The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral is a bucket list course for most golfers coming to South Florida – and rightfully so – but don’t forget there are three other outstanding courses at the 800-acre resort that have been magnificently renovated by the Trump Organization (https://www.trumphotelcollection.com/miami/).
Combined with the fabled Blue Monster, the Golden Palm, Red Tiger and Silver Fox give Trump National Doral a foursome that’s equal – if not better – than any resort in the Southeast.
The renovations to the Golden Palm, Red Tiger and Silver Fox courses, as well as the Blue Monster, are part of the $250 million overhaul of the entire resort the Trumps – led of course by Donald Trump – started after acquiring Doral in June 2012. And its shows in every green complex and bunker, not to mention guest rooms, restaurants and public areas. But let’s stick to golf.
The Golden Palm and Red Tiger courses were each renovated by Gil Hanse associate Jim Wagner, while the Silver Course was renovated by well-known instructor Jim McLean, whose golf school is at Trump National Doral. A bridge, called the “million dollar bridge” because of its cost, connects the Silver Fox to the resort. It’s about a seven-minute ride by golf car to the course that is bountifully landscaped and maintained and is a god example of the attention to detail the Trumps have brought to Doral.
But, said Darrin Helfrick, golf general for Trump National Doral, “What we did to the Red was the most dramatic change, I think, from what it was. It’s a 1960s design that was basically flat. Now it has a lot of character.
“We moved some earth over there. It wasn’t just the idea of making it pretty,” Helfrick said. “We found length everywhere we possibly could and we added character to the green complexes. Now the greens have movement and the bunkers have a lot of character.’’
While resort players will see the changes in the Red Tiger, Golden Palm and Silver Fox, PGA Tour players at next March’s WGC-Cadillac Championship undoubtedly will notice the changes made this past summer to the Blue Monster.
An original Dick Wilson design that had grown tired through a series of facelifts and renovations in the 1980s and 1990s, the Blue Monster was shut down after the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship for renovation by Hanse, who restored the course to some of Wilson’s original designs, including adding diagonal fairway bunkers that were a Wilson signature. Hanse also added mounding for better spectator viewing, and added size and contours to some greens.
This past summer, Hanse and Trump worked with the PGA Tour in tweaking the Blue Monster in order to (hopefully) make it less a “bombers’’ course (Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson finished one-two-three in the 2015 WGC-Cadillac) and create a more level playing field for the Tour’s average length hitters.
“The criticism was that the average (Tour) player was hitting it into trouble and those guys (Johnson, Watson, et al.) were blowing it over all the trouble,’’ Helfrick said.
The solution? Hanse widened the landing areas on five holes to better accommodate the average hitters and moved bunkers farther down the fairways to make it more difficult for the bombers. He also extended a bunker on the par-four, 430-yard 17th , so that big hitters will have to carry their drives some 360 yards to clear it.
“We made (the 17th) tougher for the longer players and a little more forgiving for the shorter hitters,’’ on Tour,’’ Helfrick said.
The renovations to the courses and the resort as a whole also make it easier in guests, too. That is, the golf “factory’’ feel the resort had in the days under the management of Marriott International, has been replaced with a much more seamless transition from front desk to first tee.
“That’s been our goal from service standpoint – get rid of the factory feel,’’ Helfrick said. “We still have four courses, so when we’re busy, we’re still putting out 16 people every 10 minutes, but they’re getting a better experience.’’
And a Trump National Doral is a South Florida experience not to miss.