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In Trump’s U.K. Visit, Some See ‘Infomercial’ for Money-Losing Golf Resort

In Trump’s U.K. Visit, Some See ‘Infomercial’ for Money-Losing Golf Resort

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Mr. Trump at Turnberry on Saturday. Financial records show the resort has lost money since he paid about $ 60 million to purchase it in 2014.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images

GLASGOW — On Monday, President Trump will have a closely watched meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, just days after the announcement that 12 Russian military intelligence officers had been indicted on charges of hacking Democratic organizations in an effort to affect the 2016 election.

But first, a bit of golf.

Mr. Trump was shielded from members of the American news media who traveled with him here to Trump Turnberry, the luxury Scottish resort where he is staying — but not from British journalists who captured protesters on a nearby beach shouting, “No Trump, no K.K.K., no racist U.S.A.” as he teed off on Saturday.

The group chanted across windswept grasslands and a protective buffer of dozens of law enforcement officials, some of them on horseback. According to footage captured by the BBC, the president appeared to wave at the crowd before turning back to his golf game.

Thousands protested his visit on Saturday in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh — where two “Trump Baby” balloons made an appearance. The Scottish police confirmed that they were searching for a paraglider with a banner reading, “Trump Well Below Par” who had breached a no-fly zone over the resort after the president arrived Friday night.

Mr. Trump has, for the most part, ignored the large rallies against him in the United Kingdom, instead focusing on promoting Turnberry. He described it as “magical” while on the world stage this past week at the NATO summit meeting in Brussels and on a working visit to Britain.

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Mr. Trump, right, watched the English golfer Charley Hull at the Women’s British Open at Turnberry in 2015.CreditScott Heppell/Associated Press

Before arriving in Scotland — the birthplace of his mother as well as that of Mr. Trump’s preferred pastime — the president managed repeatedly to plug Turnberry, one of two Scottish resorts that bear his name, as he dealt with some of the most pressing diplomatic problems facing his administration to date.

It is a tactic that has alarmed ethics watchdogs, who say he is using his presidential platform to promote a resort that, according to financial filings, has been a burden on the family business.

While the president has blazed a chaotic streak through Europe this past week, Turnberry has received special recognition amid other Trump-issued sound bites that analysts say have undermined the United States’ relationships with close NATO allies.

At a hastily arranged news conference in Brussels, when asked to discuss his message for Britain on its exit from the European Union, Mr. Trump said he had none — a thought he would later undermine in stunning fashion in an interview splashed on the cover of the British tabloid The Sun. Then, Mr. Trump wove in a reference to Turnberry, on breathtaking bluffs and cliffs on the western coast of Scotland, calling it “magical” and “one of my favorite places.”

“I’m going there for two days while I wait for the Monday meeting” with Mr. Putin, the president told the news media.

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Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday that golf was his “primary form of exercise!”CreditAndy Buchanan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Trump said he would be taking calls and meetings ahead of the planned gathering with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland. But around the time he hit one of the resort’s two golf courses on Saturday, his official account began posting on Twitter.

In two tweets, he blamed the Obama administration, not Russia, for the hacking and again suggested that a Democratic “deep state” was afoot.

He also plugged the Turnberry golf course again: “The weather is beautiful,” he wrote on Twitter, “and this place is incredible!”

Ethics experts tend to be cynical about the president’s sentimental references to his resort. His arrival at Turnberry marks the 169th day during his presidency that he has visited a property owned, managed or branded by the Trump Organization. Financial records show the resort has lost money since Mr. Trump purchased it in 2014.

“I view this as kind of a forced subsidy of an infomercial for his properties,” Norman L. Eisen, the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in an interview on Friday. “He’s attempting to utilize his trip to get beneficial P.R.”

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Mr. Trump with his son Eric, second from left, and his granddaughter Kai, third from left, at Turnberry in 2016. Eric, who oversees operations at the Trump Organization, was also at Turnberry this weekend.CreditJeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Before Mr. Trump left for Scotland on Friday, he again brought up Turnberry during a news conference in England with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain.

“I was opening Turnberry the day before Brexit,” Mr. Trump said, “and all they wanted to talk about was Brexit, and I said, ‘I think Brexit would happen,’ and it did happen.”

