Cap Cana Golf Club - Caribbean Golf

By Alan B. Nichols

golf course
Punta Espada's par 5 12th

Cap Cana, one of the largest and most luxurious golf and tourism destinations in the entire Caribbean Basin, is making headlines with the opening in November of a strikingly scenic Jack Nicklaus signature course.

Punta Espada, one of three Nicklaus signature courses being planned as part of the initial phase of the development of Cap Cana, was built at an estimated cost of $18 million. The investment reflects the attention to detail and the goals of the founders and investors to develop Cap Cana into the largest and most luxurious tourism and real estate projects in the Caribbean. The Punta Espada golf course is one of three Jack Nicklaus signature designs that will be built for Cap Cana, which will require a total investment of $43 million.

Punta Espada's 18 holes have been seamlessly integrated into the stunning natural surroundings of Cap Cana. A limestone ridge cuts through the middle of the course, creating interesting elevation changes. The tee boxes of several holes sit on this bluff, offering panoramic views of the sea and the fairway below.

At Cap Cana, Nicklaus was given prime ocean front property to build what I think is a terrific golf course. "We wanted to give Jack Nicklaus the perfect site to create a work of art; that's why we didn't think twice about putting more than 7,000 yards of land at his disposal so he could let his imagination and creativity soar," said Ricardo Hazoury, President of Cap Cana's Board of Directors. "Our desire is to offer devoted golfers the best course in the world, designed by the best in the world."

All 18 holes offer sea views and the ocean comes into play on no fewer than 11 holes. Several greens sit directly on the water only yards from the pounding surf.

The signature hole is #13, a stunning par 3 measuring 250 yards from the back tee. The direct line to the slightly elevated green is over the ocean but a generous bailout right of the green gives relief to the less intrepid golfers. The equally dramatic 190-yard 4th hole requires a carry over an inlet.

Two of the par 5's are over 600 yards in length from the back. One, the dogleg 6th, is designed around a 50-foot-deep sink hole, as is the 445-yard 10th which some think is the best designed hole on the course. The 562-yard 15th, bordered on the left by a scenic bluff, offers the option to play the second shot to the left of a lake or to go directly over it with a long approach into the lakeside green.

Nicklaus has a couple of fine short par 4's including the 336-yard 8th which features a huge waste bunker with a tall lip that challenges the longer hitters to carry it, not an easy task against the prevailing easterly winds. To avoid the bunker, players can drive to a fairly narrow fairway on the right to set up the approach to a slightly elevated green atop the ridge, offering breathtaking view of the sea.

Punta Espada is the first golf course in the Dominican Republic featuring 100 percent Seashore Paspalum, the preferred grass in tropical climates because of its resistance to salt water and its vibrant green color. The green contrasts vividly with the rich white sand of the waste and regular bunkers that are strategically placed throughout. Nicklaus has also incorporated coquina rock into his design on a course that is notable for the fine detail work in every regard.

The second of Nicklaus three courses, Las Iguanas, is expected to open for play in 2008. Approximately half of its holes will have seaviews, while a third course, still in the design phase, will be situated in the upland areas. Long-range plans call for a total of five courses. Punta Espada will have limited access to the public for the first two years and then become private. Iguanas will be open to the public and guests of the hotels.

golf course
Punta Espada's signature 13th

Cap Cana is a luxury destination and real estate development that entailed an initial investment of about $1.5 billion for the completion of its first phase. The project covers some 37,000 acres of prime oceanfront and upland real estate that in a few short years has already skyrocketed in value, thanks to Nicklaus, whose brand fetches the highest real estate values in the world golf industry. I played Punta Espada with a 40-ish investment banker from Frederick, Md. He estimates that the two homesites he bought two years ago have increased upwards of $1 million in value.

In its initial phase, Cap Cana will have three 5-star hotels, 3 golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, one of the most complete and modern marinas in the Caribbean, a beach club, and a total of 5,000 residential units with spectacular views of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. While homesites are going like hotcakes, 3-5 bedroom villas and condos are also selling fast on the eastern coast of the island in and around Punta Cana which is fast becoming a golf capital of the Caribbean Basin.

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