Hanse adds strategy, drama to Doral

The new green at the Blue Monster's par-3 15th hole, with the redesigned short par-4 16th in the background

Act II of Kaskel’s Folly turns out to be a whole lot better than the original ever was.

Just over a half-century ago, aspiring hoteliers Doris and Al Kaskel hired architect Dick Wilson, brought him 13 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and asked him to turn a field of muck into paradise.

When he was sober, Wilson was among the country’s finest golf course designers – a master of diagonal greens, placing hazards close to the ideal line, and building fairways with the dirt scooped out of what would become lakes. There was a lot of strategic ingenuity in his original plans on paper for the Doral Resort & Spa, but most of it was never realized in the ground.

Until now.

Money and chutzpah go a long way. Donald Trump has made a real estate career of it, and now he’s among the country’s most ambitious golf impresarios, reviving stressed properties and developing new ones. Two years ago he bought Doral, and renamed it Trump National Doral. The deal included four courses (Blue Monster, Red, Gold and Jim McLean Signature – plus management, but not ownership, of the Great White Shark Course). Trump has all but blown up the resort. With any luck, the main clubhouse/reception building will be ready by the Monday night of next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship.

As for the Blue Monster, it’s fully recovered from a seasonlong makeover under the care of architect Gil Hanse and his partner, Jim Wagner. Folks who think they know the course, which has held a PGA Tour event annually since 1962, will be in for a shock. Forget the old yardage books. Memo to Tiger Woods: Your memory of previous putts made there is useless.

This is a different course, with the routing seemingly the same but adjusted at almost every point. Sand-capped fairways now drain much better than the old muck. Gone are the resort’s bulbous, cauliflower bunkers, replaced by hazards that have a character that fits.

The amazing thing is how much land within the old course envelope was not being used. That interior space enabled Hanse and Wagner to push back greens and nearly double the size of putting surfaces, expand ponds, swing fairways closer to water, and dramatically enlarge the practice range from six acres to 16. It was Trump’s idea to line it with lights, so that guests can practice until 10 p.m.

The first hole, formerly a pushover short par 5, is now 50-plus yards longer and a fascinating risk/reward hole protected greenside by water. The biggest changes came on Nos. 8-10, a 5-3-5 par stretch that has been shifted, flipped and opened to create a spectacular arena-like setting that combines with the 18th hole. On the short par-4 16th hole, trees were removed and a tee-to-green pond installed, creating all sorts of drivable theatrics.

An over-the-top fountain near the first tee will make you gasp. So, too, might the $399-$450 green fee. The public will decide if it’s worth it.

What’s not disputable is how much the Blue Monster has improved. Kaskel’s Folly is now Trump’s Triumph.

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