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.
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.
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.
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.