I had to take a moment to soak in what was happening yesterday. I was in one of those “special golf places” which leaves memories for a lifetime. The contrasting green of Punta Espada Golf Club and the blue waters of the Caribbean were really making me thankful for the opportunities I’ve been able to capitalize on through my 11+ years of hard work on one of the internet’s top golf blogs.
Punta Espada Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus signature design golf course in the Dominican Republic. Hole after hole lines the Caribbean with dramatic views and thrilling and challenging tee shots over the water. I couldn’t help saying to myself numerous times, “Pebble who?”
I’ve played more Jack Nicklaus courses than I can remember, but this one is different. Many of Jack’s courses can look a little too similar to me, but this one is a one and only, unique experience. Perhaps it’s the terrain. Perhaps Jack was completely in the zone when he designed it. Probably a bit of both.
I’ll be posting my full review in the next few weeks. If you’re planning a Caribbean golf stay and play, I strongly recommend Punta Espada Golf Club.
The day I could write this post has been on my golf blog bucket list for a long, long time. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to play Pete Dye’s “masterpiece,” Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. Pete Dye is one of the most famous and respected golf architects in history. You may have heard of some of his other courses like TPC Sawgrass or Harbour Town Golf Links. I could go on.
Teeth of the Dog is located at the resort and beach club Casa de Campo.
Above is the par-3 5th hole, one of three par-3 holes which are by the water. Not sure I can think of a course which has three such stunning par-3’s.
I’m still on location in the Dominican Republic. I leave for the now cold HOG World Headquarters tomorrow with tanned skin, lots of photos, and memories for a lifetime.
Stay tuned for my full Teeth of the Dog review soon.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so here is 4,000 words describing my round of golf today at La Cana Golf Club in the Dominican Republic. La Cana is a P.B Dye design, the son of architect Pete Dye.
The last two are the 5th hole on the “Tortuga (turtle)” nine. This hole has shades of #17 at Edgewood Tahoe and the 15th at Kingsbarns Golf Links. The Tortuga nine gets its name from the “turtle cave,” found by one of the greens.
Stay tuned for my full review over the next few months, when I’m back home and there’s snow on the ground.
On the recent HOG World Tour stop in northern Michigan I had the pleasure of staying at Forest Dunes resort, and playing the unique Tom Doak designed reversible course there called The Loop. Check out my review of The Loop.
While The Loop may be the attention grabber, Forest Dunes is home to a Tom Weiskopf design simply called Forest Dunes Golf Club. Forest Dunes Golf Club sits inside 500 acres of land within the Huron National Forest. The course is a 7,116 yard par-72 design which is quite different than The Loop. For one it isn’t reversible.
A Tale of Two Nines – Forest and Dunes
The front nine (Forest) is carved through some fairly dense northern Michigan trees in more of a traditional American parkland style of golf, less links influence. So there’s more carrying the ball and little running up shots. Due to the dense trees lining most holes, each hole is isolated. No parallel holes. It’s quite serene.
The back nine (Dunes) exits the forest and turns to a more rugged and exposed experience. The dunes on the back feature large sandy waste areas and native vegetation which line and sometimes cross the fairways and surround the greens.
Speaking of serenity… Forest Dunes occupies about 500 acres and there are no homes on the course.
The look and feel from the tee of the Weiskopf course is very pleasing to the eye. Most often it’s WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Tee shots need to be fairly accurate or they’ll end up in the dense forest, waste areas, water hazards, or some of the terrific fairway bunkering. There are a few situations where from the tee one doesn’t realize there are two different paths to take, split fairways. A better familiarization with the course would really help in those situations.
There’s also a nice bit of elevation change from tee to fairway or tee to green on the front nine. The elevation changes make the tee shots even more interesting. More rolling hills and dunes are on the back, which hide some of the native areas.
The fairways on the Weiskopf course were in terrific condition when I played there, and I found most of them thankfully. Only on the 9th did I run into tree issues. Lies on the shortgrass were like lies on high quality carpet. The only difference is you don’t want to take a divot out of high quality carpet. It won’t grow back.
Most of the fairways are not terribly penal or unforgiving. There can be positions in the fairway which are not optimal; ones that perhaps bring overhanging trees into play or bad angles to the green. A little course knowledge helps for those situations. Same goes with some of the small native areas and waste areas which can jut out from the sides of some of the fairways, especially on the back nine.
I really enjoyed the green complexes at Forest Dunes. Many of the greenside bunkers are Robert Trent Jones Sr.-like large. There can also be more rugged bunkering with native grasses around the edges and less pristine and precision in the shaping on the back.
