The par three was 165 yards and into an onshore breeze; the pin on a peninsula jutting in to the ocean. Anything weak and I’d be on rocks or waves of the Caribbean. Caddie Jacob (I’m not used to having a “carer”, but Casa de Campo insist) reckoned it was too far for me to hit a five-iron but I was feeling strong and took a gamble. I hit the ball well, right on the Tiger line. As it flew towards the flag I just hoped it was enough…
Some years ago, when I first heard of a golf course called Teeth Of The Dog it went straight on my bucket list of courses to play. But as it’s at the Dominican Republic’s Casa de Campo resort in the Caribbean I figured my hope was rather forlorn.
The course was built by renowned course designer Pete Dye, who has had a home at Casa de Campo ever since the early 1970s when the resort was first developed by industrialist Charles Bluhdorn.
Their local labourers carved a track through the jungle and along the rocky La Romana coastline to create a beautiful layout, considered one of the finest golf courses ever since.
Since its opening in 1971 Teeth Of The Dog (it owes its name to the sharp rocks of the seven ocean holes) is regularly voted the No 1 course in the Caribbean and always figures in the top 50 world rankings.
Golf course architects are sometimes suspected of having a sadistic dislike of golfers (some make their courses almost unplayable) rather than any sense of humour, but as one of the other courses at Casa de Campo is called Dye Fore I liked his fun approach from the start.
I liked it even more when, earlier this year, I got the chance to go there with my wife Lynne and play the links ahead of the Latin America Amateur Championship. Casa de Campo (“country house” in Spanish) is an amazing gated community spread across some 7,000 acres on the south-eastern coast.With an idyllic, tropical climate, beaches on palm-fringed shores, an azure sea with even a couple of islands to explore, this piece of paradise is the last word in luxury living.
Think Gleneagles but with Caribbean sunshine and a golf course akin to America’s renowned Pebble Beach – a golfer’s paradise.
We went off exploring in a golf buggy to find three more courses in addition to the main championship layout, a 400-berth marina and shipyard, an equestrian centre that stables 220 horses and features three polo pitches, a lodge at the heart of a 245-acre shooting centre, not to mention the largest tennis academy in the Caribbean.
But the biggest discovery is Altos de Chavón, a Mediterranean-style model village fashioned on cliffs above the Chavón River gorge that was originally conceived as film studios (Bluhdorn was chairman of Paramount when it was built) featuring a Cultural Centre, museums, a Grecian-style amphitheatre with seating for 5,000 at the five annual concerts.
In addition to the hotel there are 1,700 individually designed villas (50 available to rent) and more discreet guests are catered for with a private club complete with its own exclusive golf course and ocean front. Dining-wise you’re spoilt for choice with almost a dozen first-rate restaurants all in atmospheric locations, offering menus ranging from Caribbean and Mexican to Italian, Spanish and Japanese.
The Dominican Republic is less than a four-hour flight from New York so most of the guests hail from the States. Many return year after year to this popular playground assured of a warm and genuine welcome from the friendly and helpful staff.
Lying on the eastern half of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic shares the island with Haiti, and was one of the islands “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1492, becoming the first Spanish colony in the New World.
Its capital, Santa Domingo is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean and is well worth a day trip, especially as it is the home town of Juan Luis Guerra, my favourite Latin American musician.
And the golf? Superb.
And although I didn’t play anywhere near as well as Mexican champion Alvaro Ortiz (his LAAC triumph won him a place in this year’s US Masters) I did manage to have just as much fun.
Not only are all the courses enjoyable, they are scenically among the most beautiful I’ve ever played. Golf tourists will also be pleased to learn that the coast between La Romana and Punta Cana to the south boasts another dozen really great tracks, making the Dominican Republic a serious golf destination.
At Teeth Of The Dog I teamed up with dentist (truthfully!) Ira from Toronto and Midlands businessman Anthony, and we had such a good time, with scratch golfer Anthony really playing superbly. I made full use of the wide fairways and sparse rough (wind, length and small undulating greens are the layout’s defence) and came-in occasionally, especially on the second nine where I enjoyed back-to-back birdies.
And that Tiger line 5-iron over the bay at the 16th? It pitched 15ft short of the flag with Jacob – quite rightly – taking the credit for getting me psyched up to hit the right club.
Undoubtedly my shot of the day and capping off a great week at Teeth Of The Dog.
Teletext Holidays offers seven nights on all-inclusive at the five star Casa de Campo Resort and Villas in La Romana, Dominican Repiublic, from £1,289 per person (based on two sharing) and including flights from Gatwick on September 17. teletextholidays.co.uk, 020 30011 273. A round of golf on the Teeth of the Dog course (casadecampo.com.do) starts at £150.
Dominican Republic tourism: godominicanrepublic.com
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