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Course Review: Punta Espada Golf Club, Dominican Republic

I’ve sat here for about 10 minutes staring at my blank screen. Nope this review isn’t going to write itself. I’ve been a bit stumped because I know it’s going to be hard to express how fantastic a time I had at Punta Espada Golf Club, and just how amazing the course is. I’ll give it a shot.

Punta Espada Golf Club Overview

Punta Espada is a Jack Nicklaus signature design golf course located on the east coast of Dominican Republic. The course is oceanside and features hole after hole of fantastic views of the Caribbean. We’re not just talking a hole or two. Most of the course is on the water.

The course plays to a par value of 72 (36 front, 36 back) with a slope of 137 and rating of 77.0.  In other words, the course is difficult, but not extreme. There are five sets of tees.  The longest tee (Black) plays to a total of 7,396 yards.

Tee

The best club to pull off of most of the tees at Punta Espada may be your camera. Every tee my camera was my first instinct before picking a club! I walked to every tee with a camera and a club or two. Every one.

Playability wise the tee shots at Punta Espada are fun and challenging. The fairways are wide enough to accept moderately accurate drives. Players who want to play away from trouble, like the Caribbean, can be smart and save themselves from potential danger, a.k.a. big numbers. There are some definite proper places in the fairway to place the tee shot for the best approach angle to the green.  There are several situations where proper placement means a shot over land, not an all-carry shot over water.

Case in point is the 2nd hole above, a par-5. The 2nd shot (if not going for it) can be placed to the far left of the fairway for the best approach. The green juts out to a sliver of land, with water on both sides, but mostly short right. That left placement puts land between the 2nd shot and the green, and saves strokes if the shot comes up short because it ends up on grass instead of wet.

Fairway

Once on the fairway, the lies and stances aren’t too bad. Not a ton of sloping, humps bumps, or craziness. The condition and health of the grass is so nice that there’s never a bad lie. The ball feels like it’s teed up just right.

Fairways missed can mean a wide variance of rough, bunkers, desert style waste areas, or the Caribbean. Shots from the rough are very manageable, provided there’s a clear shot at the target. Shots from the Caribbean? Not so much, unless your 15th club is a snorkel.

Green

The areas around the greens at Punta Espada allow the golfer to be creative. This is one point I’m very sticky on. I’m not keen on architects who force the golfer into one shot or way of getting the ball on the green. Personally I prefer a Scottish style low-game with the putter or low bump-and-run shots, but I’m not afraid to lay open a 60 and take a full swing either. At Punta Espada the golfer can choose either most of the time, unless there’s a carry of some sort over a bunker or hazard.

I found the putting surfaces at Punta Espada to be fantastic. See the photo below and look closely at the cut and quality of the green. There were some tricky reads where the grain went one way, and the slope went the other. How putts can break uphill is still hard to fathom for me, a bent grass no-grain-playing mountain golfer from northern Utah. It can happen, so that’s when relying on the caddie or some course knowledge comes in.

Photo by Greg Corbo

The sloping of the greens for the most part was not to crazy. Very manageable. That’s not to say there weren’t some places that had some insanity to them. The sloping of those areas of the greens was extreme enough to allow the golfer some creative ways of approaching lines. One could putt off the edge and bring it back down the slope, or take a straighter line and end up close to the same place. That was more the exception though.

Overall putting was enjoyable and controllable. I won’t say “fair” because I’ve decided to try to use some less, shall we say, “overused” descriptions in my course reviews.

Amenities

Punta Espada offers a full driving range, practice green, pro shop, locker room, library, snack bar, 19th Hole Bar, Restaurant, and Members Room.

Final Thoughts

I’ve played more Jack Nicklaus designs than I can remember. Many of them are easy to spot as they share architectural similarities, typical “Nicklaus” features or styles.  Punta Espada has those, but the course does not scream “Jack” to me. The course is the least “Jack” of any of Jack’s designs I’ve played. This is neither good or bad, just an observation. What does scream out to me is that this golf course is as scenically pleasing as any I’ve played, yet provides a perfect balance in it’s challenge, playability, and its use of the terrain.  Some courses look fantastic but sacrifice playability or playing qualities, while others may play great but don’t cut it aesthetically.  Punta Cana is tops across the board.

There’s a reason Punta Cana is the new #1 course in the Caribbean and Latin America, it’s that good.  I strongly suggest putting Punta Cana on your must play list, your bucket list, your golf buddy trip list, or your golf getaway list.  I don’t even need a list. I just need to get back there and play it again, as soon as possible!

