When it comes to bluster, Donald Trump blows like a Category 5. His golf projects, however, seem to weather every storm. Take his new public course in the Bronx, New York, the municipally owned Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, which officially opened on Wednesday morning.
Draped atop a former landfill, Ferry Point is no stranger to controversy, having endured nearly 15 years of delays and tens of millions of dollars in extra costs. But you can’t blame Trump for those troubles. Trump was an 11th-hour addition to the mix, when, in 2011, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded him the management contract. If Trump hadn’t agreed to spend the final $10 million to build a clubhouse, the course might never have opened. Based on a recent preview round one thing is clear now: Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point was worth the wait.
Its best attribute is its unique and unforgettable location. Occupying one of the most remarkable tracts in golf, Trump Ferry Point sits adjacent to the Whitestone Bridge, with backdrops that include the East River, the Throgs Neck Bridge, the Manhattan skyline, St. Raymond’s Cemetery and public parks.
“There has never been a location like this,” Trump told Golf.com. “It’s right off the Manhattan ramp, five minutes from my apartment.”
Ferry Point also earns kudos for its design. Jack Nicklaus was the architect from Day One. The course remains a Nicklaus Signature design, but Nicklaus was assisted by 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.
Befitting its edge-of-the-water locale, Nicklaus and chief design associate Jim Lipe built a virtually treeless faux links. Manmade (though natural-looking) dunes topped with wavy grasses and gently tumbling meadowland provide character to the layout, and with the winds that blow off the water, its 7,407 yards should sufficiently test the pros. Still, thanks to roomy landing areas and mostly open green fronts, the course was plenty manageable from our 6,824-yard tees.
Despite its linksy look, Ferry Point doesn’t play as firm and fast as some purists would like. Trump remains wedded to the notion that customers believe that green is good, so fairways and green surrounds will remain well-irrigated for the indefinite future. What’s astonishingly well done are the areas surrounding the holes, which are expertly shaped to reflect nature’s chaos. They’re heavily contoured and studded with all manner of dense rough and tall grasses, both of which will become drier and wispier (and more playable) in the coming years, once they’re properly established.
Among the most memorable holes are the 425-yard, par-4 9th and the 576-yard, par-5 18th, both of which arc to the left and finish in the shadow of the Whitestone Bridge. The 352-yard, par-4 11th, with its minefield of bunkers, is another standout. Urbanites will dig the 441-yard, par-4 13th, with the city skyline dominating the background. My personal favorite is the 487-yard, par-4 16th, which starts from the highest point on the course. It’s hardly nosebleed territory, but it yields stellar 360-degree views. Fearsome bunkers etched into a hillside left, wetlands that edge the right side, and the East River beyond the green and glistening at sunset are a stirring tableau.
Say what you will about the cost overruns, the gritty, traffic-choked surrounds and Trump himself. Judging this course purely on its pre-opening merits, it’s an easy call: Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is a welcome addition to the golf landscape and will quickly join the ranks of the nation’s best public courses. And with its one-of-a-kind location, a major championship could be in its future.