Will Trump Doral Be More Democratic This Time Around?

The rank-and-file felt discriminated against in Gil Hanse's Blue Monster makeover. Even Brandt Snedeker's caddy threw a hissyfit for the ages over the apparent bias in the design toward those who could hit it a long way, so this year the course will sport a few narrowed landing areas for the longer hitters which match the driving zones of those less fortunate.

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com talked to a few players and Hanse about the changes.

“I felt bad for Gil because he was getting criticized for the redesign, and just said, ‘Here’s the objective view of what I’m seeing and why guys are upset,’” Snedeker said. “Just so it’s more playable and fair for guys who hit it my length. There were times when I was hitting into a fairway that was 12 yards wide, while some of the longer guys are hitting into fairways that were 35 yards wide.

“I understand that length is an advantage but it shouldn’t be a determining factor to the golf tournament, and it seemed like last year length was the overriding factor on who was going to win.”

None of it may matter as Doug Ferguson elaborates in explaining the scenarios facing Doral should a new title sponsor not be found. Though interestingly the PGA Tour has scouted other Miami venues.

If a new sponsor doesn't want to be at Trump Doral, there are not many other options in Miami with the property that can handle size of a World Golf Championship. The tour has looked at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, a strong public course that once hosted a senior event. But with only one road to the course, that might not be practical.

Rio Olympic Course Has No Name, But Grass Is Growing

Ryan Herrington of GolfDigest.com reports on the PGA Show unveiling of initial images (below) from Rio of the 2016 Olympic course, where the name has not been settled on but at this point no one seems to mind.

Herrington writes:

"We're just happy to have a golf course right now," joked Gil Hanse (below right), who along with Amy Alcott designed the course and participated with Peter Dawson of the R&A, Ty Votaw of the PGA Tour and tour pros Graeme McDowell and Suzann Pettersen in the discussion.

The laughter that followed from the entire panel underscored the relief being felt that finally, albeit months later than expected, all 18 holes of the course had been grassed and legal challenges to its construction had ended.

Golfweek's Brad Klein writes about the initial impressions of the layout, which have arrived as Hanse and Alcott billed in their presentation to win the job.

What counts is that the layout – at 7,350 yards, a par 71 – has a wide-open, linksy feel to it. It’s built on sand, brings no trees into play and offers several paths and avenues for greenside recovery from the side and behind. It also features lots of what Hanse calls “half-par” holes – short and long par 3s and par 4s and reachable, risk-reward par 5s. Amy Alcott, an LPGA Hall of Famer and design consultant to Hanse on the project, is especially proud of the finishing stretch. Those present opportunities for birdies if players take the risk – as they well might at the reachable par-4 16th hole.

The images presented in Orlando and courtesy of Hanse Design. The sandbelt influence is strong in this one!



Is Driving Doral's New 16th Worth The Risk?

I consider this vital, weighty question heading into the WGC Cadillac Championship that starts Thursday.

Of course, the previous 16th hole did not look like a hole one should drive and players did it, adding some excitement to recent final years. But as I explain in this GolfDigest.com Local Knowledge item, the biggest question mark heading in will be the new 16th's risk-reward equation.

A few photos from three weeks ago, starting with the vastly improved tee view:

(Click image to enlarge)The second shot view from the lay-up area:

(Click on image to enlarge) And the rear view looking back toward the fairway (tee is to the right in the distance):

(Click on image to enlarge)

DVR Alert: In Play W/Jimmy Roberts Goes To Rio!

Sounds so, so fun doesn't it? As in, maybe we'll see Jimmy Roberts playing beach volleyball on Copacabana Beach in a Speedo? But I'm sad to say, it really isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially if you've seen the "progress" the country is making toward the 2016 Olympic Games.

The season two premiere of In Play kicks by unveiling the many months of footage compiled by producer Matt Miller, Paul Berner and Neil Munroe, including the first ever public showing of the architect selection presentation.  You'll also see me briefly mentioning what a fiasco the whole thing Rio is. Anything to bring levity to the show!

