The ideal winter resort golf course, I think, has to have certain attributes. It should have real seaside holes, not just a couple of greens that have views of distant turquoise waters. Condos and houses should keep a respectful distance. Palm trees ought to sway gently in tropical breezes. And it definitely ought to take account of the likely rust factor in the customers’ games.
La Cana Golf Course, a P.B. Dye design on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic, meets all these criteria quite handsomely. It’s a great vacation layout.
Dye dealt with the rust factor by designing broad fairways and even broader playing corridors. Some of the fairways are 75 yards wide. No poor vacationer has to step off an airplane in January and stripe the first tee shot he’s hit in several months. Slice it. Hook it. You’ll still find it and hit it again. The 1st and 10th holes, where every round will start, are particularly benign—short par fours with very generous fairways.
The corridors are wide enough that while a player will see homes and condos on occasion, he’ll never be close enough to know what the inhabitants are having for breakfast.
Dye built most of La Cana’s challenge around the greens. The natural terrain is flat, scrubby bush country, so he used his bulldozer to push up mounds and dig hollows around the putting areas.
There are three genuine seaside holes. The 5th, a 154-yard par three, plays around a pretty cove, but it looks a little more fearsome than it is. A player can pick a line that skirts the sea and still find the left side of the green, The green area is very broad, and only a terrible slice will find the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
The 17th and 18th, at 413 and 574 yards from the tips, demand more skill. The fairways are still generous, but a pull or a hook will be wet. The second at 17 must carry a big sandy hazard. The second at 18, for those not going for the green in two, has to find a landing area among half a dozen hidden bunkers.
The greens and fairways at La Cana use paspalum grass, a hybrid that thrives in salt air, heat and humidity. The ball sits up nicely on the fairways. The greens have grain, so a visiting foursome is well advised to take a caddie along to help read the breaks.
Bunker maintenance can be a problem on Caribbean courses, but Dye built the bunkers at La Cana to suit the climate. Since heavy rains can play havoc with flashed sand walls, he built grass walls. Some of the sand areas are just small, shallow dimples atop grassy mounds. The coarse sand appears to drain well and be consistently playable.
La Cana has a first-rate practice facility, with grass tees and a green for practicing chips and pitches.
The golf course is part of the Punta Cana Resort and Club, a gated tourism enclave with several lodging choices and miles of beachfront land. The Punta Cana airport, which receives direct flights from the United States and Europe, is a couple of miles away. Two other courses, Corales by Tom Fazio and Punta Espada by Jack Nicklaus, are on the same stretch of the Caribbean coast. The course is open to the public, with discounts available to guests at one of the Punta Cana hotels.
Overall, it’s an easy A.