New bunkers bring back the Blue Monster for big hitters

By Steve Waters
Published on

MIAMI -- Gil Hanse is one of golf's busiest course designers, but he still made time to tweak the Blue Monster in preparation for this week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, which is Thursday through Sunday at Trump National Doral.

Hanse started renovating the Blue Monster shortly after Tiger Woods won the 2013 Cadillac Championship, reshaping holes, moving greens and bunkers, adding spectator mounds and doing such an impressive job that owner Donald Trump asked him to renovate his resort's Red, Gold and Silver courses.

PGA Tour players are notorious for whining when a course is too hard, but Trump and Hanse took note of the complaints after Patrick Reed won the 2014 tournament on the rejuvenated Blue Monster, and Hanse changed some holes to make them a little less difficult.

"One of the things that people don't give Donald Trump enough credit about is he listens," Hanse said. "He obviously wants there to be a level of difficulty and sort of a standard to succeed at Doral, but at the end of the day he realizes that it needs to be a golf course that these guys want to play."

Last year, after big hitters Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson finished 1-2-3 by booming their tee shots past the Blue Monster's trouble spots, Hanse returned to Doral to make the Blue Monster a little tougher for them.

"I think the thing that we tried to address, which was probably the one argument that resonated with all of us, was it tended to favor the bombers," Hanse said. "So we looked at addressing some of the fairway bunker locations and shifting some of them and giving the average player, because you can't call them short, they're still hitting it out there 290, more opportunities to have a little bit more width in the fairways.

"It's one of the strange things. We re-did it three years ago, we thought bunkers at 300, 310 yards was fine and now they have to be at 325."

Hanse added that simply moving back all the tee boxes was not a fair solution.

"We adjusted some tees, but we also shifted the bunkers further up, because if we make the course longer, then we're still just catering to the bombers," he said. "So if you keep it at the length it's at now but move the bunkers out into 325-yard range, then that makes those longer hitters have to position the ball a little bit better and gives the average Tour player a little more room to maneuver, especially when the wind blows out there, which it does."

The Cadillac field includes the top 50 golfers in the world rankings, and a bunch of them will play this summer on a course that Hanse designed and built for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is the first time golf will be played in the Olympics since the 1904 Games in St. Louis.

Hanse is currently overseeing the finishing touches on the golf course. After having to cut through miles of red tape to begin construction, Hanse said everything is looking good and the golf course superintendent "has done a fantastic job getting it ready. There are no issues at all with tees, greens, fairways. They're all in pristine condition now."

He also has started work on the Black course at Streamsong, a resort near Lake Wales that has drawn raves for its Blue and Red courses. The Blue was designed by Tom Doak and the Red by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who built their courses at the same time.

"Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak are the two [design] groups that I respect more than anybody in the business, so having the opportunity to put our work alongside theirs is an amazing opportunity," Hanse said.

Asked about the pressure of living up to Streamsong's already high standards in designing Streamsong Black, Hanse laughed and said, "We've had a little bit of training. Working with Donald Trump and working in Rio, it teaches you a little bit about pressure."

This article was written by Steve Waters from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.