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Restoration brings Ross’s Biltmore Golf Course back to its glory days

The Tufts Archives within the Given Library in Pinehurst, N.C., is filled with more than 125,00 pictures and historic artifacts relating to the founders and powerbrokers of Pinehurst Resort. Those items include the papers of Donald Ross, whose No. 2 Course is his design masterpiece.

Ross designed more than 400 courses across the U.S., including the Biltmore Golf Course at the Biltmore Miami Hotel in Coral Gables. So when Bob Coman, director of golf at the Biltmore Miami, went looking for Ross’s original plans to the Biltmore GC,  he journeyed to the Sandhills.

“A very nice lady came out with the original documents and offered to make copies and send them to me,’’ Coman said. “About one week later, a tube arrived with prints and copies of his written notes.’’

Those blueprints and notes date back to 1925 – when Ross designed what was then a 36-hole layout and practice area on the south side of the then-under construction hotel. Ross was at the height of his creative powers in the 1920’s, particularly in Florida, where be designed, among other courses, Gulf Stream Golf Club in 1924 and the legendary Seminole Golf Club in 1929.

Back in Coral Gables, the 141 acres between the Biltmore Hotel and Bird Road contain the remaining 18 holes and practice area, each of which re-opened this past December after renovation work by Brian Silva, an outstanding golf course architect in his own right, but perhaps best known as a student of the classic designs of Ross, A.W. Tillinghast, C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor.

With few exceptions, the routing of the renovated Biltmore Golf Course harkens back to Ross’s original design. Silva restored 23 greens (including five practice greens) back to their original sizes and shapes. Each green – fast and true – has increased in size by an average of 1,200 square feet. The turtleback contours are back in the greens, as are some of severe run-offs and false fronts that are signature pieces to almost any Rossian green.

Silva re-shaped many of the greenside and fairways bunkers that had become overgrown over the years, giving each a clean look that helps define the fairways and greens complexes. Silva added 14 bunkers to bring the number to 84 (the 1925 layout had 85 bunkers) and increased the overall distance of the course from 6,772 yards from the tips to 7,112 yards.

“We really want to re-establish the course back to its old glory,’’ said Gene Prescott, CEO of the Biltmore Miami Hotel. “We want to put it back on the world map.’’

Ross is only part of the Biltmore Golf Course’s history. Celebrities and politicos have wandered its fairways since 1925. Babe Ruth, for example, was a frequent guest and player. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush considers it his home course.

Indeed, the renovated Biltmore Golf Course is the centerpiece of the Biltmore Miami Hotel’s $25 million renovation project that began in Dec. 2017. In addition to the course, the renovation included enhancements to its guest rooms, lobby and 10,000-square foot fitness facility, and the additions of new fitness equipment from Technogym and popular BABOR skin care products in the spa’s retail space.

 https://www.biltmorehotel.com/

“We have a very unique hotel because of our history and location,’’ Prescott said. “We want it to bring a more a more cultural aspect to Miami and attract a more sophisticated traveler.’’

Photos: Biltmore Miami Hotel

 

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