At the ‘Summer White House,’ You Are Never Far From a Trump Photo


He said he used to spend summers at the club, working the occasional construction job. He waved hello to a manager passing by.

“There is something very pure about this property,” he said. “It looks nothing like Mar-a-Lago.”

The Bedminster club is special to the president because, unlike others that bear the family name, it was built more or less from scratch, to his specifications, with two new 18-hole golf courses carved out of land where fox hunting was once a common pastime. A chandelier from Mr. Trump’s home in Bedford, N.Y., hangs in the men’s locker room, and he once sought to be buried in a plot near the first hole.

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The entrance to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

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Al Drago/The New York Times

“He is comfortable here,” Eric said. “He likes the people. It’s a place he enjoys.”

Bedminster Township has a population of roughly 8,200 residents who make a median income of $95,000 per year. Although the area is largely Republican, Mr. Trump carried the town in the 2016 election by a slim margin of eight votes — 2,258 to Hillary Clinton’s 2,250.

“You are just as likely to see a horse coming down the road as a Range Rover,” said Steven Parker, the mayor of Bedminster, who also serves as the chief executive of Somerset Air Service, which owns Somerset Airport, the town’s landing spot for many private flights.

European immigrants arrived in the area in the 1600s. The land was farmed until the early 20th century, when it was parceled into estates for wealthy families. Trump National, which is a 49-mile drive from Trump Tower in New York City, was once Lamington Farm, purchased in 1917 by Morgan Cowperthwaite, an executive at a New York insurance brokerage firm. In 1981, Cowperthwaite’s descendants sold the estate to the automaker John Z. DeLorean and his wife, Cristina Ferrare, for $3.5 million.

A year after the sale, Mr. DeLorean was arrested and charged with conspiring to sell $24 million in cocaine to fund his DeLorean Motor Company. Although he was later acquitted, he was forced to sell the property in 2000 and struck a deal with a Connecticut-based golf course developer, National Fairways, in a court-ordered bankruptcy auction. The price was $15.25 million.

The attempt by National Fairways to build a golf club stalled, and Mr. Trump purchased it in 2002 for an estimated $35 million. (The Trump Organization declined to discuss finances.) As part of his plan to make the club into something that would attract the attention of the United States Golf Association, which decides where major tournaments will be played, Mr. Trump invested a reported $45 million in the property, with two 18-hole courses, the first (“the old course”) designed by the golf architect Tom Fazio, the second by Tommy Fazio, a nephew of Mr. Fazio’s. The plan has paid off: In July, the Bedminster course will host the United States Women’s Open, and in 2022, it will be the site of the P.G.A. Championship.

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The clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club.

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Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Politics and golf collided at Bedminster two weeks ago at a news conference held to draw attention to the coming women’s tournament. A reporter asked about the “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Mr. Trump bragging about having made unwanted sexual advances toward women. Another asked how the club, whose members pay $200,000 to join, planned to deal with protesters.

“We’re simply not going to cross that line into politics,” said Mike Davis, the chief executive of the U.S.G.A.

The club caught the attention of nongolfers last November, when the president-elect greeted potential cabinet members there on the steps of a 1939 Georgian manor-turned-clubhouse as if he were welcoming them to his home.

The initial plan was for Mr. Trump to interview the candidates in a private conference room near the pool, said David Schutzenhofer, the club’s general manager. Never one to pass up free publicity, Mr. Trump moved the interviews to the clubhouse, with its picturesque facade and driveway large enough for reporters. There, he invited prospects to meet with him in the Green Room, once Mr. DeLorean’s dining room.

“It was surreal,” Eric Trump said of the parade of candidates.

Mr. Schutzenhofer said, “He has a vision for the pageantry.”

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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were married at the club in 2009.

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Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Photography, via Associated Press

During my visit, attractive 20-something women served drinks to a crowd of mostly male club members gathered on the second-story patio for a buffet lunch. In the upstairs clubroom, the vibe was alpha masculine: leather seats, dark wood paneling and equestrian paintings by the English artist Alfred James Munnings. In the men’s locker room, four men laughed and sipped drinks while a bartender washed glasses. Nearby, a man sat reading The Wall Street Journal.

Such sights are typical of country clubs, but Trump National in Bedminster has a feature that sets it apart: You can’t escape the founder.

