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Trump National Doral — where every blade of grass is brand new

Miami, Florida: Golf is rife with jargon of interesting origins. The etymology of “fore” is debated. The most credible derivation is the word forecaddie abbreviated to the word fore.

One of the most iconic golf course names in the world is the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral. The course hosted PGA Tour events for 55 years. In fact, virtually every great name in golf had a moment of personal triumph or defeat on its famous 18th hole, ranked by Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Holes in the World.” 

The moniker Blue Monster was earned in 1963. With swirling winds and water visible or in play on every hole, PGA Tour players faced challenging conditions. During a press conference, the tournament director referred to the course playing like a “monster.” The nickname stuck.

Never Settle

“The resort firmly established South Florida as the golf destination,” said Darrin Helfrick, general manager of golf operations at Trump National Doral. “As Doral grew, so did our resort. In some ways, we are a small city with so much to offer both inside and outside our gates. With our proximity to the Miami International Airport, you can be from tarmac to tee time in less time than it takes to wait in line for your coffee at Starbucks.” 

Trump National Doral is an 800-acre oasis in the heart of Miami, seven miles from the Miami Airport and minutes from the lively nightlife of downtown Doral and famed South Beach. Its 643 guest rooms and suites are renovated and flourishes include marble bathroom floors and handmade Italian bed linens. The resort’s clubhouse, lobby, restaurants, 48,000 square-foot spa, and six all-new elegantly designed ballrooms were stripped down to the steel studs and completely restored. The new Royal Palm Pool is divided into family-friendly and adults-only zones. Kids will love the 125-foot water slide, while adults will relish the private poolside cabanas. No detail was overlooked, with emphasis to deliver the Five-Star level of service that is synonymous with the Trump brand.

“The Trump family bought Doral for $150 million, then committed to a $250 million renewal and capital improvement program,” explained Helfrick.

“Every blade of grass is brand new on our four golf courses. Everything big and small has been critiqued with an emphasis on frequent and individual interaction between staff and guests,” said Helfrick. “For example, all marque resorts offer valet. We went one step further by establishing a golf valet. The personalized handholding you receive provides peace of mind that your clubs will be awaiting your arrival on a golf cart. Your time and money are precious. We want to create an over-the-top experience during your stay.”

An Enduring Legacy

The vision of Alfred Kaskel, the original developer of Doral Resort, and the Trump family is similar. The best is expected. “The sunken gardens next to the golf shop were inspired by Mr. Kaskel’s visit to the Palace of Versailles in France,” reported Ryan Hershberger, golf sales manager and unofficial Doral Resort historian.

“Our resort has been a leader in the golf industry for generations. For more than two decades, Arthur Ashe, the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open, was our resident tennis pro and in the early 1980s; Seve Ballesteros was our resident Touring pro,” said Hershberger.

“Our wealth of amenities provided a rarity on the PGA Tour: the opportunity for Tour players and their families to stay together on property. We were the one Tour stop where a courtesy rental car wasn’t a necessity.”

Doral Resort has always been willing to push the limits on innovation, with some hits and misses along the way.

“All of the resort’s lakes are manmade. A couple of years after opening, management had the idea to introduce manatees into the system of lakes to control the quick growing vegetation [manatees are herbivores]. The problem was the manatees were imported from sanctuaries and were accustomed to being hand fed. I guess they knew they were at the Doral and this was their form of room service,” chuckled Hershberger.

“Then, in the late 1960s, monkeys were allowed to roam property grounds. While novel, they presented their own set of challenges. When Gardner Dickinson beat Tom Weiskopf by one shot at the PGA Tour’s Doral Open Invitational in 1968, Dickinson lamented that sports writers provided more press coverage to monkeys than his down-to-the-wire win.

“Creating the ultimate experience has always been paramount,” continued Hershberger. “Our latest out of the ordinary amenity is Doral’s practice facility with LED lighting. With our proximity to the airport, engineers had to carefully analyze potential glare. The first in America system has 14,500 LED lights mounted on 134 custom fixtures. The end result is an energy savings of 65 percent compared to halogen lights, while achieving a dramatically enhanced visual environment.” 

Sequence Of Service

As a fresh-faced and wide-eyed graduate of the Penn State Professional Golf Management Program, Justin Hill was over the moon to receive an internship at Doral Resort. “I hadn’t been to Florida,” recalled Hill. “My opinion of the state was what I saw on television—a place with saltwater taffy, palm trees, alligators, sunshine, and sandy beaches, and, oh yes, great golf. I stepped outside my comfort zone and traveled south.

“My dad and I had played a lot of golf together, but I had not been to a place with the magnitude of Doral. I remember saying to myself, ‘this is quite a place.’ If Facebook and Instagram had been around, I would have been posting pictures like crazy!”

Now, as director of golf operations, Justin oversees four resort courses. “Being completely honest, we had our fair share of ups and downs during my career at Doral. At times, we needed capital improvements. If you haven’t been to our resort since the transformation, you may not recognize it,” said Hill. “Other than keeping the routing of the famed Blue Monster intact, everything has changed. When Justin Rose played here, I think he summed it up best.”

“There are design elements that you recognize, but pretty much everything else is completely new,” observed Justin Rose, gold medal winner at the 2016 Olympics.

Red Tiger Course has five par-5s and six par-3s. The course is named in honor of the late comedian Jackie Gleason’s reference to it being a golf course he could never master. “It’s fun to play with its mix of holes, but the par-3s tend to play long,” said Hill.

Silver Fox Course has water come into play on all but one hole. “The 7th hole is a par-3 with an island green, similar to the famous 17th at TPC Sawgrass,” revealed Hill. “The design has large greens and wide fairways. You will be able to get away with an errant tee shot or two.”

Golden Palm Course has firm undulating greens and interesting bunker designs. “During the remodel, over 300 palm trees were added for better definition,” said Hill. “Several holes are doglegs, so proper tee ball placement is critical.”

Blue Monster is why Trump National Doral is a standout among other golf resorts in Florida. “The finishing hole is among the best in golf,” critiqued Hill. “From the tee, it looks daunting with water hugging the left side of the narrow fairway to a kidney shaped green. For most, it is a three-shot hole.”

After competition, Rory McIlroy (winner of 13 Tour events and $34 million in earnings) commented, “What they have done is phenomenal. It just shows what you can do with a bit of hard work and a bit of cash.”

“Travel creates memories,” concluded Hill. “As you hole-out on the 18th green on the Blue Monster—with the American flag prominently waving at your doorstep—you can’t help but be filled with emotion for a job well done.”

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