Trump Losing PGA Championship a Huge Blow in His Bid to Stop Massive Golf Course Losses

From his presidential campaign to his four years at the White House, golf has been a prominent feature of Donald Trump's solitary presidential term. According to the Trump Golf Count website, the president has played golf at least 150 times since his inauguration despite claiming in August 2016 that he wouldn't have "time to go play golf" if elected president. In November, Trump was on the green when he learned President-elect Joe Biden had won the presidential election.

More importantly, golf largely played the role of silent ally throughout Trump's first term. Over the last four years, the NBA, MLB and even the NFL have all incurred the president's wrath after distancing themselves, albeit to various degrees, from Trump, while golf largely kept its counsel.

That, however, changed dramatically on Sunday when the PGA of America entered the political arena and joined the ever-growing list of organizations, companies and even Republican politicians cutting ties with Trump for his role in the riots that saw thousands of his supporters storm the U.S. Capitol last week.

The body that runs professional golf events in the U.S., the PGA of America announced it would strip Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, of the 2022 PGA Championship.

"We find ourselves in a political situation not of our making," Seth Waugh, the PGA of America's chief executive, told The Associated Press.

"We're fiduciaries for our members, for the game, for our mission and for our brand.

"And how do we best protect that? Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster. The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave."

The Trump Organization was predictably bullish in its response to the PGA of America.

This is a breach of a binding contract and they have no right to terminate the agreement," it said in a statement.

"As an organization we have invested many, many millions of dollars in the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. We will continue to promote the game of golf on every level and remain focused on operating the finest golf courses anywhere in the world."

Donald Trump golfing in Virginia
U.S. President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club on December 13, 2020 in Sterling, Virginia. Al Drago/Getty

The 2022 PGA Championship was scheduled to be the first men's major held on a course owned by Trump.

According to Trump Golf's official website, the president now owns 19 golf courses worldwide—12 of which are located in the U.S.—but only two have hosted international events since he was elected president in 2016.

The Trump National Golf Course in Washington, D.C. hosted the Senior PGA Championship in 2017—it had previously hosted the 2013 Junior PGA Championship—while the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, hosted the Women's U.S. Open in the same year after hosting the USGA Junior Amateur Championship in 2009 and the Met Open Championship in 2014.

In July, The New York Times reported he had asked Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, to find out whether the British government would be open to help steer The Open Championship—also known as the British Open—to his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland.

Turnberry hosted The Open four times prior to being purchased by Trump in 2014 and was on a rota of 14 U.K. courses that can be selected to host the event in the future. That no longer appears to be the case as a day after the PGA of America stripped Bedminster of the 2022 PGA Championship, The R&A—which runs The Open—followed suit and ruled out Turnberry hosting golf's oldest major.

"We had no plans to stage any of our championship at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future," The R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said in a statement.

"We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances."

The decision from the PGA of America and The R&A to distance themselves from Trump is the latest blow to a business that was already battling the tide from a financial standpoint.

Tournaments provide lucrative opportunities for those who host them, and yet only two of Trump's golf courses have hosted international events since he was elected president in 2016. The Trump National Golf Course in Washington, D.C. hosted the Senior PGA Championship in 2017—it had previously hosted the 2013 Junior PGA Championship—while the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey, hosted the Women's U.S. Open in the same year after hosting the USGA Junior Amateur Championship in 2009 and the Met Open Championship in 2014.

The money and exposure from hosting tournaments would have helped Trump's chances of reducing losses on his golf courses around the world. In September, a New York Times investigation into Trump's tax returns over the last two decades, showed the president reported a combined $315.6 million loss at his golf courses over the period.

According to the report, Trump's three courses in Europe—Turnberry, Trump International Scotland and Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland—have reported a combined $63.6 million in losses.

Since being purchased by Trump, Turnberry underwent major upgrades on course and facilities worth north of $150 million. However, according to the most recent annual report available, the course made $19 million in sales in 2018 but reported a loss of almost $1 million.

The picture was similarly dire for Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida, the largest golf resort in the president's portfolio, which had racked up $162.3 million worth of losses through to the end of 2018.