Doris and Alfred Kaskel founded the Doral resort in 1959 when they transformed a large area of West Miami swampland into a Hotel and Country Club where they first welcomed golfers onto the property three years later.
Dick Wilson, a former construction superintendent at Shinnecock Hills, was the man who designed the Blue course at Doral and it has been upgraded over the years by a number of golfing greats such as Robert von Hagge, Bruce Devlin, Raymond Floyd and the renowned instructor, Jim McLean.
On its USPGA Tour debut in 1962, the severity of the challenge it presented attracted it the name of “Blue Monster” and that moniker has stuck down the years. One of the most respected courses on the professional circuit, the Blue is long, tough and heavily-bunkered, with water visible or in play on every hole.
If ever one hole encapsulated the spirit of a course then it’s the 18th on the Blue. Often played into a wind, there is water all the way down the left hand side from tee to green, with a beach bunker and palm trees more recent additions on that side of the fairway.
Seven bunkers line the other side, set beside deep rough and more palm trees so shying too far away from the lake brings these hazards into play. The long, narrow green angles to the left, sloping away from the clubhouse towards the water – a par finish here will be one of the best fours you will ever mark on a scorecard.
In 2012, Donald Trump successfully bought Doral for $150 million after the facility fell into bankruptcy. Trump then proceeded to invest a further $200 million to renovate the property. Gil Hanse was drafted in to remodel the legendary Blue Monster course and the Trump family officially reopened it in February 2014.
Naturally the new 7,608-yard Blue Monster, now equipped with enlarged lakes, new bunkers, tees and greens is “bigger and better than ever before”. According to Donald Trump, “Trump National Doral will soon become, upon completion of the Red Tiger and Golden Palm golf courses, the greatest golf resort in the United States, with the brand new and truly amazing Blue Monster – there will be nothing like it,”
Architect, Gil Hanse stated: “This is one of the most exciting projects that I have ever had the privilege to work on. The property itself, being all sand based, is very unusual and unique – and a tremendous asset for a golf course. On top of it all, its location, in the middle of Miami, is unprecedented.”
All eyes were focused on the “bigger and better” Blue Monster in March 2014 when Tiger Woods defended the World Golf Championships title. Only three players bettered the Monster’s par and it was Patrick Reed who came out on top, beating Jamie Donaldson and Bubba Watson by a single shot. With only a four Tour outings under his belt since his six-month “leave of absence”, Dustin Johnson returned to centre stage, winning the 2015 WGC - Cadillac Championship title by one shot from compatriot JB Holmes. Adam Scott won the 2016 event in Florida before the tournament was re-branded and relocated to Chapultepec in Mexico City in 2017.
Blue Monster is your typical south Florida course. You meander through water. Dodge the myriad of bunkers. All while traversing a dead flat course. The conditions are stellar. The course is available to play by all and that says something in south Florida as most of your better courses are quite private. It is a fun day out, but not a cheap day.
I played this course in February and was excited to play a course I'd seen on TV over the years. I don't have much good to say about this course other than the conditions of the greens. The course was long, flat and featureless. I think a pure flat piece of land like that would need some trees to give it definition, but I believe Gil Hanse removed most of them. The only way I can think this course could be enhanced is by moving a lot of dirt to give some definition to the holes. A lot of the holes looked the same and I came off the course with no memory for half of the course. This has easily been the most disappointing course I've ever played.
I had played this one a couple of times after the restoring and during a 4 days competition I was hosting last month I decided to go hit some shots to see how it was playing in order to set up the course for the following day.
Played the gold tees (7000yds) in windy conditions and with the greens as firm as you can ask with a good example being a 6 iron down wind on par 3 4th which just landed on the green and rolled over it to the back almost to the water.
Despite being in the same piece of land as the other 3 courses and being maintained with the same level, this one goes far away in challenge, toughness and difficulty to the limit that for 2 digit hcp golfers is almost not fun. You need to really play well and if not, you will miss many shots and golf balls as well.
Is this bad? Not at all, it is just a very tough course and you need to be warned before you tee off. And be wise, do not go to longer tee boxes than your golf game can handle, it will riun your day. Just select the proper set and try to enjoy the real challenge of a Tour Golf Course.
In Championship conditions this one can fight head to head with TPC Sawgrass in scoring difficulty, not only due to length but also to very well designed greens, tough to real and also hold approach shots from the incorrect spot. And if you put both 18th holes together, this one might be even tougher.
It would be great to have Pros back here for it not to lose the “PGA” status, it looks far away but hopefully it will happen. This quality of a Golf Course cannot afford to be away from The Tour much more time, it deserves the spot there.
The original Blue Monster was designed by Dick Wilson in the 1960s. It was rebuilt by Gil Hanse in 2013 and reopened for play in 2014. As with most things Trump lot of hype and the substance can be lacking. The good news is he would have had to work really hard to muck up the Monster. Overall the redesign has added a lot more sand and water. The course lost a lot of trees in a hurricane 10-15 years ago. The first hole is a rather benign par five. The first tough hole is the par 4 3rd. You need to pick your poison off the tee. You need to fly the water hazard, but if you are too far left you will end up in the bunkers. The 4th is a sphincter puckering par 3. The green is a peninsula and to add to your woes there are two bunkers left. The 7th is a long par four with water all the way down the right side. Not bad except there is a bunker left in the landing area and greenside. The 8th is a reachable par 5 at 525 yards, but I would have to question your mental health if you tried. From a risk reward perspective with water all the way down the left side and a couple of heinous looking bunkers greenside the aggressive play probably leads to more doubles than birdies. Lots of folks think the 200+ yard par 3 9th is one of the toughest in the state. I think 4 is tougher because you cannot bail out right. Most hacks like me miss right and you can get away with that on the 9th as it is opposite hand of 4.
