Doral - Blue Monster
"So I jump ship in Hong Kong, make my way over to Miami and the Blue Monster course at Trump's Doral."
Ok, let me just say from the outset, that politics does not mix with my decision to play golf at Donald Trump's golf courses. Regardless of who the owner is, his golf courses are magnificent, so I try not to think about anything else above my knowing of the American political system. Just about everybody I met in america had an opinion about Trump, but I tried not to get into the discussions. Difficult not to as their feelings were strongly talked about, but anyway, this review is about a golf course. The Doral golf resort was created in 1962 and hosted the Doral Open from that year until 2006. In 2007 until 2016 it hosted the WGC Cadillac Championship until of course Mr Trump lost it to, of all places, Mexico. Oh, the irony! It is now called the WGC Mexico Championship.
It would be remiss of me not to talk about the whole experience of this course. Even the car park and entry into the complex is pretty impressive. From the 15 or more valets outside grabbing your golf bags, to the red carpet and marble staircases inside the clubhouse, this course was looking at being special and I wasn't even at the pro shop yet! Speaking of, the pro shop was extensively stocked. I would say, it would rival a golf retail shop back here in Australia. The clothing section alone was bigger than most of the shop I currently work in. As far as product was concerned, they had it in spades. Whatever you were looking for, was there. So, after the customary buying of souvenirs (ball marker, shirt, yardage book) I headed out to the starter. My clubs of course were already waiting for me and the starter informed me that the people I would be playing with had cancelled for the day. This left me on my own. Perfect! He asked if I needed a caddy and I replaied, "No thanks." I was off to the 1st tee and only moments away from ticking off a bucket list item. Golf at Doral!
It had been a long time coming, by the time I stepped onto the 1st tee at Doral. From my early golfing days, I had fallen in love with this golf course. Watching it on TV and seeing so many pro golfers suffer the water hazard on 18, I found it difficult to concentrate on the 1st tee shot. The 18th fairway was right next to me and I must have had one eye on it as I cut my first shot right, into the fairway bunker. The 1st is a par 5, so the 4 iron out of the bunker, followed by the 7 iron to 15 feet and the birdie putt had me feeling good. One hole down, one under. How easy is golf?
Well, it turns out, quite easy as I made a solid par on the par 4 second and another birdie on the par 4 third. The second only has a few bunkers to navigate off the tee, the third has water down the right side, but a huge fairway to the left. Standing on the 4th tee, I was 2 under and not at all afraid of a golf course I remember as being impossible.
It was then that I took a good look at the 4th. A 227 yard par 3 that was all water carry to the green. There are a few of these holes at the Blue Monster and it is why it gets this name. The carries over the blue water are monsters. Bogey was the result of a pulled tee shot. the 5th again was a bogey after a terrible second shot had me in a deep greenside bunker. The pin position not accessible to a mere mortal golfer like me. Back to square.
Next to the tee on the par 4, 6th was a little hut. On closer inspection, it was the toilet. Needing to get rid of my nervous energy after back to back bogeys, I ventured inside. This golf course does not do anything by halves. The toilet was marble with gold taps on the sink. Even the toilets here reminded me of the lavish Trump lifestyle.
Anyway, back to the golf. The 6th is a long par 4 with bunkers left and right off the tee and a green that sits at a bad angle to attack. A sand save got me par though. The 7th is another long par 4 with water guarding the right side for your second shot. By now, I was thinking that, besides it's length, The Blue Monster was a bit of a toothless tiger. The fairways were very wide and easy to hit. The greens, although fast, were also large and accessible. The water hazards were, if anything, out of the way off the tee and if you didn't have to carry them, not really in play.
The water on the next 2 holes would change my mind a little. The 8th has water all the way down the left in the form of a wide trench that then funnels into the large lake surrounding the 8th, 9th and 10th holes. I went long and hit the water here, but only just and I fished the ball out for a bogey. The 9th is one of the holes here that you must take notice of. It's tough! 216 yard water carry to a green that looks like it isn't even there. Water left and water right and water that cuts into the front edge as well. There is green there, you just can't see it from the back tees. My first water ball and I finished the front nine, 3 over.
Here is my first piece of good advice regarding this golf course. Don't stop for a snack after 9. The bar inside will do you a hot dog or a burger or whatever you like, but it will take so long that by the time you stand on the 10th tee, you're so cold it's like starting over again. The 10th tee is not a shot that you want to start with. It is similar to the 18th. The large lake cuts into the left side for a long water carry, leaving you only a thin strip of land to be seen from the tee. The large trees all the way down the right side give you a feeling of hitting this drive down a bowling alley. There's just no room! I sneakily cut off a little bit of the lake and managed to make my par 5.
