Dominican Republic Golf Vacations

By Alan B. Nichols

The Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic (DR), the Caribbean country that has produced scores of big league baseball players, also hits a home run when it comes to cigars and golf. With some of the Caribbean's best courses and resorts, the country has become a big-league player in the travel industry, attracting growing numbers of European and American tourists, especially, who are drawn to the island's consistently comfortable climate, and accommodations and amenities that are among the best values in the world.

The list of Dominican ball players reads like a Who's Who in the major leagues: Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Pedro Martinez and Cooperstown great Juan Marichal, to name a few.

Kids grow up here playing baseball, the national pastime. They idolize these great players and hope one day to follow their footsteps into the big leagues. Undeterred by the scarcity of equipment and spanking clean baseball diamonds in this underdeveloped country, many kids play on hardscrabble fields and use cardboard boxes for bases, bats made out of sticks and gloves from any material they can get their hands in. If some of these youngsters as they get older are good enough to play in the elite Dominican League, it's a sure bet major league scouts are there to watch them.

World-class baseball players are not the DR's only heralded export. Occupying two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the West Indies between the north Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, the DR is blessed with ideal climate and soil conditions for producing coffee, sugar and the world's finest cigars.

Beach scene After the Cuban revolution which resulted in the nationalization of that country's cigar industry, some of the leading Cuban cigar families fled to the DR where they reestablished their businesses. Growing tobacco in the rich soil from seeds they brought over from Cuba, they produced cigars under brand names that are still among the world's most popular, including Fuente, Partagas, Davidoff and Romeo & Juliet.

Golf Courses

There is no better place to enjoy these cigars than on the fairways, and the Dominican Republic boasts some of the finest in the Caribbean. The best known golf resort on the island is Casa de Campo located on the southeast coast in La Romana, a sugar town located some two hours drive from Santo Domingo. With 7,000 acres, Casa de Campo is huge, offering a wealth of amenities including horseback riding, marina, tennis, shops, outstanding international cuisine, and three Pete Dye courses, including Teeth of the Dog, a perennial Top 50 in the World course.

Dye recently completed a thorough makeover of the seaside Teeth, lengthening some holes, adding and upgrading greens and bunkers, and generally producing a golf course that is significantly better and more challenging than the original. Though not nearly as well known, the resort's other two Dye courses - The Links, an inland parkland layout with panoramic sea views, and the open, windswept Dye Fore that opened in 2001 - reward golfers with memorable rounds.

Dye Fore sits on a bluff high above the Chavón River gorge where the panoramic views of the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west quicken the pulse. The course lies near the resort-owned Altos de Chavón, a replica of a Renaissance Italian village marked by narrow pedestrian-friendly streets, shops and restaurants, and a 5,000-capacity Roman-style amphitheater where Frank Sinatra gave his famous "Concert of the Americas" in 1982.

Located in Rio San Juan about 90 minutes east of the Puerto Plata International Airport on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, Playa Grande Golf Course is a Robert Trent Jones golf course that some say is the class of the DR. It has ocean views on every hole and 10 holes run along the shore. The nearby Occidental Allegro resort also takes advantage of the location atop a cliff overlooking the white sands of Playa Grande.

horseback riding Punta Cana on the east coast is a remote family vacation oasis of large all-inclusive hotels, six golf courses, and one of the best stretches of beach in the DR. The beach of soft white sand runs for miles along a coastline that is populated by mangroves and caves. Visitors in all-terrain vehicles can spend a day or more exploring the area's geographical features.

The best known of the resorts here is the Punta Cana Resort & Club consisting of a hotel, villas, tennis courts, swimming pool, and a PB Dye golf course with 11 holes along the ocean. The resort is jointly owned by singer Julio Iglesias and designer Oscar de la Renta. Other 18-holes courses in Punta Cana include El Golf de Bávaro, Cocotal, and White Sands Golf Club. The first 9-holes of a Jack Nicklaus signature course, Punta Espada, is open and the entire course is expected to be ready in late spring 2006. The course is a feature amenity of Cap Cana, an enormous new development/resort with luxury hotels that are slated to open beginning in late 2006.

Aside from golf, the DR has plenty to captivate visitors. There is much of historical interest in the capital city of Santo Domingo, where the first cathedral in the New World was built. At night, the clubs of this city of 2 million come alive with merengue music. A mix of the historic with the modern, the city hosted the Pan-American Games in 2003.

On the north shore in Cabarete, windsurfers and kite boarders congregate to enjoy one of the island's finest beaches, while in the Samana Peninsula toward the northeast end of the island, hikers, swimmers, whale-watchers and scuba divers can enjoy the recreational opportunities presented by a region where the mountains dip to the sea. The area includes fascinating caves, the beaches of Cayo Levantado, and Salto el Limón, a river that forms a cascade into a lake ideal for swimming that is surrounded by lush vegetation and coconut palm trees.

Great Golf Moments

In 1994, Shell's Wonderful World of Golf televised a golf match between Freddy Couples and Ray Floyd at Teeth of the Dog, the resort's flagship golf course designed by Pete Dye. The unofficial course record at the time was 62 by Dave Marr. Couples, who had won The Masters in 1992, was playing brilliantly and after 16 holes was 7 under. He came to the 205-yard par 3 16th and his caddie told him to hot a 4 iron. Not convinced this was the right club, Couples turned to the 5-year-old girl who was carrying the score sign and said,

"Do you play golf?"

"Yes," she answered.

"What do you think I should hit?" asked Couples.

"I think it's a 5," she said.

Couples then hit 4 over the green almost into the ocean and he had to scramble for a double bogey. After holing out, he turned to his caddie and said in mock anger,

"If that little girl had been older, I would fire you and hire her!"

The entire crowd roared with laughter in a match that further enhanced the course's international reputation. *

Dominican Republic Golf Articles

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