Drew Rogers is a partner and senior design associate with Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates. He joined the firm in 1992 and his work to date has resulted in the creation of the River Course at The Lowes Island Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia; The Sunset Course at Mirasol Golf and Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (site of the 2003 PGA Honda Classic); Oitavos Dunes in Cascais, Portugal (site of the 2005 European PGA Tour Portuguese Open); The Club at Olde Stone in Alvaton, Kentucky; and Newport National Golf Club in Newport, Rhode Island.
We were presented information in 1997, at Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates, which suggested that Donald Trump was getting into the golf business. Our team was quick to act, and by pulling a few strings, we arranged a face-to-face meeting for Arthur and “The Donald” in New York City.
When Arthur returned from that meeting, he had good news
“Mr. Trump says our firm will certainly be given a shot at the job – all we have to do is create the best plan,” Arthur announced.
Arthur visited the site several times, and then I spent about three solid days on site finding strategic green locations and tee sites while tweaking the routing.
The time and energy spent was worth it, because, in the end, Mr. Trump informed us that we managed to create that “best plan” and we got the contract!
All the while, I had never encountered the great entrepreneur, but had worked hard at keeping things on a straight and narrow for this perceptively demanding client.
Several months later, I was summoned to attend a design team meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan. I had prepared thoroughly for the meeting and was excited, but the meeting was handled by several of Donald’s key real estate assistants and there seemed to be more legal consultants in the room than the rest of us combined!
The meeting was just about to be adjourned when the door to the boardroom swung open…..and in came Donald Trump.
“How are things going?” Trump asked. “Give me a status report.”
After hearing the report, Trump spoke with total conviction. “This project is very, very important to me. I want this golf course to be the best in the world. Unmatched, legendary,” he insisted. “Where is my golf course architect?”
It took me a moment to realize that he was asking for me! I apologetically volunteered my identity and was then ushered away into Mr. Trump’s office. He had to take a call first, so that gave me a chance to catch my breath, but all the while I was thinking, “Oh my God, what am I doing here? How did I get here in front of Donald Trump?”
Mr. Trump was quick with his call, and then he dove right into the meat of the matter and began making critical comments about the routing plan. Now we were talking my territory: golf architecture. I began to think, “Hey, I can do this. He’s talking my language now!” Donald Trump had just come into my “boardroom.”
For the next ninety minutes, Trump and I continued to share ideas and challenge one another just as though we had been working together for years. He had some good ideas and some that were not so good. It was during those moments I had to swallow hard. How do I tell Mr. Trump his idea is not suitable or possible? I stood my ground, though. He listened well, and as long as a good case could be made to the contrary, he would go with my suggestions opposite his initial instinct. That impressed me.
When we finished, it was very amicable and he thanked me for all the hard work and wished me well on my journey back to Detroit. Then it occurred to me–this extra session had caused me to miss my scheduled flight back! But what the heck, I had just gone toe to toe with The Donald and lived to tell the story. It was a real confidence builder for me in dealing with tough customers. Believe it or not, he was probably not my toughest!
As a golf course architect, other than Donald Trump’s office, I’ve had the great opportunity to travel around the world to some pretty out-of-the way places: some hardly inhabited and some just plain rugged and dangerous. Unlike some of my colleagues, I had been pretty fortunate to avoid the deadly creatures some architects had encountered, especially on initial site visits. I’d not come across any venomous snakes, alligators, bears, cougars…or anything else for that matter. But, on a recent trip to Portugal, that lucky streak, for me, came to an end.
As we were touring a new site via jeep, our guide pointed out a wild boar outside the vehicle. I was excited because I’d never encountered anything like that, and I was comforted by the fact that I was safely inside the vehicle. So we chatted about this boar briefly and then drove onward.
We then reached a point where our guide urged us to get out of the vehicle to look at a hillside. We did, and soon I noticed another small boar coming down the hill toward us. The guide really did not get excited, but I was certainly edging toward the vehicle. Then, as if a silent message was sent to wooded area above, approximately thirty boars came charging down the hill toward us! I ran like crazy, like others in our group, scrambling to leap back into the vehicle for protection. But we noticed our guide walking inexplicably into the herd!
Only later did I find out he’d been feeding these wild pigs for months, which not only explains why he wasn’t worried, but also why the wild boars came charging!
In addition to fascinating wildlife, over the years I have encountered some pretty interesting, and sometimes wild, landowners. I was near Pinehurst, North Carolina, working on a renovation project. The golf course was bordered by large, wooded, estate-type lots and homes. It was a very well-established and mature gated golf course community of reputation – the type where you expect a certain cachet, rank, and decorum among the residents.
We were out marking trees for removal. Marking and removing trees is always a dicey activity because nobody ever wants to see a tree taken down. Therefore we try to be inconspicuous in our efforts not only to mark the trees, and low-profile when we’re actually removing them. There was a group of pines along the border of one of the holes just at the back of a real estate lot. Our surveys had been staked, so we were well aware of the property lines. I painted only a small dot on the back side of the base of a tree so nobody but our internal crew would be able to identify this tree was marked to be removed.
But the construction crew just happened to have a chainsaw man at the ready, so we decided to get this one particular tree down so we could determine immediately whether more trees should be removed or just this one would suffice. As he fired up the chainsaw, we noticed an older lady coming down the hill from the house on the adjacent lot. That was a very normal occurrence, as residents often become curious about what is going on outside their doors – but this lady happened to be coming down the hill toting a twelve-gauge shotgun!
“I will take out every last one of you if you dare to cut down any of my trees!” she screeched.
We all backed away and allowed our club representative to take the lead and try to calm her down, but the lady was having none of his explanation.
“I have already called the sheriff,” she told him.
Frankly, we were relieved that she had gone to the trouble of making this advance call to the authorities, because we sensed that might be the only way we were going to get out of this pickle!
The woman actually held us at gunpoint until the sheriff came!
When the sheriff arrived, he thankfully disarmed the lady and took her back to her house to talk to her. As soon as that shotgun was out of range, we went right ahead, fired up the chainsaw again, and cut the tree down!