Don't be fooled by Doral's swaying coconut palms, the Italianate fountains and the virgin-white sand. The Killer is back. With a vengeance.
Long the pussycat, tamed by the advent of Big Bertha technology, the Blue Monster golf course, featuring 7,125 yards of nerve-rattling carries over water, postage-stamp-sized greens, and two of the finest par-3s in the world, has been restored to its man-eating best.
"I opened the bunkers up, added length and tightened up the landing areas to make sure the course has new teeth," PGA stalwart-turned-designer Ray Floyd says about the layout that serves as the site of the annual Doral-Ryder Open. "Too many pros were simply driving the ball over the bunkers, but that won't happen now. Big Blue is again a real monster."
But golfers and other pleasure seekers shouldn't be scared away by these terrors. While Doral, with its five menacing courses, stands out as one of America's premier golf destinations, the 650-acre resort offers a lot more than island greens and Jim McLean's internationally renowned Golf Learning Center.
A tropical getaway only minutes from Miami's cigar-rich Little Havana, Doral also boasts 694 luxurious guest rooms, 15 tennis courts and a famed spa where wellness strategies include hydrotherapy cascades, de-stress aroma wraps and a variety of massages.
If guests are intent on pampering their minds and bodies, they can savor special four- and seven-night "renewal plans" at the spa, which looks like a Tuscan villa, serves gourmet cuisine and offers
48 lavishly appointed suites, all with Jacuzzis and marble bathrooms.
Ranked among the top 10 spas in the world by various travel magazines (and number one by the Zagat Survey), this tranquil oasis provides a stark contrast to the pulsating Latin rhythms of nearby South Beach and the flamboyant Art Deco district.
But even if secluded from the prowling paparazzi, movie
stars and Baywatch blondes on the beach, Doral still moves to
a Caribbean-flavored beat after dark. Particularly at Champions, a lively sports bar and grill where cigar smokers can relish salsa-dipped appetizers, mojitos (Cuban rum spritzers), several well-stocked humidors and the smiling photographs of Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto enjoying their favorite smokes.
Yet would-be Monster-slayers will also need liquid revitalizers, and on this score, Champions dispenses numerous winning combinations, from its vodka, Bacardi Limón, pineapple juice and Midori liqueur "Green Course" to Jose's "famous" Daiquiri.
Then it's time for another sweet indulgence, dinner--and more cigars--at Windows, Doral's award-winning gourmet restaurant that overlooks the Blue Monster and a sparkling fountain. Inspired by Miami's abundant fresh produce and fish, Austrian-trained executive chef Josef Schibanetz has sprinkled his menu with both "Floribbean" and European treats, and the result is a menu with many inventive choices. Whether it's a grilled dolphin filet in a parsley mojito with fried plantains, or a more classic lamb chop marinated in fresh herbs and Dijon mustard, Schibanetz has performed a nifty balancing act.
If sybarites are lucky enough to be at Doral over a holiday, chef Schibanetz again displays his magic touch at Windows' Champagne brunch. It's then easy to forget all that spa conditioning and weight training, as mountains of bluepoint oysters, cheeses, carved meats, omelettes, pastas and velvety chocolate desserts give the dining room a festive carnival flavor.
Such an orgy makes exercising out of the question, and that's welcome relief. For instead of enjoying those mouth-watering brunch delights, your golf ball could be slicing into some large expanse of water, and that's no fun at all.--Edward Kiersh
Florida-based writer Edward Kiersh
is a frequent contributor to
Doral Golf Resort and Spa
4400 Northwest 87th Avenue
Phone 1-800-71-DORAL; in Florida call (305) 592-2000
Rooms $130 to $425, spa suites from $295 to $1,375.
Packages are also available.