Doral’s “Great White” golf course slated for development

By | May 11th, 2011

Filings in bankruptcy proceedings for resort’s parent company outline plan for “strategic repositioning” as “elite resort;” proposed changes not expected to affect “Blue Monster” course or Doral Open.

The owners of the Doral resort want to spin off one of the property’s five golf courses for residential or commercial development, according to court filings reported by The Miami Herald.

The move to separate the Doral’s “Great White’’ course — named after designer Greg Norman — would probably would not impact the resort’s annual PGA golf tournament, which is played on its famous “Blue Monster’’ course.

“We don’t anticipate any changes with the Cadillac Championship,’’ Tournament Director Eddie Carbone told the Herald. “Obviously, it would depend on a sale, but, right now, we think it’s status quo.”

The recommended upgrade, unveiled in court documents relating to the recent bankruptcy filing of Doral’s parent company, MSR Golf Resort, could be part of a larger change at the Doral, as its current owners declare the property not profitable enough to keep.

The “Doral is at a strategic crossroads,’’ lawyers for MSR wrote in New York bankruptcy court filings. To “remain competitive in the long-term, the Doral should reposition itself as an elite resort. This repositioning will require a capital infusion in exchange for improved profitability in the future…’’

The lawyers for MSR, which owns five resorts, including Arizona’s Biltmore and the Grand Wailea in Maui, said the Doral does not generate as much profit as the other four, so the parent wants to sell the property to reduce its debt and try to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, MSR said it is considering two major changes to the Doral. First, it may want to retain the Great White course for its own development project. It was unclear, the Herald reported, if the venture would retain the course, or use some land for building. A lawyer for MSR did not respond to an interview request to explain the plan.

In its court filing, MSR wrote: “The White Course encompasses 131 acres on highly valuable land adjacent to dense residential developments and a proposed mixed-use city center. As a result, the debtors believe that the White Course would be more valuable as an expansive commercial and residential development.’’

The second change MSR discussed in court filings was consideration of breaking a long-running management agreement with Marriott International, which runs the Doral. MSR did not cite a reason for considering this change, and a Marriott spokesman did not respond to an interview request.

A bankruptcy judge would need to approve any sale of assets while MSR is under Chapter 11 protection. The court filings said the chain of resorts are profitable, with room revenue improving at a time when hotels across the country are enjoying an uptick in business.

Scott Brush, a Miami hotel consultant, told the Herald that like many iconic hotels, the 1952 Doral could benefit from an upgrade.

“At one point it would have been considered a very high-end resort. And now it’s showing a lot of wear and tear,’’ Brush said. “High-end resorts have changed, too. You now have to provide more and do more than you did 30 years ago.’’

The Doral property and operations were featured in Club & Resort Business’ January 2007 issue (“A New Dawn at Doral”).

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