Biltmore and Fairmont Turnberry Isle give South Florida a facelift

By Links MagazineDecember 18, 2008, 5:00 pm

fairmont turnberry isle
The Fairmont Turnberry Isle

Everything old is new again in the Sunshine State, a golf peninsula that continues to reinvent itself and renew its perennial appeal to winter-weary visitors. Floridas nip-and-tuck trend is especially strong around Miami, a city in which youth and beauty are obsessions. Against this backdrop, two stalwarts from different eras'the Biltmore Coral Gables, a glamorous icon from the Roaring Twenties, and the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, which twinkled during the disco era'have reinvented themselves as destination resorts.
Excavating a Ross
The Biltmore, centerpiece of Coral Gables on the outskirts of Miami, was long overdue for a facelift. Dating from 1926, this brilliant evocation of the Mediterranean Revival style is a rare luxury getaway within a major metropolitan area. In addition to the nations largest hotel pool, the resort offers a spa and fitness center with more toned bodies per square foot than any similar South Florida facility.
Sunday brunch is served in a loggia with tables set around a fountain in a courtyard, while Palme dOr'rated in the extraordinary to perfection bracket of the 2008 Zagat Survey'offers a continental dining experience nonpareil. The hotels 276 guest rooms, including the Everglades Suite once favored by Al Capone, were refurbished in the late 1990s.
The resort then turned its attention to the tired, worn Donald Ross-designed course. Working from original routing plans, aerial photos and Ross notes, Brian Silva set about the task of rediscovering the Biltmore Golf Course. Rather than attempt a slavish imitation of the original, Silva adapted the layout for the modern game, describing his handiwork as a sympathetic restoration of a layout that was a big hit in its day.
In 1926 Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen played an exhibition. Four years later the Miami-Biltmore Open attracted top players including Sarazen and Walter Hagen. However, by the time a 16-year-old Tiger Woods captured the 1991 Orange Bowl Junior International at the resort, the course had deteriorated badly.
Retaining the routing, Silva widened fairways to their original dimensions to create more strategic options. The holes, flanked by palms, live oaks and banyan trees, invite the wind from all vectors.
The open-entry greens, which had shrunk and lost much of their character, were enlarged to their original dimensions. Slightly above fairway level with subtle undulations, the putting surfaces are framed by rolling mounds and gentle swales. Steep drop-offs at a few holes will penalize careless shots.
Most impressive are the bunkers. Silva identified long-abandoned or grassed-over bunkers, excavated them to their original depth and created a wavy-edged, filigreed look along the top edges.
The fairway bunkers pull you through this golf course in a way thats outstanding, Silva explains. Ross designed the fairways to subtly twist and turn around the bunkers, even on the straightaway holes.
The strength of the 6,742-yard course is its superb collection of par 4s. They range from drive-and-pitch gems to dangerous holes like the 450-yard 17th, which calls for a solid drive followed by an unerring approach over water to a bulk-headed green. The 17th is one of several holes crossed by the Coral Gables Waterway, a canal built in the 1920s to provide guests access to Biscayne Bay. (Italian gondolas manned by gondoliers imported from Venice once plied the waterway.) Several free-span bridges were installed prior to the layouts reopening last November to enable players to more easily traverse the course. They also provide passage for the large iguanas that sun themselves on the banks of the canal, aptly capturing the relaxed atmosphere at this South Florida getaway.

Turnberry Isle was the brainchild of Don Soffer, a shopping-mall mogul who bought 785 acres of swampland in Dade County north of Miami, sketched a vision for a resort community on a napkin, and hired Robert Trent Jones Sr. to build the South course and his son Rees for the sportier North. When the resort debuted in 1970, the director of golf was Julius Boros, the happy-go-lucky pro who liked to spin-cast for bass in the man-made lagoons.
Soffer sold the resort in 1993. But as if attracted to an old flame he never got over, Soffer, 75, reacquired the property in 2005. After a $100 million transformation, including a $30 million makeover of the two courses, the 392-room Mediterranean-themed property reopened under the Fairmont flag in December 2006.
In his second try, Soffer did away with the dead-flat designs the pere-fils Joneses had built. He brought in truckloads of fill to create contours and spent more than $100,000 in landscaping for each hole of the former South (now the Soffer course) to create a tropical Augusta look with tall, swaying palms.
Then there are the water touches: A brook and thundering waterfall greet players at the 1st hole of the South. At the 18th, a 64-foot faux-rock waterfall'one of the largest and most expensive cascades ever built'near the green recirculates more than 20,000 gallons of water per minute.
But for all the theme-park touches, Soffer and design consultant Ray Floyd came up with a 7,047-yard layout that is a first-class test of precision and course management. Make no mistake: Soffer made all the major design decisions. Jones routing is intact and Floyd assisted, but there isnt a single hole that the owner didnt transform.
This is not a grip it and rip it course, Soffer says. John Daly would not have a very good time here. In addition to well-placed drives, the key is hitting approach shots that hold the slick, undulating greens.
Soffer exercised restraint on the North (now called Miller), which reopened last summer. The layout has plenty of water in play, notably at Lake Julius, where pink flamingos nest on a man-made island. The 6,417-yard layout will not give average duffers heartburn, but neither is it a pushover.
If the courses bear little resemblance to the originals, neither does the resort itself. The guest rooms, in shades of butterscotch, taupe and chocolate brown, are highlighted by natural textiles, wood furnishings and oversize baths with soaking tubs. Each room has a furnished terrace or balcony.
On the dining side, Bourbon Steak marks the first South Florida venture by culinary star Michael Mina. Innovative regional cuisine is featured at Cascata Grille, its outdoor seating area overlooking fairways and waterfalls.
Turnberry Isles new recreation area features a lagoon-style pool, lazy river, 180-foot waterslide and a 35-foot waterfall along with poolside dining. Willow Stream Spa offers pampering while the Ocean Club, fronting a gorgeous stretch of Atlantic beach, is five minutes from the hotel.
Long gone are the playboy tennis pros and disco-happy celebrities. In their place is a family-oriented Northeast crowd, the golfers among them eager to tackle a pair of back to the future courses.
by Brian McCallen, LINKS Magazine
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.