Last night, Donald Trump, sporting pink shirt and tie, visited the club to speak to an overflow gathering of members, in which he presented his vision and some of his plans for the revitalized club.
It was an upbeat session. Not surprisingly, Mr. Trump is a good salesman. But he'll also be good for the Club.
First off, Trump has a vision for the property, which was previously lacking when it was owned by Chevy Chase Bank. Lowes Island was a nice, family oriented club that just happened to have two terrific golf courses on a spectacular piece of land. But the bank never had any real vision of what the place should be.
Trump does. He wants it to be one of the best golf clubs in the country, and certainly THE best in the DC area. He was quite explicit in stating that he wants Trump National to be superior to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.
One member asked "what if we don't want to be better than Congressional" to which Trump responded, without hesitation, "then you should leave and find another club." We think that's fair advice to the existing members.
Many rumors have swirled around the club the past few weeks as the Trump purchase began to sink in as reality. Trump debunked most of those last night. Our advice to existing members: wait and see. It may be truly exciting to see what Trump does; he doesn't ever set out to fail.
Here's some specifics. Trump has retained Tom Fazio, designer of the original "Island" course at the club, to redesign it and make it into a Championship course. Trump says Fazio has told him that the land on which the club is situated is suitable for the finest course in the country, and that could be true. It sounds like their plans include incorporating the Potomac River into play, which would certainly be exciting. It will also be a challenge--Trump should've seen the place in the great flood of 1996, when two-thirds of the course was under at least 10 feet of water!
In any event, it is pretty clear that the club is going to go from having a great golf course to a spectacular one.
Trump also plans to build an indoor tennis facility (members currently play in a bubble during the winter). He plans to add a ballroom to the clubhouse, greatly expanding the existing building's footprint in the process, such that it can also have a real grill, a first rate fitness facility and expanded lockers and other amenities.
He is putting a caddy program in place. Some members are grumbling about the cost of playing with caddies, but we think if it's done right, most will see significant benefits. Trump is also pledging to expand the practice facility, which is a real achilles heel of the club now--cramped and inconvenient.
We also give props to Trump for agreeing to keep, and even expand, the childcare program at the club, an unusual feature that had made it one of the most family friendly in the region. That, in turn, has kept the membership young and lively, a nice contrast to all the old folks out at Congressional and many other local clubs.
The cost is going up, but not really by much. In fact, if Trump succeeds in fashioning his vision at Trump National Washington, it could very well be the best bargain in the country. For the members themselves to put the kind of money Trump is talking about into the club would've required a quite hefty assessment.
If you've been to any of Trump's other clubs, you know they all have waterfalls, so expect one at Trump Washington too. The hill between the practice green and the 18th green would make the perfect place for one--it's a hill that for years members have said "we ought to do something nice with that."
Personally, we're excited. If it doesn't work out, then we can always go someplace else.