US property tycoon Donald Trump has bought the large Doral resort in Miami out of bankruptcy at a seemingly bargain price of US$150 million, and has hired golf architect Gil Hanse to renovate the resort’s golf courses, starting with the famous Blue Monster, a PGA Tour venue since 1962.
Doral has been in bankruptcy since early last year, when hedge fund owner Paulson & Co applied for Chapter 11 protection. Paulson had acquired the resort, along with several others, after former owner Morgan Stanley hit financial difficulties following the Lehman Brothers collapse. Morgan bought Doral for US$501 million in 2007, and later invested another US$50 million building a new ballroom.
Some observers have expressed surprise at the selection of renowned minimalist Hanse to renovate the Blue Monster, which hosts the WGC Cadillac Championship next week, although the architect’s work at TPC Boston has been acclaimed by Tour players and commentators alike. But Trump told GCA he was confident he had made the right choice. “Gil Hanse was chosen for Doral because he has the right aesthetic for this job,” Trump said. “His workmanship has shown that he can integrate beauty, innovation and practicality and come out with a superior result every time. Gil’s significant gifts go very well with the scope of Doral. He’s a perfect fit. I expect the results to be perfect as well. We will bring the Blue Monster to the absolute highest levels of golf.”
Hanse, speaking exclusively to GCA, said he and Trump had been discussing the potential project since Christmas. “The original idea was that we would start work almost immediately after the WGC event this year,” he said. “But it became clear that wasn’t practical – the resort has bookings, and the deal may not be closed straight away. But we are pretty well on with our design ideas. We’re going to sit down at Doral next week with the past champions and show them our thoughts. We’ve already shared them with the design staff at the Tour and they’ve pretty much signed off on them.”
Doral will be Hanse’s first project in Florida. “The one thing we believe very strongly is that we should honour and retain a significant proportion of what Dick Wilson did,” he said. “We can’t call it a restoration, because we’re proposing to move six greens, lengthen holes and so forth. But stylistically we’re going to focus on Wilson’s style. We have his original plans, and we’re going to build the new greens with those plans in mind. We’re not going to build wild and woolly bunkers.”
Trump’s hotel division will take over the management of the Doral property, which includes 700 hotel rooms, ballroom and meeting facilities, the Pritikin spa and golf school facilities, and expects to assume operations by June. The property will remain fully operational throughout the renovation, which is expected to conclude in late 2013. A figure of an additional US$150 million has been rumoured as the cost of the renovation works.
“When Doral first opened, it was considered the best resort in the world,” said Trump. “The combination of the property’s incredible location in the heart of Miami and our very significant investment in upgrading the resort will enable us to return Doral to its former glory if not surpass it. When completed, Doral will be the finest resort and golf club in the country. It would be impossible for a developer today to replicate a property of this size in Miami at any cost.”
The renovation will, in time, cover all four of Doral’s golf courses will be enhanced, and the driving range will be lengthened and expanded to more than twice its current size. “We’re excited because this project continues our relationship with the Tour, and we’re excited to work with Mr Trump, who shares the focus on detail we like to bring to our projects. He’s passionate about golf and golf course design. Of all the things he’s involved with, I’d say he gets more fun out of golf than anything else,” said Hanse.