If you were considering a Caribbean vacation but thought otherwise due to recent hurricane damage, think again.The Dominican Republic was not directly hit by Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey, and their tourism industry is 100% open for business. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive Caribbean resort suggestion or Caribbean stay and play golf ideas, read on.
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa is a sparkling brand new all-inclusive, adults only Dominican Republic resort which opened in November of 2016.The resort features 457 suites in several different buildings.Some rooms feature lovely swim-outs as seen below.In addition there is a spa, fitness area, beach, and massive pool area with bars all over so one isn’t far from a tasty and refreshing island beverage of choice, all included of course.
The resort features a spectacular open-air lobby area which contains resort registration, a bar, shops, coffee shop, and live entertainment most evenings.
My suite at Secrets Cap Cana was comfortable and spacious. The bed was so fantastic I wish I could have taken it home with me. I slept so well on it. Inside the room is a desk, sitting furniture, linen closet, large screen TV, safe, dressers, and secret box. The secret box is where you can request staff to put items you request, like room service.
The shower in the room was huge with three water spouts, two in the ceiling. The bathroom featured two very cool sinks, great lighting, and an isolated toilet.
The deck area in my room had a great view (night shot above). On the deck was a nice sitting area as well as a bathtub. I quite enjoyed my evening outdoor bath. It was, liberating. Yes I washed behind my ears.
Next time I get back, and I hope it is soon, I hope to get a “swim out” room. They’re rooms on the ground level with their own semi-private swimming area. See picture below:
Secrets features eight gourmet restaurants, all included with the all-inclusive resort fee. If you want to eat sushi every day of your vacation, there’s no extra cost.There are also restaurants featuring French, Italian, Japanese, buffet, snacks, and more. I really enjoyed the spectacular buffet for breakfast and lunch (below).There are numerous themed areas for meats, fruit, beverages, breads, entrees and custom prepared items.The meats and cheeses were fantastic.My go-to places were the buffet and the coffee shop. I enjoyed numerous lattes, shakes, and snacks in the coffee shop.
The resort occupies a massive acreage on the southeastern shore of the Dominican Republic, just 30 minutes or so from the Punta Cana airport. The Punta Cana airport is home to flights from most major airlines.
Naturally the fantastic weather and warm shallow waters of the Caribbean provide many possible activities.On property of course is the beach, with soft, fine sand.The water is very shallow and warm, and the shallow area extends hundreds of feet out. My guess is 500 feet. I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the beach as the service folks came by with my beverages of choice. One must stay hydrated of course.Other water activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, fishing, yachting, water sports and even working out in resort provided classes on the beach.
My group enjoyed a catamaran excursion which was very fun.The excursion included a scenic cruise along the shoreline, snorkeling, and even chilling out sipping beverages served up in a floating bar.
Secrets Cap Cana features a huge pool area.Sections and slivers of the pool wind in many directions.Numerous areas have a small connected pool area which is surrounded by a small number of lounge chairs.The pool could easily accommodate hundreds of people, yet each person would feel like it isn’t crowded because of the layout.
There are several bars in the pool area and plenty of service people to make sure the fun is flowing.There’s also a hot tub, but it didn’t make sense to use it when I was there.
The Dominican Republic is undoubtedly the golf capital of the Caribbean.It’s home to the 39th ranked golf course in the world, Teeth of the Dog, the masterpiece of famed architect Pete Dye. Teeth of the Dog is located at Casa de Campo, roughly a 60 minute drive from the resort.A mere 30 minutes away is Punta Cana, a Jack Nicklaus signature design which is ranked the #1 course in the Caribbean and Latin America.These two courses produce some of the most scenic and dramatic oceanside golf you’ll ever experience.There are nearly 30 other courses to choose from in the Dominican as well, including another famous Pete Dye called Dye Fore.
On most nights one can enjoy live entertainment at Secrets, ranging from small combos to full bands, and DJ’s.
If you have a group or business need, there is a business area with computers.There are some great meeting areas and banquet rooms which can handle very large groups.
Service is very important in the travel industry. The staff at Secrets works hard to provide their part of a fantastic experience. Despite only being open for about a year, the management at Secrets has their system down and have trained their staff to be courteous, knowledgeable, and ready for anything.
Photo courtesy of Greg Corbo
I was warmly greeted by every staff member and all were extremely polite and helpful throughout my entire 5-day stay.
The weather in the Dominican Republic doesn’t fluctuate much, except in rainy season.I was there in rainy season and it rained for 10 minutes on the way to the resort from the airport. That was it. Year-round the temperatures are always going to be somewhere between 75-90.The humidity is quite high and I did have to adjust, coming from a desert. Be ready to sweat when not in the pool or the ocean. Stay hydrated and bring plenty of sunscreen.
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa is a fantastic choice for a romantic, all-inclusive trip with your loved one. The crisp new facilities are warm and welcoming with great dining and activities and of course, great weather.
Secrets and the fantastic golf courses nearby would also make for a great golf buddy trip.Forget Florida, South Carolina or other golf destinations.Make the Dominican Republic the location of your next golf buddy trip.
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.
On my recent trip to Morocco I had the opportunity to stay at some truly special and unique places, and I’m excited to share those places and experiences. Today’s review/share is of the Villa Mandarine, in Rabat Morocco.
