La Romana is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Dominican Republic and developer Charles Bludhorn's Casa de Campo is one of its main resorts, competing with the likes of Bayahibe and Dominicus for the growing number of visitors who arrive every year.
The massive Casa de Campo development is laid out over nearly seven thousand acres to the east of La Romana and it first came to prominence in 1971 when Pete Dye’s world class Teeth of the Dog course was thrust upon an unsuspecting golf world.
His Links layout followed three years later but this very respectable course has been completely overshadowed since the unveiling of the private La Romana 18 holes in 1990 and the Dye Fore course in 2002 – and both these top tracks are designed by the same much in demand architect.
The Chavón River cuts a deep path through the landscape as it tumbles down from the Dominican mountains to the coast and the Dye Fore course sits high above the flowing waters with many of the holes on the back nine routed along the top edge on one side of the valley, offering spectacular views down to the Marina and the Caribbean Sea beyond.
The quartet of par threes here are all incredible short holes – though not too short from the back markers as each of them measure more than 200 yards from tee to green – with the 220-yard 15th probably the pick of the bunch as it demands a heroic carry over native vegetation to a sand-protected green.
Another nine holes – Dye Fore Lakes – were added to the course in 2011 and these fairways now connect with Dye Fore Chavon, the original north nine of Dye Fore, and the Marina Nine, the original south nine.
Interestingly enough, before my trip to Casa de Campo I had hardly heard anything about this course. Honestly it must be the most underrated course in the Caribbean. The front 9 takes you out towards the Marina and presents some huge elevation changes as it works its way down to sea level then back up the hill. The routing, holes and architecture is very solid and the course is very playable with a lot of width off the tee. The scale of this course however is quite extraordinary. Starting with a 600+ yard par 5 there is no easy handshake at Dye Fore. This is followed by a strategic short par 4 and then a 225-yard par 3. Spectacular would be a good way to describe the 4thhole, a 500+ yard par 4 that drops a solid 100ft down to near sea level and doglegs right. Tough to stand on this tee box and not want to hit the longest drive of your life. Yet it was still driver and a 3 wood for me.
5 Turns to start heading back up to the club house and slowly climbing the hill and is another crazy long par 4 at 500+ yards. The next few holes work their way back up to the clubhouse before starting on the back 9 which is routed across some of the most spectacular clifftop terrain you will find anywhere.
The 10th hole is a massive par 5 at 626 yards and plays along the clifftops with the Chavron River below. The green is perched several hundred feet above the river. A promising start to a spectacular back 9 that doesn’t fail to live up to the expectations after this excellent start.
11 is a dogleg left where you need to carefully choose the line and cut off as much as you can chew. It plays over a drop off to a fairway running at a diagonal left to right away from you with the cliffs on the right.
The 12 also flirts with the cliffs to the right and at 236 yards is one of the longest par 3’s at the resort.
13 is a long par 4 that drops way down on the right side of the fairway perhaps as much as 70-80 ft so keeping it left saves a crazy walk down then back up again and affords the best approach to this green that is slightly higher than the tee.
14 is a short par 4 and my favorite hole at Dye Fore. Here we are back at the cliffs but running the opposite direction and the hole plays along the cliffs which are to the left. There is a view of the river way down below from the tee. A carefully placed 3 wood or hybrid as close as possible to the cliff top affords the best angle of approach. You better be committed on this shot as it’s one of those that test you in every way. The approach even though played with a short iron is also really testing, the green falls off on the back and is a sort of infinity green where the earth literally seems to fall away behind it, no wonder as those first few steps are hundreds of feet down.
15 is another excellent long par 3 playing over a drop off and the cliffs to the left.
16-18 takes us back up to the clubhouse and are a run of 3 excellent and demanding holes. 17 is most likely my second favorite hole on the course – a short par 4 that begs you to have a go at it from the tee. The green is on a kind of volcano mound and the hole drops off from the tee then plays back uphill to this cool green on top of the hill.
18 is a strong and long par 5 finisher taking us back to the clubhouse and another green raised up and set ¾ the way up this hill. The tee shot faces a split fairway here. Left is the low side and allows a slightly longer drive but tougher second shot and a quite risky chance to go for the green in two for the longest hitters. The right side fairway is higher but affords an easier second shot. Hard for me to say if the long guys could still go for it from the right side but the approach is at least quite a bit less up hill. No matter which side you choose the approach to this 3 shotter is tricky given the lay of the green in the hill, it’s very easy to miss and not take enough club. Given it drops off on the front and sides, accuracy is highly rewarded.
When you make it to Casa de Campo you will by default play Dye Fore, at least I sincerely hope so for you. The more famous Teeth of the Dog course naturally overshadow it, but the chances are that you will be very pleasantly surprised by this wonderful layout.
The Marina nine starts out with a relatively easy downhill dogleg left 520 yard par 5 with a nice view of the Caribbean Sea below. The second is a 380 yard par 4 with fairway bunkers on the right that should be avoided and is a pretty straightforward hole. The third is a solid 177 yard par 3 with excellent views of the Marina from the green. The fourth and fifth holes were both excellent downhill par 4s that measured 445 and 465 yards and were two of my favorite holes on the course. To the left on both holes was the Chavon River with the Caribbean and Marina excellent sights in front for the entire lengths of both holes. The sixth was a nice downhill 165 yard par 3 protected by bunkers on the front left and right side of the green and again with excellent views of the Caribbean. The seventh is a 375 yard par 4 with waste bunkers on the right side of the fairway and an elevated green that requires an accurate second shot or you could have a difficult recovery. The eighth is a dogleg left 525 yard par 5 with the best tee shot down the left side and a partially blind second shot. The green is well bunkered and can be reached in two. Getting a good line where to hit the second shot is essential as it is a blind shot and the green cannot be seen and is well protected by bunkers. The ninth is a solid 420 yard par 4 that is a dogleg right and the fairway on the right is guarded by a huge waste bunker area.
The Chavon nine starts out with a 510 yard par 5 with the Chavon River on the right and plenty of room to the left. Everything slopes to the right for the second shot and keeping left is essential as the ball will roll to the right. The eleventh is an excellent 470 yard par 4 which requires two accurate solid shots again with the Chavon River on the right. It is also one of my favorites on the course. The twelfth is an excellent downhill par 3 of 214 yards with the Chavon River again on the right. The thirteenth is a relatively wide open 420 yard par 4 that is just a solid golf hole. For some reason Pete Dye placed 3 elevated bunkers behind the green which do not appear to be in play. It is something that I have never seen but I did take notice. The fourteenth is a very scenic 350 yard par 4 with the left side guarded by the Chavon River and many well placed bunkers. The fifteenth is a 200 yard downhill par 3 that was my favorite par 3 on the course and another excellent hole with the Chavon on the left. The sixteenth is another solid 410 yard par 4 that requires an excellent tee shot. Get in good position of the tee and a birdie can be made here. The 335 yard par 4 seventeenth is a relatively short par for with plenty of room to the right on the tee shot. The second shot can be tricky though as the green is highly elevated. The Chavon nine finishes with a solid 570 yard par 5. I played the tee shot up the runway but it appears to me now that right might be better as you could get a better angle to the green. For the second shot the fairway slopes broadly from right to left. Keeping right seems to be the way to go as this green is again highly elevated. My second shot ended up on the left side of the fairway even though I hit it well to the right.
Overall, Dye Fore is an excellent course that to me it is a step below Teeth of the Dog but certainly better than The Links. Here is a link to a video slideshow I created for Dye Fore. Jim Brady