PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- Arriving at Punta Cana Golf Club's par-3 No. 7, P.B. Dye looks out over a turquoise Caribbean and speaks bluntly, as he always does.
"You know, Stuttgart's weather sucks on its best days. Just look at this. I've been coming here for 32 years and it's like this 365 days a year. There's never a rain storm you can't walk through. There's no lightning.
"If someone in Germany wants to get on an airplane and fly for hours, what are the options? You could go to Israel and lay on the beach, you could go visit Libya and President Qaddafi. But there's no available women or whisky. Or you could come here," said Dye, the youngest son of legendary golf course designer Pete Dye.
Since it opened in 2000, more and more people are coming to this pristine edge of the Dominican Republic. Located on the Mona Passage, the stretch of ocean that separates Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Frank Rainieri had a dream to build a resort on 15,000 tropical acres. Native Dominican and noted couturier Oscar de la Renta was sold and so was Latin singer Julio Iglesias, who are part-owners along with New York labor negotiator Ted Kheel.
They all have beach-front homes here, as well as Mikhail Baryshnikov.
P.B. Dye, who speaks fluent Spanish and has a home on the island, was a natural to design the course, which measures 7,152 yards and is one of the longest in the Caribbean. Dye spent two summers here as a teen-ager when his father Pete created the legendary Dientes del Perro, or Teeth of the Dog in 1971 -- considered one of the world's best golf courses.
That summer Dye hopped aboard a bulldozer and the experience helped convince him golf course design was his career path. And he's far from finished on this tropical island -- he already has staked out a second course that will have a Pebble Beach-like eight or nine holes right on the ocean, high atop the water on coral cliffs and in sight of scenic coves.
But for now Punta Cana Resort and Club has enough golf to make anyone happy. Four holes are right on the blue sea, 14 others are within view of the ocean, which is protected by a coral reef from damaging storms. Tall coconut palms sprinkle the landscape and the temperature will warm any golfer coming from a cold climate, hovering in the 90s with high humidity.
Dye is a perfect host and feels at home on the island. In fact, he jumped at the chance to entertain former President Bill Clinton. "I could care less about people's politics," Dye said. "I consider myself an FOB (Friend of Bill). It was pretty special discussing world politics with a former president."
Mr. Clinton made some golf memories here, too. At the par-5, 504-yard No. 8, he became frustrated by the vast native area-jungle that's between the tee box and the fairway. The former president hit several short of the target with his driver, then pulled out his 3-metal and continued to feed the native area. Dye got a brand-new box of 12 balls and fed them to the prez one-by-one until he finally made the fairway.
Don't worry folks. If you come here it's not that tough of a forced carry.
There are other memorable scenes and shots, too. The 154-yard par-3 No. 5 is played with a steady off-shore breeze that will make you calculate how much to the right you need to aim, allowing for the shot to ride the wind. The already tiny green looks even smaller with the breeze and then you arrive on the putting surface and a ridge dissects it making two-putts a challenge.
The seventh hole is short and heady. This 326-yard par 4, heads straight ahead on the drive, then takes a sharp bend left. Moguls, 21 pot bunkers and palms guard the left and sand is prominent. Dye jokingly refers to this area as "hecklebirnie", a type of golfer's purgatory, according to Scottish lore.
Sand surrounds the putting surface, making this an island green that sits up like a volcano, making it a wee, hard-to-hit target.
"It's called a top-hat green," Dye laughed displaying a devilish grin. "I just go for it. Just take out the driver and make a bee-line to the green. Winged Foot has greens like this -- it's like trying to land one on the hood of a Buick."
One of the tougher holes is No. 9, a 454-yard par-4 dogleg left. The tee shot plays over a huge waste area that runs the length of the hole on the left. A lengthy draw is a must, but even then the approach is anything but easy. The green has been raised significantly, slopes from back to front, and anything over the back is like falling over a cliff where a sand trap awaits and presents a challenge for even a pro on the third shot.
Pebble Beach returns to your thoughts on the final two holes, which are played directly down the coast-line. Palm trees lined the beach, but were removed to created the stellar panorama of the Caribbean.
Seventeen is a 413-yard par 4 with natural-area carry on the drive. Down the fairway you find a deep waste area positioned left and in front of the green, depressed downward and braced by sawed-off palm trees soaked in seawater instead of railroad ties.
No. 18 measures 553 yards and bends with traps left and right -- creating targets to hit and sand to avoid. Positioning is paramount and any duck hooks could find the blue water. The shoreline scene reminds you of great ocean golf holes, but this is a more challenging hole than the legendary one aside the waters of Carmel Bay.
Although the site is spectacular, it consisted of coral rock and the golf course was manufactured from totally flat land. Two million cubic meters of caliche (white limestone material that can be pulverized for road beds) was spread over the routing and some top soil and sand placed on that.
Since this is the dry side of the island, a new hybrid grass called Seashore Paspalum was planted making it possible to use seawater for irrigation. The grass also requires half the amount of fertilizer and pesticide required by normal grasses.
After your round relax in the beach-front clubhouse overlooking the 18th green and incredible ocean vista. You can have dinner and drinks here and in the future a spa will be part of the adventure.
Check out Punta Cana's golf packages on the website. The resort packages include all meals and drinks.
Punta Cana Golf Club
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Telephone: (809) 959-4653 or (888) 442-2262
Green Fees: $52 to $110, cart included, discounted for hotel guests, caddies available
Punta Cana Resort and Club has 432 newly remodeled rooms, luxurious Golf Villas and Beach Villas. And there's more: a full-service marina, a variety of dining options, nature reserve, tennis, horseback riding, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, fishing, and much more along its three miles of white sand beaches.
Punta Cana has much variety in its restaurant choices include La Yola, La Choza, El Cocoloba, The Grill at the golf clubhouse, Franco's Pizzeria, Mamma Venezia, La Cana and La Tortuga. La Yola, located at La Marina, specializes in seafood and pasta. Enjoy the beautiful sea view while surrounded by a casual atmosphere. Daily breakfast buffet is served at La Tortuga.
Ride horseback at The Ranch or enjoy windsurfing, water skiing and snorkeling classes. Go canoeing and sailing or enjoy deep-sea or shallow-water fishing. SCUBA diving excursions can be arranged for a nominal charge.
Recently, the Punta Cana Resort And Club and the Punta Cana Dive Center collaborated with the Dominican Navy to sink a 220 foot cargo ship near the reef. This artificial reef will help to protect the existing reef, create a new habitat for marine life and protect the beach from sea surges. The ship wreck is open for diving and reservations can be made through the Punta Cana Dive Center.
American Airlines (www.aa.com) has daily flights from Miami to Punta Cana's own International Airport. Air France arrives from Paris and U.S. Airways comes to the island from Charlotte and Philadelphia. You can also fly American Airlines from New York's JFK Airport on four days a week. And yes, there are flights from Stuttgart, Germany.
December 17, 2002
David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter at @David_R_Holland.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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