The final Hooked on Golf Blog world tour stop of 2018 was at TPC Danzante Bay golf course, on property at Villa del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa at the Islands of Loreto, Mexico. TPC Danzante Bay is a Reese Jones design, winding amongst the mountains that surround the beautiful Danzante Bay.
Looking down at Villa del Palmar Resort from near the 18th tee of TPC Danzante Bay
Reese Jones is the son of one of golf’s all time greatest architects Robert Trent Jones Senior. I’ve had the opportunity to play many Rees Jones courses and TPC Danzante Bay is right there amongst the best of them.
TPC Danzante Bay Is located approximately 300 miles northeast of Cabo, Mexico, on the east coast of the Mexican Baja. The nearest town is the quaint and historic seaside town of Loreto, Mexico. Loreto and its airport is approximately 45 minutes away. The course’s home is the rugged desert hills and vistas in the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, which overlooks the bay.
The golf course plays to a par value of 72, 36 front and 36 back. From the longest set of tees, the blacks, the course stretches to 7,237 yards. There are four other sets of tees for golfers of varying abilities.
I would normally post the course slope and rating but my score card and information I have on the course shows neither. Perhaps it is so new (2016) it has not been rated yet.
I found the course routing to be quite enjoyable. There is a wide and interesting variance as the course travels through the valley floor, up the side hills, to the tops of the mountains and back down by the sea. Along its journey the course provides stunning visuals and vistas worthy of photography on practically every hole. I nearly spent as much time taking pictures of the golf course as I did playing it.
I felt right at home and enjoyed the elevation changes on many of the holes which reminded me of my home mountain golf. Some of the most entertaining elevation drops are on the par-3 17th and the par-3 9th. The par-4 15th and 16th holes present a fun elevation increase where calculating the proper club on approach is challenging. If the golfer picks a club which is too short or doesn’t make solid contact, the ball could land short and roll all the way back to his position.
Tee shots are a blast and on this course you’ll love blasting your tee shots to the fairly forgiving and wide fairways. There are some forced carries from many of the tees, as much of the course style is desert target. If the golfer is playing from the appropriate tee, carrying the native areas should not be an issue. I really enjoyed how each different tee not only gave the golfer a different choice in terms of length, but angle and elevation as well.
Fredrik Lindenblom tees off on the par-3 13th hole
There are some extremely fun par-4’s and par-5’s with large elevation changes which make driving the golf ball a hell of a lot of fun. The par-5 fifth, par-4 seventh, and par-4 18th holes come to mind. On the par-4 7th I had one of those blasts. I hit a towering draw which caught the speed slot and traveled all the way down to about 120 yards from the green, some 320+ yards from the tee.
As I mentioned the fairways are fairly wide and accessible. Only tee shots which are very errant will miss and find desert areas or natural hazards. There is some minor undulation in the fairways but uneven lies are not much of an issue.
I was very satisfied with the quality and grow-in of the fairways. The turf conditioning was terrific and there were no bad lies to be had.
Fairway bunkering is strategic and well-placed. Most fairway bunkers are navigable and the golfer has a chance to make the green with a well executed shot.
There are a few forced carries to some of the greens like the highly publicized par-3 17th, where carrying the ball all the way to the green is necessary. Most of the par-4’s and par-5’s, however, allow the golfer to choose the option of flying it all the way or hitting a links-style running shot short and bouncing it up onto the surface.
I found the greens at TPC Danzante Bay to be quite enjoyable to putt. Undulations and sloping are manageable. Two-putting from just about any quadrant to another is a fair proposition. Green conditioning was terrific, consistent, and the putts rolled true.
Par three and putting courses have really taken off in the last few years. It all started with the Himalayas, the putting course near the second tee of the old course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
TPC Danzante Bay offers a very fun 9-hole putting course which I enjoyed playing very much. The putting course is a great place for golfers and non-golfers to enjoy aspects of the game, settle bets from the big course, or just enjoy green grass and some frosty beverages in a friendly competition.
The practice area is terrific. On the fun driving range golfers hit uphill, similar to the par-4 15th and 16th holes. Near the range is a short-game practice area which gives the golfer the ability to practice every possible chip, pitch, and bunker shot he might encounter playing the course.
The pro shop is small and modest and sits next to a café which serves great food and beverages. From the patio patrons of the café enjoy a lovely view of the resort and bay below.
The course is part of the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa at the Islands of Loreto, Mexico. The resort offers luxury suites, beach and water activities, spa, fine dining, hiking, and much more. Check out the Villa del Palmar review here.
Before you book a golf trip to Cabo, Mexico I strongly suggest considering Villa del Palmar and TPC Danzante Bay. The golf course is extremely fun and fair to play. It doesn’t beat the golfer up too much like one might expect a TPC course to do. The views and variances one experiences on the course make every hole interesting and keep the golfer’s attention. When not golfing one can enjoy all of the great activities the resort has to offer.
Villa del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa at the Islands of Loreto, Mexico review.
TPC Danzante Bay image gallery
Michigan is home to over 800 golf courses and I’m doing my best to experience as many as possible by traveling there about once per year. It might take a while to finish off the task, but it will be worth it. Michigan golf is tremendous, especially in the north.
