They say that Casa de Campo is the “Caribbean’s most complete resort” and frankly we couldn’t disagree. With three stunning Pete Dye designed courses, water sports, shooting, tennis and even polo – on horses as well as in the water – there’s more than enough going on here to keep everyone happy. But there’s one thing at Casa de Campo with a bark as well as a bite and that’s Dye’s Teeth of the Dog.
Over a period of two years, Pete Dye, his wife Alice (also an architect) and some 300 local helpers transformed, virtually by hand, an overgrown rocky wasteland, which is set alongside the coral coastline of the Dominican Republic, into one of the most exhilarating golf courses in the world. Teeth of the Dog opened for play in 1971 and, being modest, and not wishing to take all the credit, Dye quickly pointed out that the course was fashioned “by the ‘man upstairs’. I created eleven holes and God created seven!"
The seven holes, which the Almighty created, hug the shoreline and they are certainly inspiring and memorable. When the fickle breeze blows off the Caribbean Sea you will be guaranteed a challenge. After the renovation work in 2005, Teeth of the Dog now measures a whopping 7,350-yards from the tips, so you are well advised to select your tee box most carefully. “Now accepting challengers” as they say.
As I did not know if I would ever be back to the DR I had booked a tee time at Teeth of the Dog for 11AM on March 18th. It was not done on a whim as it was a three hour drive over mountains and across the island. I had asked the resort staff if there was a more direct route to La Romana from Sousa. They said yes, head east through Cabarete and take a right just before Villa Progresso. This road will take you over the mountain and eventually run right into Route 1 which would take me into Santo Domingo. Sounded pretty easy to me.
I had a tough time sleeping so finally about 2:30 AM I got up and headed out. As I drove through Cabarete I chuckled to myself as I saw several people staggering out of bars after celebrating St. Patrick’s Day from the night before. I made the right and headed up the mountain. While there are not a lot of roads in the DR, the ones that they have are not what we are used to. Throw in a lot of hairpin curves and fog and it was not an easy drive. I persevered and was very surprised when I came to a T-Bone intersection at the bottom of the mountain. Which way to go? There was no friendly Scarecrow to provide assistance. So I looked to my right and then my left to try to gauge which direction seemed to have more lights on. There weren’t many in either direction. I then gauged my sense of direction; I had been travelling south by southwest. I knew Route 1 had to be to the west of me, which would mean that I should take a right. Conversely, La Romana was towards the southeast. It appeared to me that there were large hills to the right also. Ultimately, I reverted to an old saw that says, when not sure which way to go, follow your heart, so I took a left.
After a few miles I came to a village and it started to rain. I had driven another mile or so when I noticed an older gentleman walking down the middle of the street. It was then about 4AM. He turned around and motioned me to stop. I did. Perhaps this was not the smartest thing I had ever done. Let’s see, foreign country, middle of the night, raining, deserted road and I stopped? This gentleman came around to the passenger side, opened the door and jumped in. He looked 65 but could have been anywhere from 35-80. He was wearing rumpled up old clothes, a week or two worth of beard, a few teeth, but he did have on an old Boston Red Sox cap. That clinched the deal, I let him stay. I then asked where he was going. Not surprisingly, he did not speak English. However, this did not stop him from talking to me. My Spanish skills have regressed over the years, but I can still say, “Cerveza, por favor,” with the best of them, but I had no idea what he was trying to say.
So I tried to turn it around. I wasn’t sure how to say, “Where are you going?” I had the donde, and I knew to go was ir, but couldn’t place the conjugation or tense. I knew it wasn’t “Donde voy?” Which is, where am I. So I tried, “Donde quiere ir?” Which actually turned out to be pretty close. Of course, he probably didn’t understand me because he then rattled off several sentences in Spanish that I had no chance of understanding. Time to take another tact, so I then started asking “izquierda” and “derecha”, which means left and right respectively.. This set him off talking again and pointing straight. So I just kept driving. After a mile or so the houses were getting further and further apart, it was still raining and I had no idea what to do with this guy. He seemed very content to keep talking and occasionally I would pipe in with a, “No se.” Which means, I don’t know. I kept thinking about how to communicate with him and finally, I thought I would tell him where I was going and perhaps that would help. So I said, “Voy a Santo Domingo.” Which means I am going to Santo Domingo. He says, “Si, capital.” And nods his head. I then respond, “Tu quieres a capital?” Subsequently, I recognized this means do you want the capital which is certainly different than do you want to go to the capital. At about this time we finally came to Route 1 and I crossed the Rubicon and headed to Santo Domingo.
