One of the things that makes the Dominican Republic (DR), with its 21 courses, a premier destination for golf is the quality of its gold course designers. No other Caribbean country features the calibre of internationally recognized golf course architects. And the list is growing. By the end of 2006, DR’s golf trail will include: Pete Dye, P.B. Dye, Nick Faldo, Jim Fazio, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nick Price and Robert Trent Jones.
The DR’s designer golf legacy began with the construction of two Dye courses — La Cana at Punta Cana Resort & Club (PCRC) by P.B. Dye on the east coast and Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo by Pete Dye in La Romana. While these two courses and creators share similar roots, the concepts are quite different. PCRC golf director Olivier Brizon describes La Cana as “a course with very good play rhythm.”
“La Cana starts with a small par 4 and, little by little, the course gets more challenging — both physically and psychologically — with a dramatic par 5 finish by the sea,” said Brizon. “My personal favourite hole is number 14, a par 3. It has fantastic shaping and an impressive green behind a large bunker.”
In December 2005, Teeth of the Dog re-opened after receiving an extensive makeover. “It’s basically a whole new course and while it always had bite, the Dog has even sharper teeth now,” said Gilles Gagnon, golf director at Casa de Campo. “Even the pros know it’s not a matter of if the Dog will bite, but when. Just ask Fred Couples. He was once eight under par after 15 holes and thought he‘d break the course record. That’s when the Dog sunk his teeth into him. He went double, bogie-bogie, made par on the last three holes and finished five under.”
Golf courses have been popping up on each of the DR’s coasts over the past three decades including Guavaberry by Gary Player in southern Juan Dolio, Dye Fore by Pete Dye (the latest course at Casa de Campo) in La Romana, and Playa Grande and Playa Dorada both by Robert Trent Jones in the north.
“Guavaberry is just 30 minutes from Santo Domingo’s airport making it easily accessible,” said Glen Powe, golf director at Guavaberry Resort. “And with five sets of tees for each hole it is challenging for golfers of all skill levels. A favourite hole of mine is Gary’s Signature Hole, number 13. While it is a par 3, it’s visually spectacular thanks to a waterfall and two separate greens that are rotated daily, giving golfers different perspectives.”
2006 is expected to be the most exciting year yet for the DR’s designer golf course scene. Set along the white sand beaches of the Punta Cana/Bavaro coast is Punta Blanca by Nick Price, located near the new Majestic Colonial Beach Resort. Also in the line-up this year in the same region is a course at the anticipated Roco Ki Resort by Nick Faldo; Punta Espada by Jack Nicklaus at the new Cap Cana complex; and Corales Golf Course by Tom Fazio at PCRC. The north coast isn‘t to be left out. The Ocean Signature Course by Arnold Palmer will be located at the pending Atlantica complex near Luperon.
“We are counting the days until Jack Nicklaus‘ first Dominican golf course will be open for golf lovers from around the world,” said Sam Logan, golf director at Cap Cana. “Punta Espada will be exceptional with eight holes directly on the ocean and ocean views from every hole.”
According to Logan, Punta Espada’s unique story began before the greens and fairways were planned. Cap Cana gave Nicklaus his pick of land before all other real estate and plans were initiated. “By doing this, the golf master used the most visual, interesting and breathtaking parcels for his course,” added Logan. “Each hole deserves recognition as an exotic beauty of the Caribbean, especially number 17. It will not only be enjoyable to play but also a postcard to send home.”
Rich in history, the Dominican Republic has developed into a diverse destination offering both Dominican and European flavours. At 10,000 feet, the Dominican Republic is home to the highest point in the Caribbean. It also features some of the best beaches in the world, the largest marina in the Caribbean and is a chosen escape for celebrities, couples and families.
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