The Blue Blazers are lurking. Recent sightings of some of the USGA's top brass at an as yet unfinished New York City public golf course can only mean one thing: they're (quietly) sizing up the place for a future U.S. Open. Sure, old reliable Bethpage Black is only minutes away, but the new course we're referring to is hardly ordinary. Combine golf's most electrifying figure, Donald Trump, with golf's greatest champion, Jack Nicklaus and toss in the near-miracle of getting this course completed in the south Bronx and you have a course destined to be discussed for years. Serious talk starts today, when Trump, Nicklaus and outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg headline the ribbon-cutting. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point -- welcome to your first "Hello, World" moment.
The backstory of New York City-owned Trump Ferry Point is so rich, it borders on exhausting. Then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an avid golfer himself, spearheaded the project 16 years ago. It took Mayor Bloomberg, another serious stick, to see the job through, which he did by anointing the Donald to help the project cross the finish line. It's not open yet, but for now, here are the five things you need to know.
1. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point occupies one of the most remarkable tracts in golf. It sits on a 222-acre converted landfill adjacent to the Whitestone Bridge, with backdrops that include the East River, Long Island Sound, the Throggs Neck Bridge, St. Raymond's Cemetery and public parks. Jet wash from nearby LaGuardia Airport can't be considered a positive, but Ferry Point's easy accessibility for all and the easy-on-the-eyes Manhattan skyline in the distance are huge plusses.
2. The course will be strictly public -- one of the coolest munis in golf. Green fees haven't been set, but it's anticipated that locals will pay $125 for this special occasion spread, tourists more. Will the $120 million project ever come close to paying for itself? Not a chance, insiders allow. Cleaning up an eyesore, however, was a worthy goal, and Trump envisions significant championships -- even majors -- landing here, shining more spotlight on New York City, as well as filling hotel rooms and restaurants.
3. Jack Nicklaus gets design credit, but was assisted by collaborating architect John Sanford, who is perhaps best known for his skillful design and engineering work on Boston's Granite Links Golf Club at Quarry Hills, where he transformed a dumpsite for the city's "Big Dig" project into a well-regarded, public-access 27-hole layout.
4. Befitting its edge-of-the-water locale, Trump Ferry Point will play as a faux-links, without trees. Man-made (though natural looking) dunes topped with wavy grasses and gently tumbling meadowland provide the character to the layout, and with the winds that blow off the water, its 7,300-plus yards should offer a sufficient test to qualify as U.S. Open-worthy.
5. Donald Trump and his management team took the reins at the end of 2011, tabbed by Bloomberg to get this long-delayed project with its staggering cost overruns across the finish line. The course might open late in 2014, but more realistically, not until 2015, to allow sufficient grow-in time on all holes, as well as to permit the on-site infrastructure, such as a clubhouse, to take root. So why the ribbon-cutting now? Word is, Mayor Bloomberg wants to have his day in the sun before he steps down at year's end.