Florida attracts millions of golfers from around the world, drawn by the quantity and quality of the courses, as well as the warm winter climate. And one of the most popular golf destinations in the Sunshine State is the Doral Golf Resort & Spa Miami, host of the 2013 Copa de las Americas.
For 50 years, the resort founded by Doris and Al Kaskel has been a mecca of Florida golf, for both vacationing golfers and the best players in the world, who annually test their games against the TPC Blue Monster course. The most difficult of the resort’s five courses, the Blue Monster adds to its championship legacy with the Copa de las Americas.
Doral was the site of a PGA Tour event in 1962, the year it opened, and the Tour has returned every year since – the resort now hosts the World Golf Championships’ Cadillac Championship. A demanding test of golf, the Blue Monster has produced an impressive roster of winners, including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
Designed by Dick Wilson, the Blue Monster tests players with plenty of sand and water. Both types of hazards are prominent features of the 18th hole, which consistently ranks among the most difficult holes on the PGA Tour. In 2012, the 467-yard hole played to a scoring average of 4.539, the second-toughest par 4 of the year.
During the Copa, the finishing hole will play at 388 yards for the women, 450 yards for the men. The difficulty of the hole is often exacerbated by a crosswind, which effectively shrinks the landing areas.
The Blue Monster’s tough finish will likely dictate players’ course management as they look for birdie opportunities on the closing nine.
“Because 17 and 18 are pretty challenging coming in,” said Phil Mickelson, who won at Doral in 2009, “you want to take advantage of the birdie opportunities on 15 and 16, so you have to get aggressive.”
Donald Trump, who bought the resort in 2012, has hired Gil Hanse to renovate the Blue Monster. Following the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship, the course will be closed so Hanse can make design changes intended to emphasize the strategic options provided by the layout.
“We are obviously making some significant changes to golf holes, but I think within the spirit of Dick Wilson, we'll try to recapture some of the stylistic elements,” said Hanse. “We’ll try to recapture some of his exciting green shapes, hole locations.
“We’ll try to create a golf course where angles are relevant again and where it’s important to get to a proper side to score as opposed to just hitting it as far as you possibly can. If we can do some things that can hopefully enhance the interest and character in the course, that’s really our first and foremost goal.”
While he renovates the Blue Monster, Hanse will shuttle between Miami and Rio de Janeiro, where Hanse’s firm has partnered with U.S. Women’s Open champion Amy Alcott to design the course to be used during the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Rio Games will showcase golf’s international growth, especially in Central and South America. Three years earlier at Doral, the Copa de las Americas will offer a glimpse into the development of players from many of these emerging golf countries.
Hunki Yun is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.