The next little stretch of holes is brilliant. 11 is a par 4 where you see no clear shot from the tee. There is a massive bunker that stretches right across the fairway at about the 220-250 meter mark. Apparently, the shot is to play short of it, but the 428 yard distance will leave you a long second. After finding the bunker off the tee, I found the one next to the green too and had a bogey 5.
Continuing the run of good holes, 12 is a par 5 with jungle and out of bounds down the right, but open space down the left. This is perfect as the left side is the side to come in from. Bunkers really surround this putting surface and if you do not hit the dance floor, expect a difficult sand shot to this small green. Bogey.
The 13th is another great and very tough par 3. At 245 yards and a raised putting surface, the temptation to hit driver here was strong, but I decided to stick to the 2 iron instead. Wrong choice and I plugged in the face of the right bunker. The lip out meant I was on a run of 3 straight bogeys and in danger of a blow out on a course I thought was not that hard yet. There were still wide fairways in front of me. Huge greens. Plenty of space.
The par 4, 14th has one tough green to shoot at. The fairway was wide, but looking towards the green, it was sitting at a very bad angle to approach. Water over the back as well as a large bunker left meant that the second I hit here was the best 4 iron of the day. Deserved birdie, but these greens are tricky. Par.
The raised 15th tee is one of those tees here at Doral that you will love hitting from. The par 3 is only 165 meters, but it is all water carry and there is danger right and over the back as well. An easy 6 iron to about 12 feet had me making par. I was 6 over and in need of a birdie too, because I knew what was coming. The 16th is a horse shoe style par 4 with danger all the way down the left. Water and sand everywhere and the right side was no picnic either. Tough to see a safe place to land the tee shot and I got lucky when I hooked one near the water. It missed the bunker but cut the corner and I only had 9 iron in. Par.
Now, my memory started to flash back to all the tournaments I had watched in my life here. The closing holes of 16, 17 and 18 were the killer holes here at Doral. I had escaped the trouble on 16, now for the 17th. This par 4 of only 390 meters does not sound very hard, but it's not only the tee shot that is tough, the green is too. The tee shot is tight, probably the tightest drive all day and the landing area has bunkers left and right. I found the fairway but the green looks as if it's unhittable. It looks thin. Really thin! It isn't of course, but the deep bunkers aurrounding it will scare you. After hitting the green I was thinking I could make birdie. I was wrong. This huge green presents when you reach it and it is 58 yards long. Lag putt and a par still had me smiling.
Now for the 18th. I have a new appreciation for the pros and the way they play this hole. This hole is a monster! Off the tee of course, the lake down the left will catch anything hooked. The right side does not look inviting either as there are trees blocking your second. The only play is gun barrel straight, which thankfully is what I did. Standing at my drive, my yardage was 190 meters to the front edge, but an upslope, so 200 at least. I wanted par so I took the 7 iron, PW combo to 12 feet. The lip out meant a 79 and a bogey on the hole I so desperatly wanted to par more than any other hole there. Oh well, that's golf. A salute to the large American flag and I was done.
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1. Tees 15/15
2. Fairways 15/15
3. Bunkers 14/15
4. Greens 15/15
5. Design 13/15
6. The 19th 15/15
7. Price 2/10
On the whole, this golf course is fantastic to play. The tees, fairways and especially the greens are immaculate. Some of the bunkers had way too much sand in them and were tough to get the ball out of. The design is a little quirky and although blessed with length, more could be done to test the better golfer around here. The fairway width on some holes was ridiculously wide and the run offs around the greens are big. Water, although there, is sometimes just for show as it is not really in play. I only brought a half set with me to America, but you would need a full compliment of 14 clubs to better score around Doral. The price is the biggest hurdle, at $450(USD. About $600 AUD) a round, plus caddy, you will be looking for more for your money. Yes, it was a bucket list golf course, but at this price, there will be no return journey for most.
Miami is the perfect place to play golf. The climate and the golf courses are both fantastic. The Miami area is an ideal place to holiday as it is a vibrant multicultural city with South Beach, the city central, Little Havana, Ft Lauderdale and the Everglades all close by. Be prepared to bring your wallet though, as it is not cheap. There are 3 other courses here at the Doral resort, The Golden Palm, The Red Tiger and The Silver Fox. Doral is one of the golf courses that will feature in our upcoming golf travel deals. We will also be playing some of the other courses here as well. It should be a trip to remember. The trips are being scheduled, at this stage, for 2018. There is nothing like the feeling of ticking off a bucket list item. Doral Blue Monster was a great day out that I will never forget.
*Hole yardage pictures taken from the Trump Doral phone app.