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Kneejerk Reaction: Trump Doral Blue Monster

A few quick thoughts on my trip around the revamped Trump Doral, which was a combination of site inspection and insights from Gil Hanse, who, with Jim Wagner, remodeled the resort’s Blue Monster course. I will be discussing the course on a special four-hour Morning Drive Thursday that will be covering the media day for the course’s re-opening.

View from 11th tee feels like a hole at Seminole (Click to enlarge)A longer, hopefully more eloquent review is to come in Golf World, but for now…

—More sophisticated. The course has gone up a multiple notches not only in the strategy department, but in the overall grandeur of the property. By no means was it ever going to be Pebble Beach east, but the combination of tree removal, re-grading fairways, raising greens and refining some of the less exciting holes has given the property a grander feeling reminiscent of William Flynn’s Indian Creek (not coincidentally, Doral architect Dick Wilson was a protege of Flynn). It looks and feels like an older classic, with refined features and presentation.

—More routing points better connected. The previous version of the course felt like 18 holes plopped on a flat piece of Miami, but with the moving of a few greens many of the disconnecting points are gone. The finishing holes appear to have a really nice flow, sadly interrupted with some overly aggressive corporate tenting, but most improved of all is the move of the 9th green closer to the 18th. This should create a more dynamic energy around the clubhouse come tournament time.

11th tee view has touches of Seminole (click to enlarge)—The first hole is vastly improved. Now a super risk-reward par-5 with water at the green, this should be the second hole of a sudden death playoff (after replaying 18, of course).

—The range is way better.
The downside, however, was an overly aggressive planting of palms along the 10th hole. The straight line and braces holding up the palms give the impression of a row of cell-tower trees. Hopefully undergrowth will soften the look over time.

—The finish could become the best on the PGA Tour. The three hole finale at TPC Sawgrass will always be tough to beat, but Doral’s 18th is better. Furthermore, the new short par-3 15th features a green with multiple hole locations that could produce some hole-in-ones, but the peninsula green will also see plenty of water balls. The 16th, which became drivable when all the guys started eating Chipotle instead of Five Guys, remains drivable if the tees are up and when they are not, is a far more beautiful, interesting drive and pitch with a raised fairway that will no longer be the mudball parking lot that the old hole presented. And amidst all of this water, Hanse and Wagner retained the old 17th hole’s huge green but with better bunkering and a superb mix of shot shapes required to make birdie.

—The greens are perfect, the fairways will need a few more 80 degree days to allow the superintendent to take them to a lower cut. The approaches are noticeably top-dressed and firming up, which will be critical for a few new run-up options to front hole locations on what before was strictly an aerial golf course.

Overall, the most stunning thing about Trump Doral? No gold crests! The Donald took the Sheikdom accoutrements down many notches, which only adds to the sophisticated and revitalized Blue Monster.

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Reader Comments (26)

Really looking forward to GC Morning Drive Thursday morning. Cheers!
02.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wipf
Looking forward to Doral now - that's a first!
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
What a concept... An ungilded Trump property where he actually listened to the architect. Perhaps there is hope after all.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterStuckinaswamp
Now if they'd only get rid of the fountain...
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
Nice review in a minute, Geoff, well-done!
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill V
No gold crests? What about a garish water feature? What about a gold-plated white painted clubhouse? What about a giant American flag that you have to aim at on one hole? Is Trump Ice the only bottled water available? So many questions.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeve
I can't quite see my ground-game line of charm on the 11th. Am I missing something?
02.6.2014 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Is "risk reward par 5" a technical term?
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Clayman
O - please don't poke fun at Mr. Trump's loyalty for the USA. He has very strong feelings for America and those who serve in the military. He chooses to show that by flying a very large American flag on his properties. Bravo for him.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTy Webb
Everything Trump flies is "very large -- THE largest perhaps being his own fly...

It is encouraging though to hear Geoff's description of him listening to someone outside himself.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRLL

Size of flag does not equal size of loyalty. Puh-leeze. Trump flies large flags because it draws attention to his properties and thus to himself. It's narcissism writ large. Patriotism has nothing to do with it.