My guest chatted for a while and I did not have the linguistic aptitude to hang with him. Mercifully, he finally fell asleep. As he was snoozing, I started thinking about the situation. It was possible this man had never left his village. When someone offered to take him to the capital, a place he may have never seen but rather, had only heard about, what an opportunity! On the other hand, he may have a wife who was expecting him home at a certain hour. When he didn’t show, she may have then proceeded to call the authorities. The reality was probably somewhere in between, but as I pulled up in front of the DR capital building at 5:45 AM I had to jostle my passenger to wake him up. I said, “Estamos aqui. Capital,” and then I pointed. He looked and I was ecstatic, when he rubbed his eyes, looked out, opened the car door, got out and said, “Gracias.” You can rest assured I hit the gas pretty quickly and headed east.
When I arrived at Teeth of the Dog it was 6:45 and the course was not quite open. There was lots of activity, but the pro shop personnel had yet to arrive. The caddy master asked what my tee time was. When I said 11, he responded we are not used to people being more than four hours early. He said occasionally we have them showing up four hours too late, but never that early. I explained my situation, I was a single, walking, would love to have a caddy, was ready to go and would it be possible to go out before the first group? He said, “Is that all? Let me check and we will see what we can do. How fast do you play? I cannot let you out and then hold up the course.” I said that when I walk as a single I will play in less than two hours. He responded, that I needed to play a little bit slower so that the maintenance crew could get the course ready for everyone else. I laughed and said I would do my best. At 6:55 I striped my tee shot right down the middle. Sadly, I then parlayed it into a bogey. No doubt it is a very nice course and manicured to near perfection, but I thought it was rather pedestrian. To Pete Dye’s credit, he is very proud of the number of jobs the construction and subsequent support created for the local community and he should be. However, I found the golf course disappointing at best. Yes, there are seven waterfront holes, which Dye does give credit to God for designing. Here comes the sacrilege, number 5 and 7 are almost the same holes. Water left with a water carry, the 7th is thirty yards longer. So what? Although, if I were forced to choose a favorite hole I would opt for the 7th. Most ocean holes are elevated, these seem to be almost at sea level. Okay, you can see Tommy Hilfiger’s (or someone else quasi famous) house from the 15th tee box. Who cares? I would rather pay the same extreme green fee and play Playa Grande. Trust me, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (no, I am not getting product positioning income…although I do have an open mind…and wallet) The other thing that I found puzzling is it is called Casa de Campo and Teeth of the Dog. Casa de Campo means country house and Teeth of the Dog translated is Dientes del Perro. Why isn’t it called Dientes del Perro? For what it is worth, Teeth of the Dog refers to the jagged coral rock on which the course was built. Regardless, there are two other Dye courses on property as well and if one is looking for a contained golf getaway, Casa de Campo is a viable option.
Now that I have trashed one of the universally rated 100 courses in the world, let me tell you the rest of the story. As I was leaving La Romana heading back to the highway I stopped at a red light. The DR is full of red light bandits, kids that will spray your windshield, wipe it off and then demand a “tip.” Very predictably, the scene played itself out, yet there was a surprise ending. The light turned green and I hit the gas when a female police officer jumped in front of my car and signaled for me to stop. She then walked up to my window and started speaking to me in Spanish. I tried to slow her down and eventually figured out that she wanted my passport. Her English was worse than my Spanish, but I begrudgingly complied. She then walked around the rental car and asked for my driver’s license. I had the common sense to tell her, she can have either my license or my passport but not both. This went back and forth for a few moments and until we made the exchange. She indicated that she would be back in a moment. When she came back I was handed a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. I found this mildly entertaining for a country where it is common place to see a family of four on a moped with a chicken in a cage on top of luggage in the rear, a child suckling and dad driving with a kid on his lap. I was then directed to pay my fine at the courthouse which was behind us. I indicated that I got it, and made a U-turn to go pay for my transgression.
I found a place to park and started walking into the courthouse when I was stopped by a man in uniform. He asked me what was I doing? I responded that I had just gotten a ticket and that I was going in to pay my fine. I was then told that I cannot enter the courthouse wearing shorts. I pointed to the police woman and said that she directed me here to pay the fine and by the way all I have is shorts. At this point a bystander asked what the problem was. I was getting a little miffed, I explained the situation again and he asked to see my ticket. He started shaking his head and said I was in trouble and that I needed to go into the courthouse for a hearing. I responded, “A hearing for what?” Then another party entered into the fray, he read the ticket, the two of them conversed in Spanish and then he offered this solution. “I will go in and pay your fine for you. All you have to do is give me the money and I will take care of it.” Dawn then breaks over marble head. I laughed and said, “All of this for $38?” I grabbed the ticket out of their hands and made like a baby and headed out. They were yelling at me in the background, “You will be sorry.” etc. I got into the car and started the trek back. As I was driving it did cross my mind that someone had my passport number and it was possible that I may be detained at the airport when we leave the country. I felt the probability of this was pretty low. Heck, in the US the IRS computers don’t talk to each other, thus, it would have surprised me that the DR’s systems would be more integrated. Regardless, I did have Beth and the girls go through customs before me at departure just in case.
