes more than wind to make your hands feel cold on land.

Town of Fraserburgh, viewed from the golf course. April, 2012.

Fraserburgh’s first and eighteenth holes are flat and forgettable, but nearly everything in between is brilliant, beginning with the second, a par 4 that plays up what looks like the surface of the moon, on the flank of a mountainous dune called Corbie Hill:

Second Hole, Fraserburgh Golf Club. Photo by Ian Stephen.

Golf in the region goes back a long way. Local church records show that a parishioner named John Burnett was sent to the “maisters stool” for “playing gouff” on the links of Fraserburgh in 1613. The club was founded a century and a half later, in 1777, and it has the documents to prove it. At lunch after our round, Maitland showed me a copy of the original membership register. “These names are still well known to us,” he said—and by that point they were well known to me, too, because I had seen them on plaques and trophies in clubhouses along the coast:

"These names are still well known to us," Bill Maitland told me.

Fraserburgh’s original members got together for lunch after they played, just as they do nowadays, and they were required to pay their share of the bill whether they showed up or not—an excellent rule that my own gang ought to adopt. After we’d eaten, Tait took me to the wharf to see his family’s three fishing boats. He lives on a farm a few miles down the road and has his own five-hole golf course, which he plays when he’s too busy to get to the club.

Andrew Tait, Fraserburgh wharf, April, 2012. The boat is named for his parents.

Fraserburgh’s eighteenth hole is called Bridge, after a footbridge over some railroad tracks along the western edge of the course. The rail line connected Fraserburgh with Aberdeen and the villages and golf courses in between—a sort of Linksland Express. It closed in 1965, though, and the footbridge was demolished, so Fraserburgh’s eighteenth is now a golf hole with a ghost name. The course is still there, though, and it’s one of many worthy destinations along the coast for links-golf pilgrims who can be persuaded not to turn around after playing Carnoustie.