Miami-Dade County

Donald Trump has eye on Crandon golf course

Donald Trump, right, tees off at the Trump International Doral Miami course as Miss Universe contestants watch on Jan. 12, 2015.
Donald Trump, right, tees off at the Trump International Doral Miami course as Miss Universe contestants watch on Jan. 12, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Donald Trump wants to take over management of the well regarded public golf course on Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, investing $10 million in improvements while pledging not to increase green fees for Miami-Dade residents.

Trump’s organization delivered an unsolicited proposal last fall to Miami-Dade County laying out the proposed deal for the waterfront 18-hole course. That document has not been made public, but a Trump aide outlined some rough details Tuesday afternoon.

“Golf is not an essential service,” said Ed Russo, a Trump consultant. “We don’t have all the budgetary restraints the county has... We’re prepared to put in $10 million, with a $5 million reserve, to restore that golf course to its original grandeur.”

In 2012, Trump became a major player in Miami-Dade’s golf scene with the purchase of the Doral golf resort, home to the famed Blue Monster golf course. He presides over a chain of popular golf courses throughout Florida and around the world. Adding Crandon to his portfolio would give him a waterfront option in the Miami area, albeit with the complication of managing a course that’s part of the county parks system.

Trump is also getting involved in local politics, donating $15,000 to the reelection effort of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, according to a report filed Tuesday. Gimenez holds authority over the county’s parks and contracting departments.

The Crandon deal would mean major changes for one of South Florida’s iconic public courses, and put it under the management umbrella of a celebrity developer with a polarizing persona. It also involves one of the more complicated green spaces in Miami-Dade, given a contentious deed restriction that gives the Matheson family authority over park decisions. That power stems from the family’s original transfer of the park land to the county in 1940.

Bruce Matheson, the family member that wields authority over the agreement, questioned why the well-regarded course needs a rescue. He pointed to a ranking of local golf courses by the South Florida Business Journal, which had Trump courses in four of the five top slots. Crandon landed at No. 3.

“If you’ve got the No.3 golf course, why do you need Donald Trump?” Matheson asked. “I can’t pass judgment until I see the final proposal.”

Matheson has opposed major changes at the park, including an effort by a pro tennis tournament expanding its footprint at Crandon. Russo said Trump doesn’t plan any commercial development at Crandon, but did mention the possibility of major pro tours returning to the course.

“The PGA Seniors tournament used to be there,” he said. “I would expect in the future, the PGA or the USGA would see that course restored back to the original quality, [then] they would consider it again.”

Miami-Dade gives deep local discounts at Crandon, where playing 18 holes during the winter cost $180 a round but only $85 on weekdays for county residents, according to published rates. At the Trump Doral, playing the famed Blue Monster costs $395 a round during the winter, and $175 to play the less-popular Silver Fox course.

Jack Kardys, the county’s parks director, said in a statement that he expects a public hearing on the Trump proposal in March. “There are many steps in the process,” he said.

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