The Resort Story: Doral Golf Resort and Spa

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

MIAMI, FL - When Doral Resort and Spa Director of Golf Michael Miraglia tries to sell the virtues of the resort, he always points out one key fact. "I always say when you pull through those gates, you never need to leave," said Miraglia. "There's a world-class spa and golf. (Miami) South Beach is nice, but you don't need to go there."

"Doral is the ultimate vacation destination. We have every amenity you need. We meet all the criteria for any vacationer, whether you are a couple on a honeymoon or a group of 12 guys who just want to play golf. This is an amazing place."

Of course, Miraglia is paid to sing the praises of Doral, but he's right. With five golf courses, nine shops, spa and workout facility, a tennis center, a jogging trail, a modern pool complex and five restaurants to choose from, Doral has it all and more.

Doral's biggest selling point is its location - in south Florida in one of the most lively, entertaining cities in the country, if not the world. The complaint about most other golf resorts, like Pebble Beach in California and Pinehurst in North Carolina, is they are in the middle of nowhere, away from the real world. But Doral is the model of convenience.

Doral is 15 minutes from one of the world's best beaches, South Beach, which is lined with snazzy restaurants, elegant shops, and some of best collection of clubs and bars in the world. It might take three or four visits to Doral to play all of the resort's courses and then have time to experience the real Miami.

The resort is also just 15 minutes from the airport, as you'll soon find out from the constant blare of airplanes overhead. Although Miami's airport is so close, many travelers actually fly into the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport about 30 miles north because getting in and out is so much easier than at the hectic Miami airport.

Doral was the vision of Doris and Alfred Kaskel, who combined parts of their first names to form the Doral Hotel and Country Club on 2,400 acres of swampland west of the city, starting in 1959. The resort opened in 1962 with the Blue, Red and par-3 golf courses. As the resort's popularity grew, thanks in part to the PGA event that began in 1962, the Kaskels added a tennis center in 1970, hiring friend and tennis great Arthur Ashe as the Director of Tennis.

The Kaskels continued to stay ahead of the golf industry trends, adding a spa in 1987. In 1993, the KSL Recreation Corporation bought Doral and has invested nearly $30 million in upgrades, including redesigns or restoration projects on all five golf courses. KSL Recreation also owns and operates La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West in California and the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Michigan, among more than $1.2 billion in other resort properties.

With KSL at the helm, Doral added the Blue Lagoon, complete with a water slide, and Camp Doral, a day camp for kids, to try and attract more families. Doral's newest project is building and selling the Villas at Doral.

As you can see, Doral is ever-changing and expanding to keep up with the competitive world of golfing destinations.

Outside of the game of golf, the spa might be Doral's crown jewel. It is just a short walk from any of the lodges, which house the resort's 693 guestrooms, through lush gardens of beautiful flowers and tropical flare. The 148,000-square-foot spa boasts both indoor and outdoor pools and an indoor track.

Inside, you can either relax in one of 52 treatment rooms or 48 guest suites with private whirlpools or get pumped up in the weight room, complete with stationary bikes, treadmills, stair-steppers and nautilus and free weights.

How does an aroma wrap, a European facial or full-body massage sound?

If golf or relaxation isn't your sport, but tennis is, there are both hard and clay courts near the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center.

Food is another resort specialty. The Windows on the Green is a giant outdoor patio, overlooking the famous Blue Monster golf course. You can bet many a debt has been settled while calculating scorecards over a tropical drink and a burger.

With a big screen TV and an intimate appeal, the Champions Sports Bar in the main clubhouse is a perfect spot to watch a game or catch Sunday's final round. The Atrium, located in the spa, features a healthier menu. The Terrazza Restaurant and Café, which is a cyber cafe, and the Bungalou's Bar & Grill in the Blue Lagoon pool complex complete Doral's
dining options.

Good food isn't the only must on vacation. Sitting by the pool is another.

The Blue Lagoon pool complex is a marvel. Both pools - one is 85,000 gallons and the other 125,000 gallons - are intertwined with a huge rock facade. The water slide winds through this mountainous formation, while a refreshing waterfall tumbles endlessly into one of the pools. Adults will appreciate the nearby hot tubs more than the water slide.

Kids will love camp Doral, where they can learn to play golf and tennis, go fishing or play in the pool all day. A full-court, outdoor basketball court, an outdoor pool table and a video game room are also available.

Corporate operations from America and abroad often descend upon Doral for its entertainment and meeting space all conveniently located side by side. The resort offers more than 100,000 square feet of flexible conference rooms and two grand ballrooms, which can each accommodate up to 1,000 people.

To avoid the commotion and the prices of the peak season, Doral can be a perfect treat during the off-season, during the summer months from June to early September. The rooms in the lodges are spacious and comfortable with balconies or patios, some overlooking the Blue Monster.

The one complaint of guests is the tax and gratuity fees placed on nearly every resort service, from phone calls to food. There's an 18 percent gratuity tax fixed into every meal ticket and a resort tax on every night's stay to pay for the little luxuries, like getting the newspaper delivered to your door every morning.

Sally and Ted Robinson, who recently visited from England, had nothing but a pleasant experience during their stay.

"I was very impressed with the facilities," Sally said. "The food was superb and I loved the swimming pool complex."

"There are lots of helpful staff, even during the quiet time," Ted added. "The whole setup is nice. I would recommend it to friends. Everything is so convenient. Everything is at hand. You just wouldn't need to rent a car. You could just taxi to and from the airport or to the beach."

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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