Is there a more beautiful spot in golf than the 5th tee of Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo?
I can think of several I would put in its class: the 17th tee at Cypress Point; the 5th fairway at New South Wales; the 7th tee at Pebble Beach; the opening tee at Portstewart; the downhill approach to the 7th at Sugarbush in Vermont when the backdrop mountain is in full autumnal color.
But the 5th at Pete Dye’s virtuoso Dominican layout beats them all.
Fer gawd’s sake, just look:
But it’s not merely the aesthetics that give this spot the pride of place for me, awesome as they are. A note in the abstract may be beautiful or not, but most likely depends on where it falls in the concerto.
The first four holes at Teeth of the Dog gentle you into your round. As at Pebble Beach you begin inland, aware that the coastline awaits but neither seeing nor hearing it. At the fourth hole the gaps between the palms on the right provide a flash of glare off the water, a view to a distant point of land. The routing has brought you out and away from the starting point, and now it has angled you towards the shore.
And then you turn the corner. And you know why you’ve come.
The waves lap up against the rocks below and ahead of you. White spray, blue water, green grass: the tranquil chromatic trinity is instantly pleasing. In the distance beyond this green is another, the 7th, which will present pleasures and challenges of its own.
The shot from the fifth tee is not threatening; it’s 139 from the blue tees, 176 if you insist on going all the way back. A short-to-mid-iron, depending on your strength or ego. The land right of the green slopes down to it; the land left of the green is in Venezuela.
This moment is why you boarded a plane. It’s why you thought about coming here. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.
And best of all, it’s just beginning. There will be three par-threes played along the coastline; the other two will present greater difficulty, greater distances to traverse, call for swings with greater margins for error.
The 5th hole is a coquette, a charmer, a cutie.
Perhaps you know that when Dye began pondering the layout here, he went out in a boat and surveyed the length of shore available to him, to see how many holes he could fit along it. He wound up with seven, and routed the course in two loops, each heading out from the center and then turning back along the water.
And as you stand on the 5th tee, your pulse quickening just a bit, you have the pleasure of the moment and the joy of looking forward to more of it.
Tough to beat. Nice work, Pete.
Nice work, God.