Donald Trump, who is in escrow to buy the bankrupt Ocean Trails golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, said Tuesday that he plans to build a house for himself and improve the course but not try to commercially develop it.
"It's really a spectacular location," said the New York real estate tycoon, who owns two highly regarded courses in New York and Florida. "It is the best piece of property in the nation for a golf course. It will more than rival Pebble Beach."
Rancho Palos Verdes City Manager Les Evans said the site is approved for use as a golf course and a 75-lot residential subdivision. Trump said that he will build his own home on one of the lots and that the remainder will be sold for homes as planned.
The beleaguered 15-hole golf course was to have had 18 holes. But in 1999, while the course was under construction, a piece of land around the 18th hole plunged into the Pacific Ocean. Two other holes, the 9th and the 12th, were closed as part of the ongoing repair.
Trump said he first approached Ocean Trails' original owners, brothers Ken and Bob Zuckerman, about the property several months after the landslide. He renewed his effort to acquire the property after the Zuckermans lost control of the course to their lenders, Credit Suisse First Boston.
"I contacted the bank, and we were able to make a deal," said Trump, who would not disclose the purchase price or other details of the agreement.
"I watched the trauma of what happened there," he said. "It was sad to see."
Still, he said, he admires the layout of Ocean Trails and has no concerns about its stability.
Trump, who has played at the course, including this weekend, said that he does "have a vision for the property" but that it is too early to reveal details.
That vision does not include any additional commercial development beyond the restaurants in the clubhouse already there, he said. Such extra development, Mayor John McTaggart said, in any case would require changes to the city's general plan and probably would not enjoy public support.
"I've been on the council 19 years, and folks here have only supported people who adhere to the general plan," McTaggart said.
Trump's prediction that the course will rival Pebble Beach drew some skepticism.
"Ocean Trails is an excellent design with stunning views and has the potential to be the best upscale course in Southern California, but you couldn't ever compare it to Pebble Beach in terms of design and memorable holes," said Geoff Shackelford, author of seven golf course architecture books and an avid golf historian. "Will people come from around the world just to see Ocean Trails? No."
Bob Thomas, director of communications for the Southern California Golf Assn., said everyone "who builds an oceanfront course has the dream of becoming the next Pebble Beach. But Ocean Trails is about 75 years behind Pebble Beach in history, and that can't be overcome. History is a huge part of golf--it's what makes it so special. Ocean Trails has its own history to carve out."
Times staff writer Peter Yoon contributed to this report.