Trump National Doral Miami, home to the famed Blue Monster, is a golfer’s golf destination.
Miles from Palm Beach: 80
At the center of busy and bustling Doral, part of the greater Miami’s metro sprawl, sits the golf club that bore the town’s name. Originally built by Doris and Alfred Kaskel in 1962, the golf club that bears a portmanteau of their name (Dor-is and Al-fred), Doral Golf Resort and Spa literally spawned the city that surrounds it. Home to the Doral Open from 1962 to 2006, some of the game’s most notable names—Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Billy Casper, and Tiger Woods to name a few—all tested their mettle on the Blue Monster. In 2007, the tournament shifted to the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship, which is ongoing and played on the renovated, and seemingly impossible, Blue Monster—just this past March, Rory McIlroy flung his three-iron deep into the drink on No. 8 after an errant shot.
Overlooking the start of the Blue Monster, the iconic clubhouse at Trump National Doral Miami is hallowed ground among golfers.
In 2011, Donald Trump purchased the property, adding it to his ever-expanding portfolio of golfing destinations. Renamed Trump National Doral Miami, the four-course club and resort just emerged from a two-year, $250 million renovation that left no stone unturned—literally (about $50 million in the golf courses, $200 million in the resort’s buildings and infrastructure). Trump and his team revived the resort suites and spa, reinvigorated the property’s iconic clubhouse, and revamped (in some cases reimagined) the property’s four golf courses. Behind those high hedges lining NW 36th St., Doral is a true golfer’s golf retreat.
Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to take a swing at Doral’s fabled and hallowed grounds. Guys like me don’t often get the chance to play at clubs like Doral—the pickup truck with the surfboard in the bed is a little at-odds with the Bentleys and Maserati’s in the valet cue. Not to mention that I am no scratch golfer—not even a bogey golfer on my best day. Luckily, I have a job that seems to open some rather unique doors.
Blue Monster | No. 9
The Blue Monster, Doral’s formidable course is home to the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship, hosting one of the top fields in all of golf.
Upon my visit, I was advised by Darrin Helfrick, Doral’s Golf General Manager, that the Blue might be too much monster for me (if Rory McIlroy, world no.1 can’t handle it, how the hell could I?), so he set me up with a round on the Golden Palm and Red Tiger. But he still had a word to the wise.
“The Golden is tougher then the Red,” he said, adding that it could easily host a LPGA or collegiate event. “Everything is as good as you can possibly do it at [Doral], it was a passion project [for Trump].”
A legacy project for Mr. Trump, the renovation centered on the properties golf courses. Each course was tended to in some shape or fashion. The famed Blue Monster found new life under the guidance of noted golf course architect Gil Hanse, broadening its reach a few hundred yards (at 7,590 yards, it’s lengthy), while pearly white (deep) bunkers play menace everywhere (seriously, there are bunkers everywhere). An additional five acres of water hazard, and more than 5,000 trees were added to the course, just to make it that much more difficult. Luckily, the reno expanded the greens; the downside, they are freaking impossible—it’s like trying to putt up a flight of stairs. Believe it or not, this legendarily tough course got even tougher.
Blue Monster | No. 6
After the Blue Monster’s renovation, the course added a number of trees and bunkers as far as the eye can see. Caddies are required for this course for good reason.
Before embarking on a day on the Golden, Helfrick took me over to the massive pro shop to set me up with some clubs, brand new Titleist’s that gave a little boost of confidence, and a sleeve of balls (I bought an extra two to be on the safe side, while the cart had an additional sleeve for good measure: total tally at start—12). Any advice I asked—hit ’em straight. Famous last words.
The Golden is imposing. Sure, it doesn’t require a caddy like the Blue Monster, but it has plenty of demons of its own. The truest links-style course at Doral, the fairways offer plenty of space for landing, but clean-edged bunkers lie in wait throughout. And these bunkers are deep. Any misplayed shot (too far, too short, hooked, or sliced) will find sand, so make sure the wedges are in the bag.
When I played the Golden, the blues were playing some 50 yards shy of 6,000 (blacks at 6,700 plus)—no problem, right? Stepping up to No. 1, oversized driver in hand, I had this covered. The starter gave me a little privacy—no extra eyes needed here folks—and I duffed it. Deep. All right, lets try that again. Hook. Get in the cart and drop a ball; first ball gone. It was a bad start that just got worse—I stopped keeping score after three, and was just hoping to survive by eight, already running low on balls.
The Golden Palm, Doral’s truest links-style course, will test your short game.
