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.