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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Biltmore and Fairmont Turnberry Isle give South Florida a facelift
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.
Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore
SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.
Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.
Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.
With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.
''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''
Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.
''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.
Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.
Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.
He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.