Doral’s location in the city makes for a pretty tight layout, with its four courses running side by side throughout. Luckily for the embarrassment I call my golf game, the Golden skirts the western fringes of the property, striking out on its own for a while. It makes for the most secluded of the four courses; especially on the back nine.
I abandoned the driver and fairway woods somewhere around No. 6, honing in on the irons for a bit more control, though losing distance. I played safe golf and even that was tough.
Doral is meticulously maintained, with firm fairways and deep rough—I lost quite a few balls do to the rough’s thickness. They just disappeared, like into another dimension mere feet from the fairway. But I maintained, made it to the greens. And that is where the wheels came off, hard. Part of Gil Hanse remodel/masochistic diabolical plot, the Golden has some seriously contoured greens, and these suckers were fast. Each hole gave way to a totally different contour; I have to hand it to the Hanse team, they were creative.
I scraped through 18 with just three golf balls left in the bag, all of which I found along the way (final tally: 12 balls lost, three found). I needed a drink.
After your round, belly up to the Champions Bar & Grill in the clubhouse, a 19th hole like none other.
The folks with Doral’s marketing agency set me up with lodging in one of the newly remodeled guestrooms. I took up residence in a second floor room in the Arnold Palmer villa, overlooking the practice putting area near the main clubhouse. Part of the $250 million renovation, guestrooms and villas were reimagined in a Spanish Revival motif, complete with Trump’s signature gold leaf accents. After a little R&R, I headed to the Champions Bar and Grill in Doral’s iconic circular clubhouse. Overlooking the first tee of the Blue Monster, the leather clad, mahogany accented bar and grill is an ode to a gentleman’s lounge, with televisions stretching along the curved bar. Bellying up to the bar, I order a draught and the Big Boy burger—a special three-meat blend patty topped with pulled pork con mojo, Gruyere, and mushrooms. With basketball on the screens and cold beers seemingly replacing themselves, Champions was what sports bars strive to be.
The next morning, the Red Tiger beckoned. With the disastrous Golden Palm round behind me, I saddled up to the Tiger a little snake bitten. Pulling up to no. 1, I asked the starter how they’re playing. “Fast.” Great.
Red Tiger | No. 17
The shortest course at Doral, the Red Tiger makes you earn every stroke with small greens and tight lies.
Also under the guidance of Hanse’s hand, the Red Tiger Course—famously named by Jackie Gleason after a rather bad golf outing—saw a complete transformation during the renovation. The shortest course at the club, what the Red Tiger loses in length (the blues were playing at 5,660; blacks at 6,395), it makes up for in bite—the greens on this course are treacherous.
The woods stayed in the bag, which, after no. 1 (par 5, 535 yards from the blues; 608 from the blacks) is not the detriment found on the other Doral courses. The Red is a mix of shorter par 5’s, par 4s across the board (from 360 to 268 on the blues), and a range of 3’s, giving those wedges quite the workout.
The scorecard was lost at no. 8, progress compared to the Golden. Luckily the cart girl was on point—a few cold beers keep things in perspective. The Red Tiger is a thinking man’s course: the fairways are ample, though narrower than the Golden, allowing for plenty of landing, and bunker placement is eased when compared to the links course and Blue Monster, letting golfers with control over their drive set them selves up for a great approach. But that’s when the real pressure begins. Postage stamp doesn’t do these greens justice; the Red Tiger’s greens are tiny with subtle undulations—dance floors designed for the tango.
Red Tiger | No. 14
Misplaced shots lead to big trouble on the Red Tiger.
Well guarded with fluffy white bunkers, approaches slope fast to water, collection areas, and hazard, making those long and off shots desperate. With fast greens and unforgiving contours, putting on these is a lesson in physics: vague lectures on centripetal force were playing through my mind as the ball constantly broke, following curvature in the grass I didn’t read properly. Six-foot gimmes were three putts—and that’s being kind. The Red Tiger was a test, but one that can be aced if you have the eye, and patience to read the lie.
Why Go: Why not? Doral is a golfer’s golf destination. The courses will test you, nay, torture you. And the renovation has reinvigorated the accommodations, especially the storied clubhouse; Doral’s central hub is always a-buzz with a who’s who of titans of industry bellying up to the bar at BLT Prime.
As for the truly dedicated, the state-of-the-art Taylormade Performance Lab will analyze your swing as if you were on the PGA Tour, expertly fitting you with the right equipment, including custom made clubs.
Need to relax? The Spa at Doral is the epitome of luxe pampering. With 33 treatment rooms and more than 100 spa services for men, women, and couples, come for the golf, stay for the spa.