Golf One Media

The Blue Monster’s Colorful History

by | Apr 3, 2024 | PRO NEWS

The LIV Golf League is looking to create its own history. That’s nearly impossible for any start-up in any professional sport or business, but it helps when that professional sport – in this case LIV Golf – goes to history. That is, LIV Golf this week (April 5-7) returns to the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral, in the fast-growing eastern edges of Miami.

The Blue Monster, which got its name from its blue tees rather than its water hazards, continues its record run of hosting a professional golf event each year since 1962. The winners of its variously named PGA Tour events include Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, and yes, LIV Golf Commissioner Greg Norman.

Crushers GC (Bryson DeChambeau, Charles Howell III, Paul Casey, Anirban Lahiri) won last year’s LIV Golf season-ending event at Doral and shared the $14 million prize money.

In the 1960s, Jackie Gleason lived in one of the resort’s bungalows. The story goes that the Great One was asked to leave by owner Alfred Kaskel after a few less-than-sober incidents with his golf car.  Doral’s Red Tiger course was given its name by Gleason, whose final resting place is just a few miles away.

Bob Hope was a frequent guest when Eastern Airlines sponsored the Doral Open. In its early days, the resort was even home to a monkey island. But that land, like many in South Florida, has been replaced by condominiums.

Designed by Dick Wilson, with ample help from his then-protege Robert von Hagge, the Blue Monster, which opened in 1962, was built in the South Florida swamps. The only other recognizable landmark at that time was a massive garbage landfill to the north, and perhaps the Miami International Airport, a few miles inland.

Von Hagge once told me the story of finding the undercarriage of an airplane in the muck during the course’s construction. No records of a plane crash were ever discovered. Probably a case for Crockett and Tubbs.

The landfill is still there, but technology has removed its airborne stench. Large passenger jets, meanwhile, still approach so close in Doral’s the skies that one can almost reach up and touch their landing gear.

Considered among Wilson’s better creations, the Blue Monster underwent several renovations – some good and some not-so-good—until 2013, when then-private citizen Donald Trump brought in Gil Hanse to restore it as close as possible to Wilson’s original plans. Hanse and partner Jim Wagner removed bunkers and created diagonal bunkers to force players to shape shots along the sides of many fairways. Wilson, understand, was a big believer in making players shape high shots onto landing areas and greens.

Hanse and Wagner also enlarged the greens to their original sizes and created spectator mounds throughout the Blue Monster. Those spectator mounds, contoured greens, and diagonal bunkers will be on display this weekend as LIV stars such as Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson challenge what is one of the world’s great, larger-than-life layouts. Golf course design nerds like the Blue Monster because it shows off Wilson’s mastery of taking a flat course and making it special.

“There’s not another course like the Blue Monster,’’ said Tom Clark, the tournament’s executive director, a former PGA Tour executive, and a partner in Par 5 Group, which manages each of LIV Golf’s domestic tournaments. “It has all the history. And combined with the types of players – some of them are seeing it for the first time – I think it helps all of South Florida.

“I know it’s been reworked over the years, but it’s still the Blue Monster. It’s still very challenging—and the players are aware of that. They’re looking forward to it.”

Photo: The 18th hole on the Blue Monster

oncore_golf
revo_sunglasses

About the Author

<a href="https://golfonemedia.com/author/steve_pike/" target="_self">Steve Pike</a>

Steve Pike

Steve “Spike” Pike is a lifelong journalist whose career covers Major League Baseball, the NFL, and college basketball. For the past 26 years, Spike has been one of the more respected voices in the golf and travel industries, working for such publications as Golfweek, Golf World, and Golf Digest for The New York Times Magazine Group. In 1998, Spike helped launch the PGA.com website for the PGA of America. As a freelance travel and golf writer, Spike’s travels have taken him around the world. He has played golf from Pebble Beach to St. Andrews, walked the Great Wall of China, climbed an active volcano in the Canary Islands, been on safari in South Africa, and dived with sharks off Guadalupe, Baja California. Steve lives in Delray Beach, Fla, and posts his golf and travel content on his website at spikeongolfandtravel.com. He can be reached at spikee41@hotmail.com.