DORAL -– The forecaddie, running his legs off during a marathon dash around the TPC Blue Monster course at Doral Golf Resort and Spa, paused, just a smidgen out of breath.
"Heck, this is nothing," he said. "Try keeping up with Michael Jordan and Lawrence Taylor when they play here. I'm worn out by the end of 18."
Keeping up has been no problem for the venerable Miami-area golf resort since its 1962 opening. It became a favorite of PGA Tour families with the initial Doral Open Invitational, Florida's first PGA Tour event.
Doral Golf Resort and Spa has taken great strides since its 2,400 acres, just seven miles northwest of Miami International Airport, were plucked from Everglades swampland.
And one thing is near certain: Every golf-loving celebrity and every PGA Tour legend of the modern era has walked these verdant fairways, trying to avoid its watery hazards and knock down shots under the blustery winds and swaying palms.
When Ernie Els won the 2010 WGC-CA Championship, it almost made for a trip back in time. The 40-year-old veteran, loved by many, was again a champion, his first win in two years.
And it happened on a golf course that ranks in pro golf lore. Only two venues have hosted continuously run tournaments for longer than Doral -- Augusta National, host of the the Masters since 1934, and Colonial Country Club in Forth Worth, Texas, which has served as a tour stop since 1946. Doral sits at 49 straight years.
Owners Doris and Alfred Kaskel combined their names to create the word Doral. Not only did it spawn a world-class resort, it served to name a city.
The original Dick Wilson layout -- assisted by Joe Lee -- got a $30 million redesign from Raymond Floyd, who once described the Blue Monster as the toughest golf course he'd ever played, and renowned golf instructor Jim McLean.
"I think what really endeared the PGA Tour pros to Doral was the fact back in the '60s and '70s, travel to a tour event was different," said Ryan Hershberger, group golf sales manager and club historian. "But here was a place the pros could bring their families, and the wife and kids had a multitude of other things to enjoy."
Wilson designed a golf course with great balance, according to Floyd.
"There are as many holes where you have to play a draw as a fade," Floyd said. "There are long par 4s and short par 4s. There are long par 3s and short par 3s. There are par 5s you can reach in two shots, and the 12th (at 603 yards) is just about unreachable -- even by Tiger Woods or John Daly."
Ranked No. 29 on Golfweek's list of playable tour courses, the TPC Blue Monster at Doral is tougher than the back end of a shooting gallery for the average hack.
Its signature hole, No. 18, a 467-yard par 4, was named by Golf Magazine among the top 100 holes in the world. It requires a perfect drive between water on the left and palms on the right. Then the approach must sneak past another finger of water to a long, narrow green that slopes from the back quickly toward the water. Many balls hit left of the green end up in the water. Only the bravest fire at the back-left Sunday pin placement.
At 7,288 yards from the tournament tees and par 72, the Blue Monster features length and a gauntlet of strategically placed bunkers. One must know how to play out of Bermuda rough to score well on this historic course. Also, just try to throw darts into the water-surrounded par 3s. No. 4, at 236 yards, includes water in the front and a bail out area to the left. No. 9 is 169 yards, entirely a water carry to the pin.
Doral's charm? All the legends of the game have played here.
You should never tire of Doral. The resort includes five 18-hole championship golf courses. The par-70 Jim McLean Signature Course debuted in November 2009 as the first complete design project for the famed golf instructor.
Doral's Gold and Greg Norman-designed Great White courses underwent recent renovation to add TifEagle greens. The Red course forces golfers to use strategy and consider placement.
This Marriott resort includes 693 rooms, including 96 suites with balconies or patios and many with golf-course views. My view featured the TPC Blue Monster's 18th. And to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012, the resort is set to receive a renewal.
Find space for practice or instruction at the Jim McLean Golf Center. Dinner is tasty at the Latin-inspired Mesazul Steakhouse or the new Bossa Nova lobby bar. Get lunch at the Champions Sports Bar and Grill or Bungalou's Bar and Grill. Then there's the Spa at Doral, with the Pritikin Longevity Center.
Doral Golf Resort and Spa offers nine retail shops. And for recreation, the Blue Lagoon aquatic recreation area stands out.
May 5, 2010