Golf Travel Destinations
Ireland's top ten must-play courses
Ireland always has been a leading golfing destination but following the exploits of major winners, Harrington, McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke, it's attracting even more attention. Vic Robbie selects ten of the best
Scotland on a budget
Scotland is one of golf's leading destinations but it need not be expensive to experience a slice of golfing history.
Alabama's hidden gem
Doug Hollandsworth tastes the delights of the Gulf Shores.
All night long in Iceland
Vic Robbie discovers that there is more to the land of ice and fire. With 60 golf courses, the visiting golfer can play and party throughout the night
Golf’s Grand on the Strand
Myrtle Beach is a paradise for golfers where their every whim is catered for. Vic Robbie checks out why this area of South Carolina is often called the seaside capital of golf
Latest Golf News
The Florida city is renowned for its nightlife, restaurants and ever-changing cosmopolitan lifestyle but the quality of its golf courses is constant. Vic Robbie reports
Miami just happens to be one of the great destinations on the planet. Beautiful beaches, an unbeatable Florida climate, a vibrant city, corruscating nightlife, and world-class golf so understandably the golfer was distraught.
Here he was at Miami’s famed Doral Golf Resort & Spa with temperatures in the mid-eighties and the doctor had prescribed medication and ordered him to avoid exercise, stay out of direct sunlight and not to drink. What was left for him? That was banned, too.
The poor chap was beside himself. Outside his compatriots were taking on the challenge of five marvellous courses then retiring to several bars for lengthy liquid post-mortems and all he could do was sip a soda and listen. But at least he learned one thing. Doral is a great place to have a medical emergency.
After a round on Greg Norman’s Great White Course he was suddenly taken ill and the professionalism of the Doral staff swung into action. They arranged for him to be examined at a local clinic. A driver in a large 4X4 drove him there and acted as an interpreter for a visitor not versed in the machinations of the medical system where insurance forms have to be filled out and a driver’s licence has to be handed over before being seen. And later his medication was delivered direct to his room.
He made a full recovery but he missed out on an amazing golfing experience. While Florida is a golfer’s paradise with more than a thousand courses, the Doral Resort has to be one of the most popular locations. Everything here is tailored to a golfer’s every need. Doral is known around the world for its premier course the Blue Monster, which has been a regular PGA Tour stop for the past 40 years, and its 18th hole with its signature fountain has reached iconic status.
It has come a long way since Doris and Alfred Kaskel bought 2,400 acres of swampland in West Miami in 1959 to create a country club for family and friends. They called it Doral some might think for romantic or historical reasons but in effect it is more prosaic being an amalgamation of the owners’ first names.
Doral has been called the Kingdom of Golf and few would argue with that. The Blue Monster at 7,125 yards from the tips is a true examination of even the finest players in the game and most have trodden these fairways. It was originally designed by Dick Wilson and later restored by Raymond Floyd and features undulating greens, deep Bermuda rough and a formidable assortment of water hazards and strategically placed bunkers.
The examination comes early on starting with a par-5 and then two of the three hardest holes on the course, the 438- yard third winding right around a lake and then the 236- yard ‘short’ hole coming back around the other side of the hazard.
But never is water more evident than on the 169-yard ninth whose green is almost entirely surrounded by the wet stuff and of course the 467-yard finishing hole. Whether you are standing on the tee with the chance of winning a million dollars or a round of drinks the tee shot has to be one of the most intimidating in the game. The lake cuts in from the left and runs almost the length of the hole. The fairway appears just a sliver of green and the giant fountain seems to accentuate the threat of the water.
The approach is equally as difficult. The green is long and narrow - a fraction to the left and you are wet, to the right and you will be chipping out of the sand towards the water.
Greg Norman is known for his attention to detail in his designing of courses and the 7,171-yard Great White is no exception. If this were the only course you were able to play at Doral then you would not be disappointed. Instead of rough, it features tightly packed coquina sand (crushed shells) on every hole. Norman likes Doral.
He won three times here and he routed the course so that water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes with hundreds of palm trees and 222 Scottish-style pot bunkers adding to the challenge. To complete the experience there are three other championship courses which have all hosted the PGA Qualifying School finals or LPGA events.
The Raymond Floyd Gold Course, which has a traditional Florida layout, incorporating gently contoured greens, strategic bunkering and water surrounding 16 holes. Jerry Pate’s Silver Course, which has narrow, rolling fairways, raised tee boxes and elevated greens with water coming into play on 16 holes. And the Red Course featuring 14 water holes with fairways winding around several lakes.
If you are not completely golfed out there’s the Golf School of one of America’s most acclaimed coaches Jim McLean.
