Trump's pitch for 'national' golf club lands in the rough

Donald Trump has spent his career imposing his will, and his grandiose building developments, on some pretty prickly customers - in New York, Atlantic City, Florida and beyond.

But he may have met his match with the proud, intensely private, deeply suspicious residents of Rancho Palos Verdes, an exclusive beachfront residential enclave in a hidden corner of greater Los Angeles.

Palos Verdes is the site of the Ocean Trails Golf Course, which hit the national headlines seven years ago because a landslide knocked much of the 18th hole into the Pacific. The Donald snapped it up in 2002 and had his first run-in with the local residents when he announced that he wanted to convert it into a hotel resort area.

He then irritated them no end by changing the name to the Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. Not only did residents object to their beautiful hilltop neighbourhood becoming a vanity project for a New York property developer, they were furious that he would dare associate them so directly with Los Angeles.

True, Palos Verdes is in Los Angeles county and is no more than a few miles from the LA city limits at any given point. But it is also a secluded peninsula on the southern tip of Santa Monica Bay, which prides itself on its idiosyncracy. The term "Los Angeles", in among the rolling hills and multi-million-dollar homes, denotes nothing but smog, dereliction and unpleasantness.

Now, though, comes the final straw. Mr Trump wants to change the name of the approach road to the golf course, currently Ocean Trails Drive, to Trump National Drive. From his point of view, it's all about brand awareness and marketing. To the denizens of Palos Verdes, it is the ultimate insufferable show of vanity, and they are refusing to stand for it.

Residents have come up with their own, alternative nicknames: Ego Aisle, or Narcissism Lane. Douglas Stern, a member of the Rancho Palos Verdes city council, said earlier this week that Mr Trump's permit for the golf course was still incomplete and suggested renaming the street Temporarily Open Lane.

City officials have given Mr Trump and his organisation a month to complete regrading work on the 18th hole, restoring the golf course to full operability, and coming up with a final proposal for the name of the course. City leaders do not seem too concerned about having the Trump name in the title, but they do want "Los Angeles" out of there. In fact, their position is that unless those two dirty words are removed, the street name change will remain out of the question.

Mr Trump, for his part, appears to have softened on the Los Angeles question, distributing hats to city council members recently that use the words "Palos Verdes peninsula" instead. But he still wants to refer to Los Angeles when marketing the course outside southern California.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, he also expressed irritation at the locals' resistance. "If they've pushed you around," he said to one of his company vice-presidents during a conference call with the paper, "I'm not interested in doing business with them."