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)
Most 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
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, hell 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 whats
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 bluffs 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 governments Central Bank. Its
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