Golfing In the Dominican
The Dominican Republic offers golfers not only great courses but great views.
The Pete Dye-designed Teeth of the Dog golf course at Casa de Campo.
Just like cake and ice cream, golf and the sea have always had a special relationship. The wind and the waves, the sand and the surf – they just add to the allure of the game. And it’s always been that way.
So it’s no wonder that the world’s great seaside golf destinations are revered. In the “Old World,” it’s places like Scotland and Ireland that immediately come to mind. And, in the “New World” – especially if you like your wind and waves on the warm side – the crme de la crme is the Dominican Republic.
No other country in the tropics boasts as many awesome courses that hug the ocean as the Dominican Republic. Of the 30 championship golf courses found there, nearly three quarters serve up beautiful ocean views. And many of those feature holes directly on the ocean. Indeed, if the seaside golf genre melts your butter, then a golf vacation to the Dominican should be part of your plan.
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Casa de Campo, Minitas Beach.
The place to start? Unquestionably, Casa de Campo in La Romana. Home to three Pete Dye-designed courses, Casa de Campo is consistently recognized as one of the best golf resorts in the world. Its star attraction is the revered Teeth of the Dog course. Opened in 1971, “Teeth” is Dye’s seaside masterpiece. It has been ranked the No. 1 course in the Caribbean for more than 40 years. There are a total of seven holes that play directly along the wave-smashed shore. The drama is unforgettable. And, yes, this bowser has some bite.
The stretch of holes from the 4th to the 8th is one of the world’s great seaside runs. The 5th, a short par-3 with a postage-stamp green kissing the water, is diabolic Dye. For a 120-yard hole, this one doesn’t chomp like a Chihuahua – it bites like a bulldog. Thankfully, after licking your wounds after the 8th, you’ve got some time to rest before another great seaside run from the 15th to the 17th. Tip: you’re best off showing this little doggie some respect . . . or she’ll tear you into pieces.
Although “Teeth” is the clear standout at Casa de Campo, the Links Course and Dye Fore both afford rock-solid golf with that special Dye flare. Dye Fore, which soars along the Chavon River, is particularly spectacular.
After golf, if you’re still feeling the pain from your puncture wounds, you can take comfort on the dazzling beaches in the Dominican Republic. The Punta Cana area, especially, is home to idyllic white-sand beaches that, to be honest, are way better than any bunker I’ve ever flailed around in.
Dye Fore runs along the Chavon River.
For beginners to the all-inclusive genre – or seasoned veterans, for that matter – it doesn’t get much better than the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana. The massive resort (there are more than 1,700 rooms) is one of the largest hotels in the Caribbean. With 13 pools, nine restaurants, a casino, spa and a shuttle to whisk you around, you’ll definitely have a tough time soaking it all in. Tip: If you get dazed and confused by the sheer size of the place, take the two-minute shuttle ride to the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that sits on the property.
Meandering through the Dominican jungle – don’t kid yourself, the jungle can also eat you alive – the course is one of the sweetest on the island, even though it has no ocean views.
If you base your holiday out of the Hard Rock, there are a couple more top dogs nearby. Punta Espada, for example, is killer-good. It’s another Nicklaus design that features eight seaside holes, and many of them hug the water so close, you may be wishing for a neoprene golf shirt.
Two other highly recommended courses in the Punta Cana area are La Cana (yet another Dye design, with four seaside holes) and Corales Golf Club (a Tom Fazio layout, with six oceanside holes). Regardless of where, exactly, you park yourself in the Dominican Republic, rest assured, there will be a beautiful course nearby – likely with an extremely large water hazard protecting some of the holes. But, please, play with caution. Them dogs will bite.
Emerging golf destinations
True, golf isn’t booming like it was in the 1990s. However, there are a few places where the game is in growth mode. Here are three to keep your eye on.
Still flying under the radar in North America, the southern Mediterranean Coast in Turkey is now home to more than 15 championship-calibre golf courses – and counting.
The 2010 opening of Royal Isabela, a wild links course that parades high atop cliffs on the north coast, put Puerto Rico on a golf-happy trajectory. More courses are in the works.
The south and central Vietnam coast is Asia’s hottest new golf destination. And hottest of all is the brand new Greg Norman links course, The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip Course, which could be the finest new course in all of Asia.