Related

Hooked on Golf Blog Punta Espada Photo Gallery

Nearby is a fantastic all-inclusive Caribbean resort, Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa. Check out my review.

La Cana Golf Club Review

Teeth of the Dog (Pete Dye) Course Review


Course Review: Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic

Written by: Tony Korologos | Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
Categories: Course ReviewsGolfGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf For WomenGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTravel
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I’m truly thankful for the opportunities my hard work on this blog has produced.  Case in point today is a course review I’ve been hoping to be able to do for a long, long time.  Teeth of the Dog is a Pete Dye design, considered by most to be his masterpiece. That means it beats out other amazing courses Pete Dye designed like TPC Sawgrass (home of THE PLAYERS Championship), Harbour Town Golf Links, Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, Dye Course at French Lick Resort, Straits Course at Whistling Straits, and Southern Hills Plantation Course. Let’s take a look.

Teeth of the Dog Par-3 5th Hole

Location Location Location

A masterpiece has to start with a great canvas, and boy does this one.  The canvas is the southeast shores of the Dominican Republic at the Casa de Campo Resort and Villas. What a place. Casa de Campo is a tropical paradise with tremendous weather, unmatched ocean views, and stunning topography.

Getting there is fairly easy. The Punta Cana International airport is a mere 45 minute drive away. Punta Cana International is a destination most major airlines service, only a few hour flight from the east coast of the USA.

Teeth of the Dog Overview

Ranked #43 in the world and #1 in the Caribbean many times, Teeth of the Dog is 18 salivating inducing holes of great golf, with seven holes right on the water like the par-3 fifth hole pictured above.  The course rating from the tips is 76.4 with a slope of 137. That rating means the course is very tough. Thus the “teeth” part. The course features six sets of men’s tees and two sets of women’s tees.  Total yardage from the tips is 7,471. I didn’t play the tips. With the high humidity and sea level, that 7,471 would probably play more like 8,500 for Mr. high altitude desert golfer.

Tee

Tee shot after tee shot I found myself humbled and amazed and the scenery and course architecture. Pete doesn’t use as much deception off the tee as I thought he would. It isn’t necessary. The golfer can choose to be aggressive or take the conservative route.  Executing either strategy properly produces great rewards while poor execution of either strategy comes with the proper level of punishment.

The tee shots on the first few holes aren’t tremendously difficult unless one plays particularly poor shots. Upon reaching the 5th hole that changes.  On the par-3 5th there’s no bail-out. Nowhere to miss.  It’s either on the green or in the bunker surrounding it and anything worse is watery Caribbean grave.

Tee shots for the next three holes run by the water. Conservative players aim well away while those who want to take a bite off can give it a shot and hope they have enough power to carry their intended line.  Holes 9-14 are inland holes the golfer can play more aggressively off the tee. 15-17 require very good tee shots to avoid ocean hazards, a good example is the par-3 16th below.

Teeth of the Dog Hole 16

Fairway

I found the fairways at TOD to be less sloped and narrow than I thought they would be. If one is able to find the fairway, a good lie is highly likely with very few shots blocked by trees.

Caddies wait in the fairway

The fairways are fairly wide. Missing a fairway will often mean finding the Dye-esque super-long waste bunkers, or the Caribbean.

Green

Here I am below, happy to be on the green!

Putter? I don’t need a putter!

Having played a few of the more “extreme” Pete Dye courses like the Dye Course at French Lick, I found the greens at Teeth of the Dog to be quite manageable. Putting them was enjoyable. Breaks were as they looked like they should be. Not too extreme.

I found the green complexes to be challenging and creative. Strategic bunkering was in play on most approaches to the greens.

Par-5 3rd Green Complex

Perhaps the best part of the the greens for me as that Pete Dye gives the golfer numerous options. The golfer could choose to hit a high shot with a lofted club, or like me, play a more Scottish approach with a putter or bump-and-run type shot.

Caddies

Golf is best experienced with a great caddie who can support your golf game, gives valuable course management advice, helps with green reading, and provides friendship. I had a great caddie named Soni Pache, who came highly recommended by a friend.

Soni and I are ready to take on Teeth of the Dog!

Soni was fantastic. He helped me keep in in play, gave me great reads on the greens, and clubbed me very well.  WHEN you play Teeth of the Dog, get Soni on your bag and give him a real big tip.

