There's a winter storm warning in effect till 6 tonight, the temperature is in the 30s, and specks of snow keep floating across the sky. The mid-February sun is stuck behind the clouds, the grass is washed-out brown, and every now and then, it starts to sprinkle. A handful of golfers still brave the elements, teeing off along the shore of Lake Norman, but one of them is not Donald Trump, which is too bad because he's a terrific player. Last time he was here, a member, reputed to be scratch, challenged him. Trump came home in 2-under 70 using a set of rented Taylor-Made clubs. "I'm a golfer, I've won many club championships," he says. "I know a lot about golf. What's your course? Quail Hollow? This is a better course than Quail Hollow. I know Quail Hollow. This is a superior course." Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, by the way, will host the 2017 PGA Championship, one of golf's four major tournaments.
Trump had flown into Charlotte Douglas International Airport from Palm Beach, Fla., in his private Boeing 757 to speak at a convention at Time Warner Cable Arena. The event was held by ACN Inc., a Concord company that has been accused of being a pyramid scheme. Trump has endorsed it for years, twice featuring it on The Apprentice, the reality television show he hosts on NBC, and his appearance at the arena attracted a local TV station and The Charlotte Observer. But alter espousing entrepreneurship to the nearly sold-out crowd, he turned his attention to the Mooresville country club he bought a year ago, telling the newspaper, "It's got to be one of the hottest places around. I think we have the best golf club in North Carolina. I don't think there's anything as good."
A year ago, members sold The Point Lake and Golf Club to New York-based The Trump Organization Inc., which promised to pour millions into renovations and improvements. The overhaul is still under way, so after the conference, he jumped into a black limousine and headed north to tour its progress. The Trump that arrives is not the .controversy-courting scrapper who called comedienne Rosie O'Donnell "trash," labeled NBC news anchor Brian Williams a "dummy" on Twitter and placed a $5 million bounty on Barack Obama's "real" origins. He looks like the same guy, with bright skin, dark suit and iconic ginger coiffure, but this Trump poses for pictures with kids ("Take care of your mommy, sweetheart"), raves about the handsomeness of just about everyone he meets and, after a moment's hesitation, flashes a sorority hand sign at the behest of a brunette East Tennessee State University coed. "My sisters don't believe you're here," she says, brandishing a smartphone camera as Trump fashions his fingers into a triangle.
Still, he's constantly taking stock of the place. "What do people think of the locker room?" One of his seven-person entourage says they love it. "Who did the stonework here?" Someone tells him he has an interview to do, but Trump wants to see the clock--black, at least 20 feet tall, with gilded lion heads at its four corners--recently installed behind the 18th green. "This was an empty little courtyard, and now it has a clock. I won't even tell you how much it cost me. Over a couple hundred thousand dollars. It comes from Massachusetts. It's the oldest clockmaker in the country. Just fantastic people." His company is investing more than $10 million in the club, but the most important addition is Donald Trump. "If someone else came in and did all of the improvements I'm doing, it would be positive, but nobody would know about it."
The Point was designed to resemble a Nantucket village, so its center is not a traditional clubhouse but a collection of wood-sided buildings around a cobblestone square. "You know, I am buying a town. They have a bakery, a delicatessen." That delicatessen now sells Trump chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and "simply red" for about $15 a bottle; Trump dark and milk chocolates; Trump Ice bottled water; Trump coffee mugs and tumblers; and How to Get Rich, written by Donald J. Trump. The club itself has been rechristened Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte.
If such eponymy seems self-serving, that's because it is. But the Trump brand is worth millions--he claims billions--and it should serve the members of Trump National as well as its owner. "Trump has an image that is both serious and an image that is silly," says Sheri Bridges, a marketing professor at Wake Forest University in...