Some greens are guarded by forced carries, water, and of course sand, so flying it all the way in those situations is required. Other greens offer options for chipping, pitching, or even putting off the surface (one of my favorite shots because chipping is one of my least favorite shots).
Despite the fact that I couldn’t make any putt for birdie inside of 10 feet, and there were a lot of them, I still enjoyed the putting surfaces. They rolled very true and well. Putts that were on line dropped but puts, like mine, that were off by even a fraction of an inch, did not.
One very unique feature at the Wekskopf course is the 19th hole. No that doesn’t refer to the bar. The bar is the 20th!
19th Hole at Forest Dunes
The 19th is a short par-3 which is used to settle matches or bets in the event that there’s a tie after the 18th is completed. What a cool idea. My group was hitting sand wedges into the green but it looked like the hole could be stretched out a bit more. One fun part, hard to see in the photo above, is the bunker in the middle of the green which made the green’s shape like a donut.
Forest Dunes has a tremendous practice facility. From numerous practice greens to a solid and interesting driving range to a very detailed and creative short game area. The answers to your game’s issues are there somewhere.
I also noticed a putting course which had just been seeded. I imagine it will be fully operational by the 2018 season, if not sooner.
The clubhouse is large and elegantly appointed inside and out. Inside the clubhouse are a few rooms, a restaurant, and the pro shop. The shop is fully stocked with great gear and apparel.
The clubhouse as seen from the 18th fairway
I enjoyed several great meals in the restaurant. Two of them were smoked filet mignons with baked potato and French onion soup. The reason I had a second one was because the first one was so good. No, they weren’t at the same sitting.
In addition to the rooms in the clubhouse, there are “villas” which are about a one minute walk from the clubhouse or any of the courses’ first tees. The villas have numerous rooms, with shared living space. Each room has its own shower. The shared living space in the villas feature large cushy reclining chairs, couches, a large flatscreen TV, kitchen, microwave, refrigerator, and kitchen table.
Villa sweet villa
I stayed in one of the villas (photo above) and loved it, sans a closet or somewhere to hang up my expensive golf shirts.
Bring bug spray.
I had a fantastic time taking on the challenge of Forest Dunes Golf Club. The variation between nines, immaculate conditioning and maintenance, and fabulous design made it one of my favorite golf experiences of the year.
Forget boring flat Florida golf or the other traditional golf travel locations. The Loop and Forest Dunes golf club are the perfect recipe for a memorable golf buddy trip.
The Loop at Forest Dunes review
I played a course a couple of days ago which I’d played dozens of times, many years ago. It isn’t on my current rota of regular stops. It was fun to get back there and play for a good change of pace. Somehow I managed to birdie the first three holes. Of course after that the golf gods clamped down on my joy and let me have it. Taught me a lesson. It didn’t hurt that much because that’s exactly what I knew they were going to do. So I outsmarted them.
On the first hole I had about an 80 yard approach shot to a back pin. I hit it 85. The ball landed behind the green and bounced backwards to about 6 feet. That was odd, but I wasn’t complaining.
They’re overwatering the golf course and the road!
Through the rest of the round I couldn’t help noticing how soggy and wet the course was. Approach shots all had to be long because they would not bounce forward. Chipping was difficult because the shots would hit such soft ground and stop almost instantly. The greens were so soggy that player footprints made putts bounce all over the place. If I stood in one place I would slowly sink, leaving a large depression.
The course was nice and green though. Sigh. I get that we are no longer in a drought, but good hell ease off on the water. Let the ball bounce. Allow the player to run up some shots. Every course doesn’t have to be as green as Augusta National Golf Club. Take links golf in Scotland for instance. The ground is very hard. The golfer can be creative by running the ball and using the contours of the ground, rather than just having to fly shots to the target.
It’s got to cost more to maintain courses that are so wet. First there’s the water cost. Second, the grass has to be cut more often and something has to be done with the clippings if they’re not mulched. Then there’s the mud issues like I saw at this course. There were areas so wet they had to be roped off.
Please rake the bunkers, in your scuba diving gear…
I ended up in one of those roped off areas short of a par-4. At the time I was in the midst of an awesome round at -3. I had to take a drop because there was standing water. Nearest relief was in the fairway. I hit my chip and the ground was so wet that the club sliced through the turf and went under the ball entirely! I don’t think the club actually touched the ball.
Take it easy with the watering. Let your members have some fun with longer distance and more creative ground game shots.