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12 seaside holes wow Dominican visitors

 
The spectacular Playa Grande Golf Course has pegged the nickname "Pebble Beach of the Caribbean"

Written By CHARLEY STINE
(Reprinted from Florida Golf News)

Course features a dramatic view over the beachMost golfers know the Dominican Republic as the home of a lot of major league ball players, and a place with a well-known golf resort, Casa de Campo.
What they don't know is that the Dominican Republic also has a spectacular new resort golf course that includes 12 ocean-front holes with cliffs like Pebble Beach.
 Playa Grande is not just a good course. It is a great golf course! If it were in Florida, it would sell out every day in the winter at $150 green fees, maybe $200.
     Assuming it gets the exposure it deserves, and continues to get the care it already does, it is destined to become known as one of the great courses of the world.
     It's not just oceanfront, with holes along the beach. The course is high above the ocean, played along 100-foot bluffs. That makes it immediately comparable to Pebble Beach, a thought that sounds almost sacrilegious. But Pebble has six holes on the oceanside bluffs (6-7-8-9-10-18). Playa Grande has 12.
     This course, as far as I was able to determine in three times around it, has no negatives. It has the spectacular oceanfront setting, it has hills, and it has the widest possible choice of tees ranging from over 7000 yards to 4488.
     There are now only three sets of tee markers, the conventional blue, white and red, at yardages of 7046, 5917, and 4488. But there are five tee positions on each hole, and adding a wider choice is merely an issue of putting down more markers.
     It was given a long time to grow in and fairways are lush. It is tastefully landscaped with native flowers, as are many Caribbean resorts. Greens are huge, varied in shape, and steeply sloped, but with few tricky undulations. Generally, what you see is what you get.
     The cliche “challenging for the best players, but playable for everybody” actually applies here. From the back tees, a player going for the shortest route must carry over corners of ocean on six holes (3-4-7-12-14-18). But from shorter tees, fairways are extremely wide, and all greens except the seventh are open for a run-up shot. Most golfers, playing conservatively, will post a score of below their average number at home. At how many great courses of the world will that happen?
 The course carries the signature of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who visited the property in 1992, and was said to have actually cried when he was subsequently called and told that he had been chosen to be the architect. The course took from ’93 to ’97 to complete. Jones did the routing, and his associates did the on-site work, but Jones, 92, has not seen the course since it was finished. Hopefully, he’ll get the chance, because in years ahead, it could be known as his best.
     Bunkers bear Jones’ signature — leaf-shaped — but except for greens and bunkers, very little land had to be moved. The hills and the bluffs are things that were made by God with a golf course in mind, and hidden away waiting to be discovered.
     The decision to leave greens open in front was wise. With the course of this beauty and visual distraction, it would be sinful to have a well-played hole tarnished by something so mundane as a bunker.
Very few new trees were added in building the course. Most of what’s there are huge cliff-side ones which may have been there for centuries.
     Trees are an issue only on the left side of the ninth hole at the bluff’s edge, in the fairway of two interior holes (10 and 16), and on the 12th hole, where all tees except the ladies, require a carry over a deep tree-lined ocean inlet.
     Most memorable holes to this writer are the 4th, 12th, and 18th, all of which are par fives. Playing carefully, and from the 5900-yard yard white tees, I was able to reach all three of them in regulation at least once, and all three with wedge third shots. From the back tees, a professional could conceivably go for all three in two, but 12 would require a heroic drive, and 4 and 18 a good drive followed by a heroic second shot.
     The Dominican Republic has a stable, democratic government, Spanish speaking. The course, like several others in the country, is owned and operated by the government’s Central Bank. It’s clubhouse and pro shop are modest and austere. But the back nine is wrapped around the resort and golf is included in the Caribbean Village Playa Grande all-inclusive packages. The bank and resort work closely together, and once the course is accepted as the national resource that it is, a more appropriate clubhouse seems likely to be built.
Playa Grande is located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Access is by American Airlines to the Puerto Plata airport, and the resort will arrange for you to be met by a shuttle for a 50-minute shore-line ride to the resort. If you want to see a little more of the country, rental cars are available.
 
 
FLORIDA GOLF NEWS
(The Golf Newspaper of America's Premier Golf State)
is Published monthly by Florida Golf Publishing Inc. 33844.
Charles W. Stine / Editor
941-439-3381 Fax: 941-439-4286

 

 

 


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