I also thought about the old guy I dropped off in Santo Domingo. What happened? How did he get home? Was an APB issued for some crazy yanqui who had kidnapped him from his village? Did this end up being the adventure of his lifetime or a nightmare?
In summary, if you are going to go to the DR for a golf vacation, you are probably better served to do an all-inclusive deal and stay on property.
Much has been written about Teeth of the Dog and while I concur with the comments of those citing the holes closest to the water there's the counterpoint with the inland holes while satisfactory are hardly electrifying. In many ways, Teeth of the Dog is a facsimile of what you find at Pebble Beach. Can overall greatness be attained when the totality of what is present is not consistently demonstrated for a far larger portion of the layout than the holes nearest to the water?
When the course first opened it clearly was miles beyond what else called itself golf at that time throughout the broader Caribbean region. Things have clearly changed and you can see firsthand the competition that exists in the DR today.
Is the layout still a legitimate top 100 in the world today? I have serious doubts because the depth of the elite courses has clearly intensified globally. The renovation of the layout in 2005 certainly updated the design but the simple fact is that you have a split personality between the two clearly distinct presentations.
Credit Pete Dye for the constant tinkering. For Pete the ongoing updating is no different than what Donald Ross did with Pinehurst #2. over the course of a lifetime.
John Sabino said it best about the holes adjoining the water. When you stand on the tee boxes you can literally feel the salt spray and shake when the water crashes violently against the rocks. The immersion -- no pun intended -- leaves a striking memory.
Unquestionably, Teeth of the Dog can bite big time when the winds are whipping around -- hardly out of the ordinary in the DR. The layout still has moments where you stare in disbelief at how Dye and the countless number of local people who carved the layout out of the area.
Dye's legacy will always include his work here and for the impetus it provided in other courses situated along various coastlines. Teeth of the Dog is certainly worth making plans to play, however, in the 21st century a visit to the DR has a far more robust golf connections than just this fine layout alone.
M. James Ward
If you were omnipotent and could switch the ocean to the inland holes, would they instantly become the better holes - or is it something else that accounts for the current difference in quality?
BB: Hardly omnipotent here ! The usage of the word "if" is a slippery slope discussion. I can only go with how things actually are. The reality is that Teeth of the Dog still resonates as a top tier layout. But, the depth of the competition since it first opened has clearly intensified. One can clearly name a host of courses that have major intersections with coastal locations.
The most notable being the impact a facility such as Bandon Dunes has caused. A cousin to the Oregon layout has been the ascension of Cabot Links and its sister layout Cliffs.
Teeth of the Dog has clear similarities with Pebble Beach. The inland holes at both are clearly a notch or two behind the superlative holes along the coast. For some the essence of both layouts is still good enough to merit the lofty praise each receives. I would rate Pebble ahead of Teeth because of the maddening nature of the smallish contoured targets you find at the California layout.
To answer your questions -- the proximity of land and water meeting has always been a boost for such courses having such an advantage. The issue for Teeth of the Dog is that the overall competition has risen noticeably and one need not travel far in the Dominican Republic with the big ticket ocean-based courses that have opened in the last 10-15 years as direct competitors to Dye's classic creation.
I had the chance to play this course over the Christmas break of 2019 and I have to say that it was nothing short of spectacular. The hole variety and course conditions where quite good. Really enjoyed the views of the Caribbean ocean. I do have to say that I found the ocean at nearby Punta Espada prettier as it has a lighter blue color vs. this one which is darker and choppier. Overall, it was a great experience and took quite a few pictures that are now proudly displayed in my basement.
fantastic golf course
Birthday present from the wife didn't disappoint! I'm not a huge fan of Dye courses due to their difficulty, but the overall beauty of this course with its rocky coastline and waterfront holes made it a trip I'll never forget. The resort part leaves a little to be desired as does the island's service, but the course itself is fantastic.
What a wonderful opportunity to be able to head to the Caribbean during the coldest months of the European winter. The trip to the Dominican Republic is not exactly a short one but arriving to 28 degrees Celsius from -2 deg in Amsterdam makes for an amazing start.