Apart from the golf, another major attraction is the resort’s location only 10 minutes from Miami International Airport and 20 minutes from the amazing adventures of the world-renowned South Beach.
If Doral is first and foremost a golfer’s resort then The Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club at Aventura is perhaps more a luxury resort that happens to have two very fine courses. A Mediterranean-style property set among 300 tropical acres, it was recently transformed with a $100 million makeover that is shown in the quality of its accommodations and its wide range of restaurants. Fairmont spent $30 million on its courses, the Soffer and Miller, redesigned by Raymond Floyd, and a reputed $100,000 in landscaping on every hole.
The courses are typical Florida tracks basically flat with large greens, palm trees, and soft white sand bunkers winding in and out of tower blocks. The par-71 7,047-yard Soffer offers some stunning holes, and of course plenty of water. Nowhere more is that apparent than at the pretty par-3 third, the par-5 sixth and the 402-yard ninth, which has water left and right of the narrow landing area and around the three-tiered sloping green, the 192-yard 13th and the 571-yard par- 5 18th.
The finishing hole is one that can prey on your mind for the whole round. The reason, an island green which is as difficult to land on and hold as a dining-table. In front of us a four-ball of accomplished golfers, who had laid up, all had a couple of attempts each to achieve it and all failed.
And if you have not had enough of the wet stuff, the Soffer also boasts a spectacular waterfall – the highest in Florida at around 64 feet.
Playing on resort courses you rarely get the chance to meet the locals so a visit to the Miami Beach Golf Club, which is in effect a municipal course owned by the City of Miami Beach, is a must. Back during the Second World War, the US Army rented the course for $1 a year as a training ground. Soldiers with rifles ran through the course’s palm trees amid the smoke from smoke grenades.
And at one time the notorious Mafia boss Al Capone lived across the road, although it’s unsure whether he was ever offered membership. But these days it is an oasis of calm and the celebrities you are likely to see on the course are a lot more respectable, the likes of basketball legend Michael Jordan and Oscar winner Halle Berry.
This is definitely worth the visit, not just for the art deco clubhouse but also a compact undulating and heavily planted course which runs to 6,813 yards off the back tees. It starts with the longest hole on the course at 594 yards – the first of five par-5s – and thereafter there are a good variety of holes that set you thinking and there are also five short holes.
When it comes to names in America’s sporting history they don’t come much bigger than Don Shula. The legendary Miami Dolphins’ football coach and twice Superbowl winner even has an Expressway in Miami named after him. He also has Shula’s Golf Club in Miami Lakes and its Senator course at 6,982-yard winds through the giant Ficus trees and Cypress trees left standing after Hurricane Wilma blew through three years ago and demolished more than a thousand trees.
This is definitely a course of two halves with the front nine more open and the back nine much more of a challenge as water, the start of the Everglades and home to 10-foot alligators, comes into play Here you can play golf all day, and in the evening view an amazing collection of sports memorabilia at Shula’s Steak 2, one of the nation’s premier sports restaurants and also have a post-round massage at the Spa at Shula’s by Aveda.
As with any cosmopolitan city, the cuisine covers all tastes. When at Turnberry Isle try the Cascata Grille where you can sit out on the terrace overlooking the course and the water feature and enjoy a menu of fresh seafood and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Not far from Doral is an interesting eating experience at the Chispa Restaurant & Bar, the Hispanic cuisine is as good as the lively ambience. When in Miami a visit to South Beach is de riguer whether it is to eat, party or just people watch. Start with dinner atG&T Grazie and you won’t be disappointed. Although it offers Northern Italian cuisine it is the brainchild of Moshe Petel, an Israeli, and Spurgeon Solomon, a Honduran.
The restaurant is one of the most popular fine-dining experiences in South Florida. And if you need to work off the excesses of the meal then a visit to one of Miami’s top nightclubs, The Fifth, could do the business although your eardrums will take a while to recover. Housed in an art deco style purpose built building, the music is loud, very loud and just might have you wishing for the peace and quiet of the fairways.
No matter how many times you visit Miami you will always find it ever-changing in the experiences it offers but one thing remains constant - the quality and the enjoyability of its golf courses which could be just what the doctor ordered fact file
To download a “Golf Miami” guide visit: www.PlayMiamiGolf.com For tourist information from Greater Miami CVB visit: www.MiamiandBeaches.com or call 01444 443355
Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, www. turnberryisle.com – Costs from $499 per double room per night including unlimited golf, a 30-minute preview lesson with a golf professional and a complimentary caddie for the first round of the morning.
Doral Golf Resort & Spa, www.doralresort.com – Costs from $259 per person per night including 18 holes of golf per person and an introductory golf clinic.