Mr. Trump, in fact, arrived at Turnberry the day after Britons voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, but he spoke about his resort for 15 minutes before he took questions on Brexit at a news conference. He also expressed skepticism when asked if the referendum would send shock waves through the global markets.

“Look, if the pound goes down, they’re going to do more business,” Mr. Trump said then. “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

Although Mr. Trump has claimed to have spent at least 200 million pounds, about $ 264 million, on Turnberry to buy and renovate it since 2014 — a figure that has not been verified independently — the course has yet to turn a profit.

In fact, the Turnberry operation has lost tens of millions of pounds since he purchased it, filings in Britain show: about £17 million in 2016, the last year for which such comprehensive records are available. For 2017, Mr. Trump’s government ethics filing discloses only how much revenue the course generated — $ 20.4 million — not whether it had earned a profit.

This is not the first time that Mr. Trump has visited a Trump-owned resort while traveling in his capacity as president. On a 13-day trip through Asia, the president swung by the Trump International Hotel Waikiki resort for a 10-minute visit.

“The president stopped by the Trump Hotel on his way to the airport,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement at the time. “It has been a tremendously successful project, and he wanted to say hello and thank you to the employees for all their hard work.”

An analysis of that trip by The Associated Press showed that Mr. Trump’s stopover cost American taxpayers almost $ 141,000, or more than $ 100 a minute. The president’s hotel stop itself cost taxpayers $ 1,000.

When reached for comment about Turnberry on Friday, the Trump Organization described a success story. In an email, Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman, pointed to some of Turnberry’s golf lore — including the much-publicized 1977 British Open championship between the legendary golfers Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.

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Anti-trump protesters during a rally in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Saturday.CreditJeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“Turnberry is an icon in the golf world, and we are incredibly proud of its continued success,” Ms. Miller wrote. The resort’s famed Ailsa golf course, she said, was “home to four Open Championships, including the famous 1977 ‘Duel in the Sun.’ ”

Ms. Miller did not respond to a request for comment about how the company gauged success if records showed it was losing money.

Mr. Trump appears to hold a special place in his heart for Turnberry, perhaps because of his love of golf and because his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, who was born in Tong, a village some 300 miles from Turnberry, in the north of Scotland.

“I feel very comfortable here,” Mr. Trump said to reporters during a 2008 visit to Tong, on the island of Lewis, where he spent about 90 seconds in the modest cottage where his mother was born. “It’s interesting when your mother, who was such a terrific woman, comes from a specific location, you tend to like that location. I think I do feel Scottish.”

Six years later, Mr. Trump bought Turnberry for a reported $ 63 million and poured millions more into restoring the club.

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Air Force One, carrying Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, along with Mr. Trump’s personal aircraft, at Prestwick Airport in Scotland on Friday.CreditRobert Perry/EPA, via Shutterstock

When Air Force One landed in Scotland on Friday, it rolled by a plane emblazoned with the “TRUMP” logo, in plain sight of hundreds of local residents who had gathered to see the president land. On his hourlong drive to his resort, hundreds of onlookers waved and recorded cellphone video of the president’s arrival.

The president and his wife, Melania, were not the only Trump family members in town: His son Eric, who oversees operations at the Trump Organization, was also at Turnberry. Around the time Mr. Trump landed, his son posted a video from the Turnberry Lighthouse on social media. In it, a bagpiper plays on a bluff in the distance as the camera pans out to sea. Turnberry guests can stay in the lighthouse for about $ 1,600 a night.

The Trump Organization did not answer a question about the purpose of Eric Trump’s visit, but he is closely tied to the resort’s restoration efforts.

Mr. Eisen, the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, takes a more skeptical view. He serves as co-counsel in a lawsuit accusing the president of violating constitutional anticorruption clauses intended to limit his receipt of government-bestowed benefits, or emoluments.

He sees the Trump family’s efforts this past week as part a broader and problematic effort to use the presidency to gin up interest in the property.

“Through this trip to Turnberry,” Mr. Eisen said, “the president is forcing his foreign hosts and the United States to spend enormous amounts of money so that he can get free advertising for his resort.”

“He’s the master of earned media,” Mr. Eisen added. “It’s an important part of the way he won the presidency, and that’s what he’s doing here.”

Jesse Drucker and Karen Yourish contributed reporting from New York, and Eric Lipton from Washington.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: In Trump’s U.K. Visit, Some See ‘Infomercial’ for Money-Losing Resort. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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