Designed by Donald Ross in 1925 the former municipal course in Coral Gables fell into disrepair late in the 20th century but was saved by the famous Biltmore Hotel and restored by Brian Silva in 2007.
Peter nominated The Biltmore as a gem in November 2015. Peter’s comments follow:
“The Biltmore in Coral Gables, FL was designed by Donald Ross in 1925 and plays to a par 71 and is 6,742 yards in length. When I was young the once prestigious and imposing hotel it was built to complement had been repurposed as a Veterans Administration hospital and I would be a bit unnerved by the patients who often sat stone-faced beside the 12th tee as I hit off. The course was restored in 2007 by Brian Silva and now has a different routing from what I played years ago but all the same holes remain. There is water to avoid and doglegs to challenge and Biltmore is certainly worth a visit.”
In July 2018 the Biltmore’s course closed for another Brian Silva restoration which completed in January 2019. The project was inspired by the original plans Donald Ross drafted in 1925 and the work included tee to green Bermuda re-grassing, bunker additions and lengthening – the course now measures more than 7,100 yards from the tips.
Silva commented as follows: “We sought to bring back Ross’ original characteristics of play, which has a great deal of movement, and the result is a spectacular course that will maintain the playing interests of an accomplished golfer while also being manageable for all levels of players to enjoy.”
This is a very good Ross design. The green complexes are wonderful and the course is much more strategic than most higher priced courses in the area. Standouts include the 4.5 par Hole 1&18 as well as the 17th hole. This ensures an interesting finish to you matches at this course.
I played the Biltmore about 4-5 years ago. Not all Donald Ross courses have aged well. This one certainly has not. However, do not ye despair! Silva was doing a redesign in 2018 and the new Biltmore either has or is about to be relaunched. It is not a long course and surprisingly for Florida there are not a lot of water hazards. It is extremely flat.
The first hole is a welcoming par 5 that should get your round off to a good start. You young stallions can get home in two. The second is a mid distance par 3. To Ross's credit he did not include the mandatory Florida par 3 with carry over water on any of the par 3s that range from 160 -229 yards. The par 4s 3rd and 4th are pretty darn straight and excellent birdie opptys. The 5th is a big bender right. You can, perhaps should, cut the corner as there are bunkers on both sides of the elbow. I think the dogleg left 7th is the best hole on the course. Water down the left off the tee. Your approach must then carry the water hazard which then parallels the hole through the green. A par on 7 is earned. The 9th and 10th are both doglegs left. Very similar in yardage both greens protected with bunkers on the left and one has a fairway inside the elbow and the other on the outside. The 13th is a long par four that bends a little left with fairway bunkers on the leftside. The last 4 holes are the Biltmore's strength. The 15th is a good par five, definitely a 3 shotter with the approach over water. The 16th bends left and has a very narrow long green. The 17th is the number one handicap hole. Slight dogleg right with a water hazard splitting the fairway on a diagonal. Off the tee the left hand side of this hazard is in play. The further right you go the shorter your approach. The 18th is not a difficult par 5, you should be able to end your round on a high note. Dogleg left, possible but not probable to reach. Those would be two very good shots, but there is little downside.
Overall, pedestrian. I am hopeful for a resurrection.
The course sits on a flat piece of land, which is cut in half by a Canal. The Giralda of the Biltmore hotel can be seen from far away.
Like all Florida golf courses, the Biltmore has to deal with a large amount of rain from May until October. Unfortunately the course does not drain well. Punches and bump and run chips are immediately stopped in the soggy grass. Reducing a Donald Ross course to the air game is not ideal. The green complexes are rather generous but not as undulated as the ones at Sara Bay Country Club for example (another Florida Donald Ross course).
Many holes are forgettable but there are some very good strategic holes. The 5th hole is a sharp dogleg to the right with a deep green-side bunker on the right. The 7th hole features risk-reward characteristics due to the canal. The tee shot on the 10th hole has to be hooked around the trees. The 17th hole is the highlight of the course. On this long par 4, the tee shot (usually into the prevailing wind) has to be placed between the trees and the canal. The creek must be carried on the second shot to a green that slopes steeply from back to front.
The Biltmore golf course is pleasant and playable. However, it does not have a "wow" factor. The Donald Ross characteristics are not as pronounced as on other courses. Not enough emphasis is put on the ground game. The golfer will leave perfectly relaxed but not stunned. He will have forgotten half the holes soon after.