Now that I’ve convinced you to plan a golf trip to Michigan, you’re going to need a great place to stay. Grand Traverse Resort and Spa has you covered.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is located just outside of Traverse City in Williamsburg, Michigan. There are endless nearby attractions for golfers and non golfers alike. The resort is close to the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay, an arm of Lake Michigan. It’s a beautiful area.
On property are three very fun golf courses which boast widely different architectural styles, the Resort Course by William Newcomb, the Gary Player Wolverine Course, and the Jack Nicklaus Bear Course. I had the pleasure of playing The Bear and The Wolverine during my stay.
The Wolverine Course (Gary Player Design)
Grand Traverse offers various rooms in their tower and hotel as well as condos and suites. I stayed in the tower and my room was very spacious, warm, roomy, and comfortable. Plus I could watch the golf courses from an eagle’s vantage point (image below).
Room With a View (of the golf course!)
Other than golf the resort offers WiFi, HDTV’s, two indoor and outdoor pools, three outdoor and one indoor hot tub, indoor water playground, private beach club, spa, salon, large fitness center, tennis courts, day care, nearby gaming/casino, business center, watercraft rental.
I did some shopping in the Marketplace during my stay. There are numerous shops offering all sorts of great gifts, apparel and more.
There are five restaurants and lounges at Grand Traverse. I enjoyed a couple of meals at The Grille, which is conveniently located near the golf, the place I need it. The foot there was very well prepared, with generous portions and a great selection.
On the fancy night out I enjoyed the 5-star Aerie Restaurant and Lounge, which is one of the highest rated in Michigan. Fantastic steak.
I found all of the staff to be very friendly, helpful, and professional. No matter what I needed or where I was, the staff was well prepared and able to provide a great customer service experience.
You MUST plan on Michigan for your next golf getaway or a golf buddy trip. Aside from the on property courses at Grand Traverse, there are dozens of amazing courses you can play. Check out the other Michigan golf course reviews here at Hooked on Golf Blog. Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is a great choice for a home base on your Michigan golf trip.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa Gallery
The Bear – Jack Nicklaus Course
The Wolverine – Gary Player Course
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.
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.
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.
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.
Punta Espada offers a full driving range, practice green, pro shop, locker room, library, snack bar, 19th Hole Bar, Restaurant, and Members Room.
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!
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa Review
Hooked on Golf Blog Teeth of the Dog Photo Gallery
La Cana Golf Club Review
Northern Michigan is one of my favorite places in this great country of ours. It’s a special recipe featuring the waters of Lake Michigan, dense Michigan forest, fresh air, interesting topography, and friendly people. It is always a fantastic time when I can take the HOG World Tour to Northern Michigan, an opportunity I’ll always take advantage of. On the last World Tour leg to the area I had the pleasure of staying at The Inn at Bay Harbor, an elegant resort right on the shore of Lake Michigan, minutes from the town of Petoskey.
Inn at Bay Harbor Overview
The Inn offers nine different types of accommodations, from a standard guest room to a penthouse suite. The property offers access to some great recreation in the area, like golf in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Located directly on the shore of Lake Michigan, guests can enjoy the pool or take a dip in the Lake. Other activities on property include kids activities, spa, dining, biking, shopping, and wine tasting from local vineyards.
I’ve been in the Penthouse Suite and the Master Suite, so I can speak to what they offer and show a few photos. Let’s go big first, with the Penthouse Suite.
Suitable for large groups, the 3,000 square foot Penthouse offers five individual bedrooms and common living and dining areas. There are two full kitchen areas for food prep (below).
Penthouse Suite Kitchen and Living Areas
There is also a laundry room with washer and dryer. The best feature of the Penthouse is the huge deck area overlooking the grounds and Lake Michigan. The view is stunning, especially at sunset.
The 720 square foot Master Suite offers a single isolated bedroom and large bathroom. The living area is spacious, including a kitchenette, fireplace, large screen TV, and a Murphy bed.
A comfy deck is also enjoyable for enjoying some fresh air. Unlike the Penthouse there is no washer/dryer in the room, but down the hall is a shared washer/dryer setup. This was great for me as I had been traveling for many days, and ran out of clean threads.
There’s some excellent dining on property at The Inn: Vintage Chop House & Wine Bar, Sagamore Room, Inn Cafe, Cabana Bar.
The Vintage Chop House served up amazing cuts of beef which I really enjoyed, and the atmosphere overlooking Lake Michigan was terrific. The breakfast buffet at the Sagamore Room had a large selection of very well prepared breakfast items.
There are many great reasons to visit northern Michigan: golf, water sports, skiing, biking, or just relaxing on a hammock on the shore of Lake Michigan. I strongly recommend staying at The Inn for your northern Michigan trip.
Sunset on Lake Michigan as seen from The Inn at Bay Harbor
Think golf buddy trip here. Your group of buddies could all chip in and book the Penthouse Suite. Golf in the day and poker, or whatever your fancy is at night in the shared living space.