On a clubhouse wall, a framed page ripped from The New York Post shows Mr. Trump in the company of Michael Douglas on the set of “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.” There is also a undated TV Guide list headlined “Top 10 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases of All Time,” with Mr. Trump’s signature line from “The Apprentice” highlighted in yellow at No. 3: “You’re fired!” At No. 10 on the list was “I’m not a crook,” the line Richard Nixon uttered not long before he resigned.

There, too, in the bar next to the library, is a close-up portrait of Mr. Trump making his “You’re fired!” face, his index finger thrust forward, as if jabbing at the latest target of his wrath. His face shows up again, and again, and again, on framed magazine covers lining the walls — Playboy, Esquire, Newsweek, TV Guide — along with photographs of him hobnobbing with celebrities, including Michael Jackson.

Mr. Trump is a selling point for prospective brides and grooms considering holding their weddings at the club. When I was there, I was given a marketing brochure that made the following pledge: “If he is on-site for your big day, he will likely stop in & congratulate the happy couple. He may take some photos with you but we ask you and your guests to be respectful of his time & privacy.” A spokeswoman for the club said the brochure has been discontinued.

Brittany Pollack, a dancer with the New York City Ballet, was married there in August 2014. She and her husband and 175 guests gathered for cocktails in a ballroom illuminated by a dozen crystal chandeliers. Dinner included jumbo shrimp with Trump Vodka cocktail sauce and Trump Estate wines. For dessert, Ms. Pollack said, the guests ate the “Trump Cookie” — pans of baked cookie dough topped with vanilla ice cream.

As Ms. Pollack’s father began the toast, Mr. Trump walked in with his wife, Melania. He later posed for photographs. “I could tell he liked taking pictures with people,” Ms. Pollack said. “He said, ‘Ivanka got married here.’”

Ms. Trump wed Jared Kushner, a scion of a wealthy real estate family, on Oct. 25, 2009, in front of 500 guests, including Rupert Murdoch and Barbara Walters, who shared a 13-layer cake more than five feet tall. Ms. Trump’s gown was designed by Vera Wang, and she wore her own branded jewelry. Chandeliers were brought in from Mr. Trump’s golf club in Washington, D.C., according to press reports then, and each guest received a pair of white flip-flops with a note: “Ivanka and Jared. What a Pair.”

The club’s swimming pool is surrounded by connected buildings and rooms that form a small plaza. Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have a place there, as does the president. Mr. Trump’s Bedminster residence is larger, and workers have lately been busy adding a second-story deck. Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner expanded their quarters by 2,200 square feet in 2015. The copper gutters on the second story shine against the gray roof and white walls. Behind Ms. Trump’s getaway home are planters with rainbow chard, parsley, fennel, thyme and sage. A wooden swing hangs from a nearby tree.

Bedminster is home to the publisher Steve Forbes and Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, so few residents looked askance at Mr. Trump until he was elected president. Lately, the Bedminster Township Public Schools’ Spring Fling fund-raiser, which has been held at the club since 2015, came in for some controversy, according to Anna Spitaleri, the president of the Parent Teacher Organization’s executive board.

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Anti- and pro-Trump demonstrators gathered near the club in early May.

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Karsten Moran for The New York Times

After the inauguration, she said, some parents wanted nothing to do with the Trumps and moved to change the location. “I got emails, and people came up to me on the schoolyard,” Ms. Spitaleri said. “At first, I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t get past it.”

In February she sent a letter to parents expressing her dismay. “Whatever political views you hold, please don’t let those views interfere with the community event,” she wrote. The Spring Fling was held at the Trump club in April. “There was a very vocal minority,” Ms. Spitaleri said.

Not every detractor is willing to give way. Last month, a motorcade of protesters gathered early on a Saturday morning near the club when the president was in town. Cars were decorated with anti-Trump signs, and a pickup truck featured a Trump mannequin with a Pinocchio nose perched in its bed.

“This is going to be the summer of resistance,” said Analilia Mejia, the executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, who helped plan the motorcade protest.

So far, the inconvenience has been negligible. Unlike the easily accessible Trump Tower in New York, the Bedminster club is cushioned by acres of private land, with Mr. Trump’s residence a mile away from the guard booth. Town officials, who are coordinating with the Secret Service, have estimated it will cost the township $300,000 to cover Mr. Trump’s summer visits.

“As long as everybody behaves and they don’t disrupt the town’s folk,” Mr. Parker said, “everything will be O.K.”

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