The Dominican Experience: Golf and Leisure at Casa de Campo

The aptly named Teeth of the Dog is just one of the many attractions at Casa de Campo.

Written by ROB DUCA

Is there a golf course in the world with a more appropriately grisly name than Teeth of the Dog? Like a nasty pit bull, this Pete Dye creation in the Dominican Republic will grab hold of you and refuse to let go. Golf balls will be swallowed up by the Caribbean Sea and you’ll feel as though you’ve been put through a rinse-and-spin cycle. But unlike some Dye courses, which can be infuriatingly quirky and bordering on unfair, you probably won’t complain. The golf course, the breathtaking scenery and the serene atmosphere that engulfs you from the first hole to the last is just so damn magical.

Teeth of the Dog

Teeth of the Dog is one of three Dye courses that are part of the Casa de Campo Resort in La Romana, which is approximately one hour from Punta Cana. The sprawling 7,000-acre resort includes a hotel and private golf villas, an infinity pool, a private beach, a marina, a spa, tennis courts, polo fields, horseback riding, skeet shooting, seven restaurants and five bars, all in a lavish tropical setting. As the customs agent at the airport said when I told him of my destination, “Oh, that’s where the celebrities go.”

Upon check-in, guests are given the key to a golf cart that allows them to explore the resort at their leisure. A sumptuous buffet breakfast and lunch is included in the package, and I do mean sumptuous. Breakfast included an omelet station, multiple fruit choices, meats, waffles, and seemingly one hundred different pastries. At lunch, the choices ranged from octopus and Caprese salads to sea bass, steak, lamb, mussels, shrimp, fresh vegetables and fruit, all topped off with a make-your-own ice cream sundae. Also included in the package is unlimited wine, beer and select liquors.

Dinners are no less memorable. (Here’s a tip: Avoid a scale when at Casa de Campo). Lago Restaurant is centrally located, overlooking the 18th hole of Teeth of the Dog, and features dazzling ocean views.

La Piazetta is in Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village in the heart of the countryside. This gourmet Italian restaurant is accessed along cobblestone streets and terracotta tile. Don’t miss the antipasto bar, which features a selection of Italian cheeses, meats and olives that is as extensive as any I have ever seen.

Minitas Beach Club & Restaurant is a popular spot for sunsets with cocktails by the infinity pool and fine dining.

The newest dining addition to the resort is the Minitas Beach Club & Restaurant. Located at Minitas Beach, the vibe is sleek and contemporary. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail by the infinity pool at one of the island’s best spots to savor the sunset, and then choose from a menu that blends Mediterranean and Latin American culinary traditions. Not surprisingly, fresh seafood is a specialty. I chose the Seafood Mixed Grille, which was a fabulous combination of lobster, scallops, shrimp, octopus and calamari. But there is also pizza on the menu, along with a 32-ounce ribeye (meant to share) that sells for $75.

There is even a sushi restaurant at Casa de Campo. Pubbelly Sushi is located at the marina and has outdoor seating just steps from the dock and the many enormous yachts that are in residence.

Japanese-style murals and modern Asian design twists reflect the creativity, flavor and playful nature of the cuisine. Order a variety of items and share, share, share.

A pristine, private beach welcomes visitors.

But golf is the principal reason to visit Casa de Campo. Of the three courses, The Links most resembles a “resort” course, with wide fairways and, at least on the front nine, a generally forgiving nature. Reminiscent of traditional links courses typically found in the British Isles, the course is not directly on the ocean, but there are distant views. That’s not to say water doesn’t come into play. A lake winds its way through the back nine and is in play on five straight holes.

Dye Fore is one of the most dramatic golf courses you’ll ever play. There are three nine-hole layouts, with seven cliffside holes dropping 300 feet to the Chavon River and eye-popping views of the river, the mountains and the marina in every direction. There are simply no flat fairways here. Many of the greens are elevated, there are numerous blind approaches over dunes and enormous waste bunkers dot the course. The 12th and 15th holes are two of the finest par 3’s in the world. Play them from the blue tees and they’re still a beefy 180 and 185 yards, respectively. From the tips, they are 232 and 210. Good luck.

But these courses are merely a prelude to Teeth of the Dog, where the par 3’s back up against the ocean, the par 4’s straddle alongside cliffs and the par 5’s will demand every bit of your nerve. Carved from the rugged rock and coral of the Dominican coastline, all 18 holes are breathtaking, with seven playing along the ocean.

As a relatively benign warmup, the challenges begin at the fifth hole, a downhill par 3 to a green framed front, left and back by the ocean. The ocean runs along the entire left side of the par-3 seventh and the par-4 eighth, while water lurks to the right on the par-3 16th and par-4 17th holes. Basically, it’s water everywhere.

Ranked among the top 50 golf courses in the world, it is considered one of Dye’s masterpieces. Curiously, many people have heard of Teeth of the Dog, for it’s such a catchy name, but they don’t know where it is. Come here and you won’t ever forget it. The same can be said of Casa de Campo.

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