Welcome to La Vida Buena – The Good Life – Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic by Dave Finn
This weekend spring was in the air, but so was snow. I glanced at my clubs, sitting forlornly in the corner of my office, all polished up, with no place to go. I closed my eyes, and suddenly I could feel the salty breezes and hear the waves crashing against the rocky, ironstone shores. This was not a dream but an unforgettable memory, as I conjured up my first impressions of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, some of the initial beauty of this place escaped me at the time, as I was steeling myself to come face-to-face with a legend. You see, I had heard the stories, read the accolades and was about to play the Teeth of the Dog.
TEETH OF THE DOG
To be honest, after the first three holes I was thinking, this is a nice course but the best in the Caribbean? Then BAM! As you make your way out of the parkland to the 4th tee, the ocean suddenly comes into view, and you know why you are here. A string of seven holes hugs the shoreline, and when the winds kick up, you’ll feel just how much ‘bite’ this dog has.
A caddy is mandatory when you’re playing the Teeth of the Dog, and that’s a good thing. They know the ‘lay of the land’, and I reckon most of them are single-handicap golfers. I leaned heavily on mine to unobtrusively watch my ball, help with club selection and read the greens. And, I heeded his advice on the fairways which in my case was, if you’re going to miss, miss left! The cost for a caddy runs $25 USD for one to $40 USD for up to four players plus tip but trust me; they are worth their weight in gold.
So, how did I do? Well, let’s just say, even with my caddy’s sage advice the legend lives on. I was humbled but ecstatic after a truly memorable round.
ALTOS DE CHAVÓN
After that, we hopped into our private golf cart, which is included with your stay, to check out the sprawling 7,000 acre resort. Travelling along the Chavón river valley, we glanced up and wondered what could be behind those beautiful walls perched high atop the cliff. We soon found ourselves in Altos de Chavón and for a moment, I didn’t know if we were still in the Caribbean or if we had been magically transported to a medieval, Mediterranean village.
We were soon wandering the cobbled streets, exploring the many artist studios and galleries that lined the walkways. This quaint little spot is home to the world renowned, Altos de Chavón School of Design. I must say I was impressed by the extraordinary talents of the students and the quality of their work. Prices for one-of- kind pieces were more than affordable, and I guarantee that if you’re so inclined, you can’t help but leave without a treasure or two.
After dining at La Piazzetta that served up tasty, authentic Italian dishes using handmade pasta, our next stop was St. Stanislaus, a real church that hosts regular Sunday services but is also the perfect spot for a destination wedding. From there it was on to the 5000 seat, Roman style amphitheatre. Throughout the year, this venue offers open-air open air concerts for the likes of Julio Inglesias, Heart, Carlos Santana, and Shakira. So far this year, Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony both performed to sold out crowds.
At the edge of the village, the canyon drops straight off to the right, and it was here that I got my first glimpse of the Dye Fore course that we were playing the next day.
The Casa de Campo’s newest course may be overshadowed by the Teeth of the Dog but should not be overlooked. Perched on a plateau 300 feet above the Chavón River, the Dye Fore is anything but flat featuring significant elevation changes that add both drama and difficulty. The layout takes full advantage of the rolling hills and the craggy Dominican mountains, reportedly the highest in the Caribbean and on the day we played the Tradewinds were howling which upped the ante.
When we hit the back nine, I understood why the Dye Fore was literally to ‘die for’ if you’ll pardon the pun. Hole after hole served up 360° views of the sea, the mountains, the river and the marina. While some may think it lacks the beauty of TOD’s ocean holes, if you’re anything like me, I don’t doubt you’ll find yourself looking back at the scenery and at times, struggling to stay focused on your game.
SUN, SAND and SURF
At Casa de Campo you can do as little or as much as you want to. We took the next day off to try our hand at skeet shooting before sailing to Catalina Island to check out the beach and swim in the turquoise waters before indulging in some very fine sushi at the Pubbelly.
On our last day, we headed down to the Marina area, early in the morning before hitting ‘The Links’ and were warmly welcomed by the staff arriving to start their day. Every single person had a smile or a wave for us. What a great way to start the day while getting in ‘the zone’.
The third course in the Dye trilogy, the Links is reminiscent of the British-style, but it is not a true links course as it winds inland through the interior of the property, instead of along the ocean. Completely renovated in 2012, the Links may be more forgiving than its siblings, but don’t be fooled, it is not without its set of challenges. The strategically placed bunkers of varying shapes and sizes seemed to effortlessly attract my ball, and the elevated greens will cause you to rethink your approach shots.
We caught a couple of glimpses of the Caribbean Sea as we made our way around the course but it wasn’t until the 12th that the real water came into play. For the next five holes, we found ourselves navigating a series of lagoons and an inland lake that offered up more than enough trouble. While this Par-71 course stretches out to almost 7,013 yards from the tips, you’ll need to draw on your short game skills to come out a winner.
For our last night, we headed to La Casita to dine al fresco on tasty tapas and a paella that was spot on, full of flavour and brimming with fresh seafood. As we regaled ourselves with stories of our adventures and tales of our prowess on the course, we watched the boats coming and going and the waves lapping against the shores as the sun set.
Who says golf isn’t romantic?
Getting There: Casa de Campos is located a little over an hour from Santo Domingo Airport and just seven minutes from La Romana Airport.
Accomodations: Choose from generously appointed hotel rooms, comfortable and stylish Garden or Classic villas or an ultraluxurious Oceanfront Villa.
Teeing Off: All three courses are open to hotel guests, property owners, and outside guests and rates vary from course to course and whether or not you are staying at the resort. There is also a driving range with night golf on Monday evenings. Please note that between May and October, one or more of the courses may be closed for maintenance so check before you go. For reservation assistance call 855-877-3643.
Events: From May 9th to May 14th the resort will be hosting the Casa de Campo DR Open
Dining: The food just keeps getting better and better under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Anthony Masas. Casa de Campo offers both a la carte dining and all inclusive packages. If you are looking for different options, you can whip up your culinary specialities in your fully functional villa kitchen or safely explore many of the non-signature bars and restaurants within the resort that are not included in the Casa de Campo vacation experience.
Family Friendly: Casa de Campo offers programs for all ages, the young and the young at heart. With four different Kidz programs tailor-made for 1 to 17 year olds, your children will be engaged and entertained throughout the day. Nannies and babysitters can also be arranged.
Things to Do: You don’t have to be a polo player to saddle up so why not trade in your golf cart for a horse to explore the complex? Other activities include fishing, tennis and a myriad of watersports.
The Spa: Indulge yourself at the onsite spa where every room has a view of the tranquil Zen garden. The Spa Pharmacy prepares its beauty treatments from indigenous ingredients – healthy for you and healthy for the environment.
For more information on Casa de Campo visit their website at http://www.casadecampo.com.do/