By Mike Dougherty
Construction of a new golf course in the shadow of the Whitestone Bridge got under way 14 years ago when the market demanded more options.
Times have changed.
While the former landfill was being transformed, the economy soured and golfers began to find other ways to spend free time. Last year, 157 courses shut down. According to research conducted by the National Golf Foundation, some 5 million golfers have walked away from the game in the last decade. The number of rounds played last year fell to 462 million, the lowest number since 1995.
This venture would be considered risky at best if not for a unique set of circumstances.
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Jack Nicklaus is responsible for the faux-links layout, along with noted course designer John Sanford. Donald Trump got involved two years ago, signing a deal with New York City to finish the stalled project and operate the public facility for the next 20 years.
The site is also unlike any in the Metropolitan area, with views of the Manhattan skyline.
“If we didn’t get involved, people might still be looking at a dirt track,” said Ron Lieberman, Trump’s vice president for management and development.
The course was funded by taxpayers, and cost estimates are surpassing $250 million.
“It could be one of the most expensive golf courses ever built,” Lieberman said. “And it probably took longer than any other golf course to build until Donald Trump got involved. We’re excited to bring this to New York City.”
Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is already generating a buzz.
Golfers with connections have been getting a preview of the layout this fall. Weather permitting, the course will open April 1, 2015. The man-made dunes, wide fairways and wispy fescue give it a links feel. Green fees have not been set, but are expected to surpass $100.
It will undoubtedly draw golfers from all over the region.
“Any new golf course that goes in will affect the rest of us, whether it costs $15 a round or $300 a round,” said Scott Klemme, the director of golf at Centennial Golf Club in Carmel. “Golfers who play here are going to play that course, and if they have a good experience, they will probably go back.”
Trump is building a $10 million clubhouse designed by the noted architectural firm of Hart-Howerton.
National recognition is coming, too.
Ferry Point is expected to host The Barclays in 2017 and 2020. The FedEx Cup playoff event formerly called Westchester Country Club home. USGA executive director Mike Davis and PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua have visited the site, Lieberman said, which has induced talk of a possible major championship being held there.
“For somebody else, I think there would certainly be risk in opening a new course,” Lieberman said. “One thing we’ve become good at is buying a property, fixing it up and putting the Trump name on it. It’s a model that works for us.”