I’m guessing most visitors to the DR wisely arrange their transfers with the hotel or resort they are staying in. I would like to reiterate that I highly recommend this BUT I did not do that myself. I rented a car with Avis being a President’s Club member thinking; ok naturally I will receive decent service. Well, I survived to tell the tale but to give an idea of what you are dealing with this is very much a franchise operation. Upon arrival at the airport after a 12-hour trip with layover there was not a soul to be found at the Avis booth and it took a solid 30 minutes before anyone was located. I was picked up by an unmarked vehicle and taken down a dark road to a totally closed and dark industrial area and low and behold there was actually a small office there, though sketchy would be an understatement. Having signed my life away I was taken to my vehicle, which was quite dirty and run down for a full sized car and set loose. The GPS I ordered ended up being only useable with the mobile wifi they rented to me on top of the price of the GPS. My advice, if you are going to Casa de Campo which you absolutely should be, then arrange the transfer with them.
Arriving at the resort is a fantastic and refreshing experience compared to my experience after landing. Everyone there is absolutely wonderful and make you really feel like you are part of the family, golf being a central theme. I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of their Director of Golf, Mr. Robert Birtel. He reserved some time to take me out and show me how the locals master the fearsome Teeth of the Dog course from Pete Dye. The course will always have a special place in my heart, as it just happened to be my 99thcourse that I have played out of the World Top 100.
If Dye is great at one thing it’s instilling terror in the hearts of amateur golfers and Teeth of the Dog is well known to be a tough but fair test. While not easy the start would still be considered a challenging beginning. Dye often takes one side completely out of play and basically challenges the player not to go left or right. This theme couldn’t be more prevalent starting with the 2nd hole. The anticipation builds to the 4th hole which is a strong par 4 dogleg right that runs out to the ocean and provides the players first meeting with water – the 4th green being a stone’s throw away.
The 5thhole is a diabolical short par 3 that could be anything from a 9 iron down depending on the strength of the wind. Our conditions were quite mild but even so this par 3 plays to a raised green that sits on a small outcropping of land running into the ocean and it’s surrounded with bunkering, steep runoffs and water. Did I mention that it’s all carry from the tee? Basically you take a deep breath, commit to your shot and swing away. Truly exhilarating!
With blood pumping through your veins you head to the next tee to meet the following test. The 6th tee sits right against the ocean and requires a gutsy committed tee shot along the shore to set up a chance to reach this long par 4 in two. Dye has created a short dogleg back towards the sea on this hole.
The 7th is another jaw-dropper in this run of great shoreline holes. From the back tees it plays 229 yards and is mostly carry. Definitely another hole fitting into the theme of making the player commit to an exhilarating shot. In the wind this hole is just plain tough, but oh so beautiful with waves crashing all around. There is no doubt in my mind that many golfers have fed many a ProV1 to the sharks along this stretch and still came out loving the experience.
The 8th hole follows up with another cracker right along the shore. A very tight drive with a 3 wood or rescue will leave a short approach to tricky, well-guarded green.
The 9th hole is a long par 5 that takes you back to the clubhouse – a tough finisher to a solid front 9.
The back 9 runs counter clockwise in the opposite direct of this figure 8 or infinity shaped routing. 10 is a semi tight dogleg left requiring a very well positioned drive.
11 is a long par 5 again requiring well placed shots. In the right conditions this might be a hole that can be reached in two. We didn’t have those conditions for my game.
The 12thhole is a long tough par 4 that plays like a par 4 1/2 with a slight dogleg left. The 13th is our first really tough test on the back as well as our first 1 shotter. A mid to long iron is required to reach this raised green that sharply falls off on all sides. The tee shot feels like it’s all or nothing and from the tee there doesn’t seem to be an easy recovery shot in sight – typical Dye, getting into the head of the golfer.
14 is a tough par 4 requires a solid tee shot and leaves an approach over water to a green that is very shallow when played from the shortest route on the right side of the fairway.
Holes 15 through 17 bring us back to the ocean and again test our nerve while stimulating our viewing pleasure. On the front 9 a left miss was likely shark bate while on the back due to the direction of the routing missing right will find you a watery grave.
The 15th is a short par 4 with the tee box placed right up against the crashing waves. The shot requires a very well placed drive hitting its target. Anything on the fairway will be a huge relief. While a left miss is the dry option, too far left is also trouble and is protected by a large bunker and also trees that would likely require either a tough shot or perhaps a chip out. The approach is played back to a green that sits right up against the cliffs and water. It’s a great hole.
16 is the final par 3, 189 yards of carry over crashing waves from the back tees. A front bunker, cliffs and water protect the green. It’s a real test regardless of the wind conditions.