The show also features a segment with Jimmie Johnson, who apparently won the Daytona 500 yesterday in the eyes of some at Fox.

Boy, Jimmy knows how land the big "gets" at just the right time.

Video: Gil Hanse Talks Rio Olympic Design Issues

Here is my update on the Olympic golf course project in Rio, and now you can hear from Gil Hanse and see some great aerial views of the site under construction in this CNN International interview with Shane O'Donohue.

You can see a larger version here, or watch the embed below:

The story is followed by an O'Donoghue report on golf in Latin America where he tried to get on the Olympic site but was unable to, so they went aerial.

Rio Olympic Golf Course Visit, May 2013

I made a visit to Rio last week to see the Olympic golf course in the early stages of construction and with things just now moving ahead down there--albeit still too slowly--I'll share some random thoughts for those interested in Gil Hanse's design, Rio and the Olympic course's potential.

--The site exceeded expectations in terms of potential for a "great" golf course (very much so) and its setting in Rio (you know you are in Rio but not excessively so). Gil's also done a super job routing what will be a fun, walker friendly course long after the Olympics. It's the type of site a lot of architects would call boring or flattish, but it's far from that.

-By now most have seen the images with sandy scrub, nice plant material and other attributes that give off a "sandbelt" essence. About half the property is set on dunesy land with the initial clearing exposing some tremendously good bumps, hillocks and swales. The "lower" section is on wetlands created after the original dunes were stripped off the property decades ago.

-With the unfortunately slow pace of the project--has at least afforded Gil the chance to gently scrape off the grasses to preserve these features and to isolate plants, cactus and grasses for preservation or transplanting.

- The quality of the ground on these "upper" dunes holes, along with the potential for some attractive (but not excessive) water holes and a few holes playing through a more forested section down by the water, means the routing will have a bit of everything. But mostly it will exude a very open feel, with links and sandbelt elements (if they had condo buildings and stunning mountain ranges in the distance). If given the time to develop the features--a big "if" as the clock ticks and the host countries' lack of urgency continues--re-vegetating the natives and growing in the course properly becomes a concern. However, if this process is allowed to move along at a proper pace, the Olympic course should exude the type of rugged, natural sense that organizers hope to show the world.

- Design discussions were focused on the 6th, 7th and 16th holes. The 6th is a par-3 playing over a dune in similar fashion to the long-lost Maiden at Royal St. George's. The "bowl" the green will sit it in is essentially there, with almost no modification needed. There will be tees from three different angles and a wide array of yardages possible. I can't wait to play this one and even better, watch Olympic golf played on this one-shotter where there is an ideal spot for a grandstand that will allow crowds to react to the shots for the benefit of players on the tee. Throw in the chance to watch the reachable par-5 5th green and 7th tee shots, and it'll be an electric spectating spot on the course.

- Discussed was how this obstructed view 6th hole--sure to be controversial the first time around depending on hole location and tee used and general revulsion by modern players toward any hint of blindness--will fit in the context of the Olympics. But as I preached to Gil, other Olympic sports with playing fields unique to their respective games where local knowlege is rewarded (downhill skiing, luge, road races, etc…), players will merely have to play practice rounds. No more semi-blindness then!

-I never want to hear how Los Angeles can't host another Olympics until LAX is expanded. It looks like Heaven's airport compared to what Rio currently offers. I can't fathom how Rio will handle the number of visitors expected for the games. The 40 minutes I spent in the customs line snaking around the baggage carousel, did, however, allow for the penning of the first lyrics to my new hit single, "The Customs Line From Ipanema."

-Also strange is the lack of any nod to the Olympics in Rio via logos, signage or any other hint that the country is excited to be hosting. It wasn't something I went looking for, but instead realized upon leaving. Not a big deal 3 years out, just weird.

Below are just a few images, including some dirt shots and the required Christ The Redeemer photo and the view from this engineering, construction and spiritual marvel. One the golf side, I've included a view from the 6th tee playing over the existing dune, as well as the approach to the par-4 7th green where you can see some bunkers rough-shaped in.