Dye Fore &number;15 & 15
For all of its activities, including golf, deep sea fishing, water sports, skeet shooting, and horseback riding, Casa de Campo offers an appealingly unhurried atmosphere. Considered one of the top golf and vacation resorts in the Caribbean, The 7,000-acre oceanside resort could be sold out but a visitor would never know it. Casa is as much retreat as it is resort and here there are no crowds.
Casa's main attraction is golf. With the opening in 2003 of Pete Dye's cliffside course, Dye Fore, Casa now has three distinctively different first class layouts to appeal to a range of golfer tastes. The other courses are The Links and the celebrated "Teeth of the Dog."
Located at Altos de Chavon, the resort's artisan Italian village in the uplands of the property, Dye Fore is laid out along the cliffs high above the Chavon River and the ocean. The course, co-designed by Dye's wife, Alice, has very wide fairways that pitch and roll between vast fields of tall indigenous grasses. The winds play a big part in the playing of this largely treeless layout that also has many very large bunkers to snare miscreant shots.
The outgoing 9 heads south along sweeping hillsides high above the river. It includes a couple of very long downhill par 4's that offer spectacular views of the river as it enters the sea next to the resort's marina. The ingoing half plays northward along the steep riverside cliffs and includes dramatic par 3's, a reachable par 5 and a short but tricky par 4.
From the proper tees, the course is manageable, but players should beware that this is a typical Pete Dye design, and he demands more precision than many other designers. Golfers beware of the steeply left-canted fairway at #18. Second shots not hit precisely to the right side of the fairway will carom into the tall grass and disappear.
Resort Director of Golf Gilles Gagnon describes the course this way: "Dye Fore has spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea, the mountains, the Chavon River below and the Altos de Chavon artists' village. Visually, the course is intimidating and the par 3's are incredible! Although very playable from the forward tees, this course will stand the test of time as it measures over 7,800 yards from the back tee's."
As good as the Teeth was, Dye decided to renovate it in 2005. He recontoured some greens and planted them with Seashore Paspalum that is saltwater tolerant. He also deepened some bunkers, took out others and added several hundred yards with new back tee boxes. The course, with some of the best oceanside par 3's in the world, is now better than ever.
The Links, also designed by Dye, is not as well known as the other two, but it is every bit as good. Situated immediately adjacent to The Teeth, the Links is shorter and many of the holes wind through forest. It doesn't have holes directly on the ocean but it offers fine sea views. Gagnon gives the Links a top rating.
Visitors who haven't been to Casa in a while will want to visit the Casa de Campo Marina & Yacht Club. Located at the juncture of the Chavon River and the ocean, this village has a quaintness and charm like that of Altos de Chavon. Here, visitors can shop for fine jewelry, silk, and other gifts while dining in first-class restaurants. Moorage facilities for deep-water yachts attract sailors who may want to come ashore for a brief relaxing respite.
Renowned Italian architect Gianfranco Fini, "created a work of art in the Casa de Campo Marina & Yacht Club," says Claudio Silvestri, president and CEO of Premier Resorts & Hotels, which manages Casa de Campo. "He is a master at creating spectacular facilities around the world that have an impact on all who see it. Here you will find international shopping, world class dining, and entertainment for resort guests and residents of this prestigious community."
A little known but very popular attraction at Casa de Campo is the resort's Shooting Center. It is a large facility with trap, skeet & sporting clays in addition to new feature -- night lights that allow golfers to play golf during the day and shoot at night!
For beach lovers, Minitas Beach, located a short golf cart drive (all rooms at Casa include a golf cart) is a secluded beach under the coconut palms where sailboats are for rent and where visitors can loll in the warm waters of the Caribbean. From noon until 4 pm, El Pescador offers a succulent buffet lunch.
Speaking of dining, Casa has nearly a dozen exceptional restaurants including La Piazzetta at Altos de Chevon and El Tropicana in the main complex located near the new sports bar and swimming pool. In addition to the sandwich bar next to the golf shop, the Lago Grill adjacent the main golf clubhouse is open for buffet breakfast and lunch beginning at 6 am. The food here is terrific and can be enjoyed an open-air atmosphere overlooking the Teeth's 9th and 18th greens.
Casa de Campo is forever changing to meet the interests of travelers. On the drawing board is a golf learning center to be situated left of the 10th and 18th holes of the Teeth. In a program inspired by Gilles Gagnon, golf instructors from around the world will be invited to bring their students to the resort and to instruct them at the learning center. This program has already begun, as several pros from the States have brought their students in to teach them at the existing driving range. When the new facility is completed, much more comprehensive instruction will be achievable.
Visitors who haven't been to Casa in a while will also note that the single runway that used to bisect The Teeth no longer exists. The Casa de Campo/La Romana International Airport has moved just 8 minutes from the resort and expanded to accommodate a greater number of carriers including American Airlines from the the US; American Eagle from Puerto Rico; Alitalia from Italy in addition to charters from Europe and Latin America.