Before I cover the Villa itself, let’s get some geography information. Rabat is the capitol of Morocco. It is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, about one hour northeast of Casablanca.
The city’s population is roughly 580,000. I’ll cover nearby attractions and activities later.
Villa Mandarine Overview
Villa Mandarine is a small, secluded oasis minutes from all the action in Rabat. It’s practically in a residential area, hidden behind a wall around the edge of the property, which is traditional in much Moroccan architecture.
Inside the grounds is a practical rain forest of vegetation, immaculately maintained. The three-acre estate features 700 orange trees and tons of flowers.
Small trails wind around and lead to sitting areas, sculptures, activities, and of course the villas themselves.
There are 31 villas and 5 suites at Villa Mandarine. Each villa has a large main room, entry, large bathroom and fantastic terrace overlooking the grounds.
The quarters are very warm and welcoming, as are the hotel lobby, restaurants, and bar. The luxury rooms are so inviting and relaxing, it’s hard to decide whether to stay in or venture out to the terrace, or the grounds to soak in the mellow vibe.
If you can’t relax here, there’s probably no hope for you.
Along with the beautiful and serene gardens, guests can lounge at the swimming pool and hot tub.
If you fancy a game of ping pong, you’re covered. I had a great match with fellow golf blogger and golf buddy John Duval, from IntoTheGrain.com.
Food & Beverage
The restaurant at Villa Mandarine is fantastic. I enjoyed several meals there, featuring traditional moroccan dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are selections for every possible palette, including a kids menu. Lunch out on the terrace was particularly great, between the excellent food and the fabulous environment.
Villa Mandarine’s bar/lounge is great. Every possible drink is served and the atmosphere is very warm and inviting. I could kick myself… well I have actually been kicking myself, for not enjoying some of the Cuban cigars there.
Nearby Attractions and Activities
There is some fantastic golf nearby, at Dar Es Salaam Golf Club. Dar Es Salaam is an award winning Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design, lined with mature trees and featuring some tremendous golf holes.
In the city of Rabat one can find fantastic shopping and dining at the Medina. Be sure to rock the Kasbah. For sightseeing I recommend visiting the historic Hasaan Tower, and the Mausoleum of Mohammad V. Don’t forget to visit the Royal Palace.
Mausoleum of Mohammad V, Rabat Morocco
Last but not least, Rabat is on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Visit the beaches and you’ll see why Morocco is a well known secret haven for surfing huge waves.
A visit to Morocco should be on everyone’s bucket list. The sights, tastes, sounds, golf, and experiences will be remembered and cherished for a lifetime. Villa Mandarine fits right into that formula, providing a tremendous, welcoming, and comfortable home base.
On my recent golf trip to Morocco I had the fabulous opportunity to stay at the 5-Star Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in El Jadida, Morocco. Mazagan Beach & Golf is a very large resort with hotel, casino, spa, huge pool, beach on the Atlantic Ocean, and a Gary Player design golf course.
Location Location Location
What a tremendous location Mazagan Beach & Golf occupies. It’s basically and oceanside paradise lined with palm trees. The huge grounds are immaculately maintained and full of fantastic designs and creative landscapes.
The resort’s architecture reflects traditional Moroccan traditions but still has a modern and clean look and feel.
Below notice the open door? That’s my room.
My room, lower right
Below is the view from inside the room, looking out to the pool area.
Turning around from the view out to the pool, this is the room.
Food and Beverage
My group enjoyed some traditional Moroccan food in the MORJANA Restaurant. The Lebanese/Moroccan food and Moroccan wine was fantastic.
Lamb, chicken, beef kebobs
Triangles with filo dough on the outside. Inside is either meat or cheese
The restaurant featured a musician playing a stringed instrument I’m not familiar with. Looked like a bouzouki but it wasn’t. Then after that we were treated to a belly dancer who was fantastic.
John (GolfBlogger.com) enjoys the show
John (above) enjoyed watching the belly dancer, but yours truly was the one she picked to dance. Never before have such awful dance moves (mine, not the belly dancer’s) been on display in the content of Africa. I guarantee it.
I had NO idea how many knots I had in my back. It was a great thing that I was able to get a massage while at Mazagan. The masseuse was incredible. She found, and resolved knots in places I didn’t know existed. It really helped out my endurance and flexibility for the rest of the golf trip.
While working out some knots the masseuse, who spoke nearly zero english asked, “you work on computer?” She could tell. I responded, “world famous golf blogger. If I’m not on the golf course I’m at the computer penning Blogitzer Prize winning golf blog posts.” Actually, I just said yes.
I did not test my luck at the casino, though I did take a quick look in. Very nice. My bank account thanked me for my self-control.
I’ll be posting a review of the Gary Player designed Mazagan Golf Club soon. The course runs along Mazagan beach. Huge breakers crash in on the shore. Huge. Now I know why some friends of mine take the trip to Morocco to surf.
The course is very fun to play, and not so difficult that it demoralizes you.
Think outside of North America.
Casablanca, Morocco is a 6.5 hour flight from JFK Airport in New York. From there it’s not a long drive to Mazagan. Rather than traveling in the USA or to Mexico for your next golf trip, you could be in fabulous Morocco enjoying a 5-Star resort, great food, beach, surfing, gaming, lodging, and golf at Mazagan.