Dominican Republic, Part II

Continuing our survey of golf in the Dominican Republic, leaving Punta Cana:

Just to the east is Punta Espada Golf Club, opened late last year as part of the first phase of a gargantuan development named Cap Cana that spans some 30,000 acres and will eventually have five courses.

Nicklaus will do three of these, though it will be difficult to top Punta Espada, built atop a stunning landform defined by high bluffs and the sprawling alluvial plain below them.  The changes in elevation allow for some mesmerizing views of the Caribbean, along with the gently rolling contours more typical of tropical courses.  It is a great resort course, as it can play as long as 7,396 yards, par 72, slope 137, a playing challenge often complicated by winds, but as short as 5,052 yards, slope 128, with short tees also configured to eliminate forced carries.

To the north is La Romana, with its own international airport and the D-R’s most established golf resort, Casa de Campo.  With a number of holes instantly recognizable even to players who have never been there, Teeth of the Dog has long since attained iconic status. Even at a relatively compact 6,888 yards, par 72, from the back tees, “the Dog” slopes out at 140, remains a classic, and attracts a loyal repeat clientele, relatively pricey green fees notwithstanding.

Dye Fore, the Dye family’s newer course at Casa de Campo, already has a similarly devoted following, though it is a substantially different golf experience.  Overlooking cliffs formed by a ravine and the estuary for the Chavon River, Dye Fore is actually longer – as much as 7,700 yards, par 72, including two downhill par 4s each exceeding 500 yards – but much more wide open.

On the D-R’s northern coast, between La Romana and Puerto Plata, the nation’s second-largest city, is Playa Grande Golf Club, considered by many aficionados to be the best single track on the island.

One of the last projects designed by Robert Trent Jones, it is 6,852 yards, par 72, slope 136, and makes dazzling use of a site skirting 60-foot-high cliffs fronting the Atlantic Ocean.  Ten holes play along these cliffs, which function variously as fairway boundaries and intimidating forced carries, including on three of the four lengthy par 3s:  248, 198, 219, and 216 yards.  Exotic caro trees and gigantic, wind-bowed palms attest to the near-constant breezes.

Until recently a government-owned facility, Playa Grande is now part of a huge private-capital development, including residential and resort components. Like the state of affairs of golf in the D-R generally, Playa Grande’s future seems full of promise.

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