Trump National Doral’s Monster: The New Blue has an Old Soul
Donald Trump insists that he has a brand new course at Doral. Others, however, would call the work undertaken on the Blue Monster in 2013 by architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner a redesign. In one sense, it doesn’t matter what label attaches. Every hole at Doral Blue went under the knife. Some holes, such as the par-5 8th and the par-3 9th were completely transformed, with greens and tees relocated, and new lakes and bunkers created. The par-5 first hole added 80 yards and a lake to the right of the green; the once-arid par-3 15th is now filled with liquid-laced peril.
What’s significant, however, is that for all of its exciting new features, Doral’s Blue Monster remains the quintessential Florida tournament track. It’s flat, breezy and studded with vast lakes and sprawling bunkers. While state-of-the-art turf and irrigation provide for more roll in the fairways and around the greens, Doral continues to embody the post-World War II emphasis on the aerial game. The priority is still to flight the ball properly in the wind and to carry one hazard after the next. Joe Lee, who co-designed the Blue Monster with Dick Wilson in 1961, once stated, “Golf is an air game. If you want to roll the ball, you should sign up for the bowling team.” Doral, as with other early 60s Florida trophy tracks designed by Wilson-Lee, such as Pine Tree, Bay Hill and BallenIsles (East), site of the 1971 PGA Championship, continues to embody Lee’s dictum perfectly.
Current co-designers Hanse and Wagner usually trumpet ground game options in their work, with contour the intended star. Credit the duo—and Mr. Trump—on staying faithful to the Wilson-Lee design philosophy, even as they improved the course in every way. The Blue Monster boasts one of the greatest makeovers in history, partly because it’s clearly a superior product, and partly because it stays sensitive to Doral’s past. Hanse and Wagner located the original Wilson-Lee plans and so admired them, they took them into the field to guide them, especially on the green complexes. The brilliant Hanse-Wagner green contours are all their own, but their respect for their design predecessors is refreshing.
It’s fine that Donald Trump trumpets a brand new Blue Monster. He has every reason to be proud. In one incomplete round on Thursday, the course acquitted itself quite possibly as the best test of golf on the PGA Tour. Yet, I can’t help thinking he’s OK with Doral’s links to its past. In your Doral hotel room, you’re greeted with The Donald on a television loop, stating, “Many years ago, my father would take me to Doral. It was considered a great treat. He loved it, and I loved it.” By embracing, and not rejecting its past, and by celebrating its transformative present, the resort and the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral shine as never before.