The par 5 10th is one of my favorite holes. Don’t miss your tee shot right, OB, oh by the way don’t hook it into the water hazard left either. The 10th-12th are you birdie opts. Eleven is a short par 4 and 12 is really straight par five where all you have to do is navigate the bunkers. The 13th is a 230 yard par 3, enough said and conversely the 150 yard 15th, even though it is a peninsula, offers you a breather. The short par 16th has been reinvented. A utility club is all that is needed off the tee. All you really need to do is carry the water and leave yourself a wedge. The young stallions I was with went for it. Two topped it into the hazard and the other was in the bunker. Still, an interesting risk reward. Why is youth wasted on the young? I am sure that there is nothing I can say about the 18th that has not been stated in the past and I am sure more eloquently than I am capable of.
Bottom line – it is better than it was before.
Unless you are independently wealthy and enjoy wasting your $$$, don’t go there
Credit Donald Trump in bringing on board Gil Hanse to add life to an extremely predictable and Florida formulaic layout. Hanse did improve the "Blue Monster" but that's akin to having a patient go from being a corpse to one in the intensive care unit. The Blue Course gained its stature in having hosted the PGA Tour for many, many years. The course became as famous as any other given the television exposure for the Florida circuit of events each spring.
The original Dick Wilson layout overdosed on the only natural defense of such Southeastern Florida layouts which is an overabundance of water. Hanse clearly fortified the layout with additional yardage in certain holes but he also made it a point to keep water as the central defense. No question the wind often plays a major role when playing just about any Florida course.
The site itself is lacking for any real land movement - courtesy of being in such flat geographical location.
Hanse added considerable yardage at the 1st which was frankly a nothing hole for the world's best players. If you didn't make a birdie there you actually sensed a number of players would scamper by you. I like what he did with the 3rd and 4th holes -- and the reshaping of the par-8 and the closing par-3 9th on the front side is clearly a plus from what these holes had become over the many years.
But the need for toughness also means the Blue is really a limited layout for the broader masses. Water has a place in golf but not to the point of overkill and that is the verdict I would say holds for a good number of other Sunshine State courses. Compelling architecture is about having shades of grey - not black and white -- life or death outcomes -- with nearly every hole.
The really fine hole created for the Blue is the work Hanse did with the par-4 16th. Now there's a bit of clear risk/reward when players opt to go for the green. The closing hole has always been noted for its demands. Moving the tee back to roughly 500-yards and when played in the prevailing southerly wind is still a terror for any player looking to earn a victory.
Now, with Doral no longer hosting the PGA Tour -- the swagger the course was able to attain is clearly moved towards the shadows.
The "Blue Monster" created a considerable amount of hype and still does with Trump's ownership. But, Florida as a whole, only has a few courses which really merit serious attention when top tier architecture is discussed. For those with the deep enough pockets to play the course I would certainly advise holding on to your dollars and looking elsewhere.
by M. James Ward
I had never played TPC Blue Monster before it was taken by Trump and redone by Gil Hanse. I had yes walked all 18 holes while friends were playing it and was amazed by the challenge of the course, the difficulty in every single shot and how well kept it was.
But after Trump took it I played it twice (October 2016 and May 2017 in a very strong breeze) and have to say they have taken the course to another level, it can compete easily now with courses like TPC Sawgrass and other great Tour venues not only as a great design but also well kept as the best private courses in USA, greens rolling as fast as you can take them and the challenge has really been increased. It is a golf course were in a bad day your net score can be really sad! And it is fair to say that every golfer can play it without any handicap restriction, but just be clever and choose the correct set of tees. Not one single scratch amateur weekend player can play the Black Tees and break 80. And it won't be fun, go play the Golf and enjoy the challenge!
There were many holes modified and improved, will just take a note on the biggest changes:
- 1st used to be an easy opener, today it is a Monster with a very tough green.
- 4th is as tough as you can take, playing 200yds from the Blue Tees. Any miss right will be very wet!
- 9th is another big change, tougher with a sort of "island" green. From the backs it is only for Tour players.
- 10th is maybe the only change I disagree. Even from the Blue tee the water carry is long and there is little space of fairway between water and OB, too tough even from the shortest tees.
- I loved the long par 3 here, nothing too special just a very difficult green to hit.
- 15th played really tough when the Pros came back due to hard greens and wind, but it is a great golf hole where distance is not a fact but the putting surface is extremely difficult to read.
- My favourite 16th were you can drive the green and also easily socre a double without getting wet. Unless playing a match play and needing a 2, it is wiser to lay up and have a full swing wedge. Green is again tough.
- 18th hasn't lost toughness and intimidation for the golfer, tee shot is the most demanding of the course and second shot is the perfect end to a great golf challenge.
A last paragraph to service and attention to detail: it is the best I have experienced in a public course in USA, FRom Hotel rooms to Bell service, breakfast and restaurants, Master Caddie Assistance, events planning, everything has gone way upstairs.
If you have been before, you will find something totally different. If never been before, it is time to spend 4 nights and play all 4 courses which are well worth what you pay.
Since the redesign it is an incredible course. It is very hard and every hole is a test. The conditions are good and it is a great experience to play with a caddy. I highly recommend it.