Amenities

The amenities available at Teeth of the Dog and Casa de Campo are endless. The course boasts a great clubhouse, restaurant, locker room, practice facilities and more for the golfer. At about 90 degrees and 90% humidity, I was so thrilled to find showers in the locker room to clean up before going on with my day.

Once the golf is over, there are so many other fantastic ways to enjoy the Caribbean like spending time at the private Casa de Campo beach area (below), exploring the resort, boating, fishing, hiking, working out, shopping and more.

Casa de Campo Private Beach

Casa de Campo Private Beach

Final Thoughts

Teeth of the Dog is a golf bucket list item without a doubt. Make it a point to get to the Dominican Republic and play this stellar golf course. I suggest turning it into a golf buddy trip or a golf getaway with the significant other.  The Dominican boasts a ton of great golf courses other than Teeth of the Dog, many are Dye designs.

Related

Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa Review

Hooked on Golf Blog Teeth of the Dog Photo Gallery

La Cana Golf Club Review


First Look: London’s Savile Row Chinos

Written by: Tony Korologos | Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
Categories: Golf ApparelGolf GearGolf Lifestyle
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In for review are some very nice trousers from The Savile Row Company, a family run business in the heart of London’s Savile Row, where some of the world’s finest tailors are based. I’m thrilled to put the Savile Row Men’s Grey Classic Fit Chinos through the HOG test battery. Check them out.

My photo doesn’t do them justice. I’ve tried them on and they’re super comfortable and the fit is just right.

Features

  • Classic fit, pleat front, zip fly
  • 98% cotton; 2% elastane
  • Improved fabric giving more comfort
  • 2 pleats at front, fits through thigh with a slightly tapered leg
  • Slanted pockets; jetted buttoned back pockets
  • Machine washable at 40°C (Hey, they’re from London. That’s 104 Fahrenheit)


I’ll be testing these trousers out on and off the course and posting my full findings soon. Stay tuned.


First Look: COAST Apparel

Written by: Tony Korologos | Wednesday, November 29th, 2017
Categories: Golf ApparelGolf GearGolf Lifestyle
Tags:

I’m about 750 miles from the beach on the west coast. Now I have a reason to get myself there, to wear my COAST Apparel Beach Pants and French Terry Crew Neck sweater.

These threads just came in for review. I just tried them on and boy are they comfy. The sweater is going to come in handy right now, as golf rounds are a wee bit cold at the moment.  Plus I like having some warmth even indoors because it can be hard to shake the chill.

The pants fit very well and they’re super soft.  Can’t wait to put them through a full HOG apparel review battery.

Stay tuned for my full review of these COAST Apparel threads soon.


Found Some of My Lost Game – Good Thing the Season is Probably Over

Written by: Tony Korologos | Sunday, November 26th, 2017
Categories: GolfHackers

Recently I moved. I’m still unboxing stuff in the new home. Most would agree, moving is hell. With the move and many other things going on in the non-golf-blog areas, I’ve not played much golf. I think I’ve logged 18 holes in about the last eight weeks, until today.  Amazingly, thanks to awesome global warming, there’s no snow on the ground here in northern Utah. The temperatures were in the 60’s this Thanksgiving weekend, and I finally got a game together with my long time partner, and two fairly new and fierce opponents.  It was an absolute blast.

Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos

Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos

I thought I’d be very rusty, but somehow found a good rhythm and swing.  I hit 80% of my fairways, logged a couple of birdies, and shot 74.  That’s my 2nd best round of a very rough year for my game. I had no idea that was coming, and like most would say, it could have been much better.

The Match

What made today particularly fun, other than golfing in shorts when normally I’d be skiing, was the match. My partner and I had gotten our wallets cleaned out by these two a few months ago. We needed revenge.  Despite my birdie on the first hole, we found ourselves down three early, and finished the first nine down three.  We cranked up the heat on our games and I played very well on the back.  We won the back 4up which meant we also won the totals bet. It was a huge comeback for us.

Every shot, putt, chip, was intense and pressure packed during the match and it was so fun.  I’ve missed that feeling of competing most of this season.  It was great to get that back in what might be my last round of 2017. Historically the last round of the year is usually around the first week of December.  By then it’s either too cold, or the courses are closed due to snow.

It was quite enjoyable to find some of my lost game today and play some good golf. If the snow does fly, it’s a good round to finish on for the season.


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