I'm thrilled to see Geoff's review is so positive. Very glad to see that a constructive re-do happened. Can't wait to see it.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPTL
@Ty: Well, as long as he flies his flags consistent with local zoning requirements, I have no problem with it.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
Further proof that in America money can buy accolades for a HYENA !
Is "risk reward par 5" a technical term? Adam Clayman
It now means a hole where the average score for pros is 4.5, where a 6 is possible and of course a 3. Excellent for a play off. Of course the par 3.5 has become popular in the last decade too- just over 300 yards with one way into the green.
Why did the Donald and TGC choose to do a 4-hour discussion of the course on a Thursday, to combat the interest of the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am?

He could have very easily done the media day next Monday, when most media days are held in advance of a tournament.

Typical Donald, trying to upstage the competition ...
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike B
I am pleased to see this. I know you're not usually a fan of Hanse's courses, but am pleased that credit has been given to him where it's due.

I can't wait to play it!
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonald Luke
So lets see. He has restored, revitalized and improved an historic PGA Tour staple course to great reviews. He created a World Top 100 Course in Scotland. He bought a course in LA out of bankruptcy that was literally sliding out to sea, repaired and created a Top 100 Public Course in the US out of it (but there is that flag situation I guess). His North Jersey course will host the Women's Open in a few years, and you can bet sooner or later one of men's majors will end up there. He is going around the US buying and upgrading clubs that are distressed. But what an awful guy he is for the game of golf. There is that terrible red hat he wears. Or maybe his logo of a gold crest is just so jarring. And don't forget those waterfalls on some of the courses - what a travesty.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Good perspective BrianS...
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
How has any of that helped golf Brian? I'm confused. Was he doing that for the good of the game? Is it a major travesty if a course can't make it financially? Do you know what the green fee is at any of those clubs Brian? Are you a fan of manmade waterfalls Brian? Do you wear Haggar stretch band khakis, a white hard collar pickering from 1998, and a red hat that recalls images of Gene Littler in the mid-70's? Oh yea, great for the game. Great for the game like Willie Nelson is great for the game, or Steve Wynn.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterEliot Weisman
@ Eliot - I guess you didn't get the sarcasm in my post that was intended to convey that Trump's choice of golf clothing is not a particularly good way to evaluate his contribution to the game here. But perhaps it is. I'd prefer substance in making an evaluation.

Have any of his courses failed financially yet ? When and if they do, I guess we can evaluate what impact that has had. Usually the next guy comes along and gets a nice asset at a discount. But its Trumps money now isn't it ?

Green fees at those courses are not cheap. As I type this I am watching them play at Pebble, which last time I checked ran over $500. Worth it ? Probably. Maybe Trump's are as well, nobody is forcing anyone to find out. How much does it cost to play Holy Bandon Dunes ? Cheaper than Trump, sure, but hardly in range of the working man. if we want to talk about money though, how about the fact that many of the most revered American courses won't let me or most people play at any price? Whats the cost to join Winged Foot or Oakmont or Shinnecock or NGLOA ? How about Augusta National ? Many of those including ANGC won't let lots of folks join at any price (and I"m not talking about women). But those courses are good for the game ? They are revered by many, including me. As for waterfalls, I've seen a few on golf courses, mostly down in FL, and they don't really have much of an impact on my experience one way or the other.

So Trump is out there, spending tons of his money on golf. Like him or not, he is a doer. Others prefer to carp and make child like comments about his clothing or his haircut.
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Well it's great that you are so mature. Still cannot figure why what he is doing is good for the game?
02.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterEliot Weisman
Eliot, what are you doing to help the game?
02.7.2014 | Unregistered CommenterEliot's Mindset
Running a First Tee program that introduces thousands of kids to the game yearly. Going to area high schools and introducing more kids through programs like SNAG and educating kids on the opportunities available--on a volunteer basis--sorry I forgot to add that part. Does Trump have any programs going on at any of the courses that he SAVED to grow the game to youngsters? I must have missed that press release. If he's such a great guy why doesn't he save a few struggling golf courses and turn them into facilities for youth in the community to work at and learn the game from the ground up? It's laughable to call what this guy is doing as anything remotely related to growing the game. He's trying to grow his portfolio and earn lots of money. That's fine, no problem with that, but don't call it something it's not.
02.7.2014 | Unregistered CommenterEliot Weisman
His new Jack Nicklaus signature golf course at Ferry Point in the South Bronx, opening either this year or next, will team with the NYC Parks Department to offer discounted junior golf programs.
02.7.2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndy
Eliot, best I can tell the word "grow" doesn't appear even once in BrianS's original post....
02.7.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDTF

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