17 is a 417-yard par 4 playing right along the ocean. Imagine the iconic 18th at Pebble Beach, make it a par 4 running in the opposite direction and that’s kind of what you face, only its Dominican brother – an excellent and challenging hole.
The closing hole is another monster of a par 4. A long drive to the right side will avoid bunkers and rough and leave a long approach that is played uphill slightly to the final green. Arguably this hole, which plays over what once was a runway for the airport, provides a slightly anticlimactic finish after the spectacular stretch from 15 to 17 but it cannot be argued that this is an easy finish or a hole lacking in architectural merit.
Teeth of the Dog has been famous ever since it was built and has always enjoyed a solid position in the World Top 100 Golf Courses to my knowledge. It’s Pete Dye’s favorite of his designs and having played all of his best-ranked courses I would have to agree with that. It really ticks all the boxes and what’s not to love about sun, ocean and golf as a combination? Just add one of the world’s best golf resorts to the mix and really it’s impossible to go wrong with a trip to Casa de Campo. Enjoy your stay and report back.
I had heard so much about Teeth of the Dog that I made the trip from Punta Cana. I can see how the club might have dazzled in the 70s and 80s, but it does look a bit old now. The new driving range was very good. The course itself has 7 holes right on the water, 2 holes with nice views of the sea, and 9 inland holes. Yes, it has spectacular views and the 7 holes right on the Caribbean Sea get as close to the water as any course. The 3 par 3s on the water are tough little tests. For my taste though, the course is too tight, and relies to much on very small greens. The inland holes are average. The conditioning is not perfect, and the grass is spongy, as you can expect in the Caribbean. Pitches and chips are pretty unidemensional because of the soft playing surface. The bunkers on the ocean are lined with a concrete curb and twice I ended up against it. Completely unnatural and unfair. Having seen it once, I would not make the trip again from Punta Cana to play it.
I have been coming here for 20 years and there is no other course I would rather play every day if I could than Teeth of the Dog. You know when you talk about if "I had to pick one course to play each and every day for the rest of my life?" This is the one I would choose for all around experience, charm and relaxation. Everyone talks about the 7 ocean holes, which is well deserved. However the other 11 are very challenging with their elevated greens and bunkering. It's hard to beat the views and Pete Dye built this course without tricking it up. The Teeth is fun, frustrating, beautiful, challenging and enjoyable all at the same time. I'll be going there hopefully every year for as long as I can. And one of those trips, I'll hopefully birdie that par 3, 5th. That's my favorite par 3 in the world, bar none. The green is as wide as a lane of traffic and surrounded by ocean on three sides and a bunker you can hardly take a back swing in. Wind is almost always behind you and right to left, so it's rarely more than a wedge or 9 iron. However the tree front right catches many shots from those wishing to avoid going for swim. A great experience with your best friends and the resident caddies.
Many holes in the world are right near or above the water. What makes Casa de Campo unique is that Pete Dye designed holes where you are right at sea level. At Pebble Beach or Turnberry for example, you are up above the water. As you stand on a couple of holes along the sea, water is crashing immediately behind you, to the side of you and ahead of you directly on the same level you are standing. I liked the seventh hole the best. It is a 188-yard par three with both the tee and green set in the water.
The course routing makes maximum use of the location; the first four are inland, five through eight are along the water. After playing along the water, holes 9-14 go back inland and are decent if not great holes. You again hug the ocean on holes 15 through 17 and 18 is an uphill hole away from the water. I would say that Dye has done a good job with an imaginative routing and some really great water holes. The course does have features typical of a Pete Dye design such as waste bunkers and elevated greens.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
I’ve been in the golf business for over 25 years now. Over that time I have enjoyed reading the many acclaims from my colleges and drooled over their breathtaking pictures of the Casa de Campo Resort. You see their “Teeth of the Dog” is consistently ranked as the best course in Latin America and has proudly been showcased in the Top 50 Golf Courses in the World by many publications since its inception over four decades ago. It has always been on my bucket list and this past spring I got a chance to live the dream. I was up bright and early in anticipation of finally getting to tame the famed “Teeth of the Dog”. There is an amazing full length practise facility along with the Jim McLean Golf School so make sure you warm up or take a lesson before tackling this beast. Before we headed out we were warmly greeted by Ian, our very knowledgeable and personable caddy who helped us immensely with our club selection and direction. The first two holes are inland so I got to ease my way into the game and get rid of the butterflies that were fluttering in my stomach. However once I got to the third and fourth holes the course starts to “wag her tail” as the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea come into view. For the first time I had a clear vantage point to what is in store for me and the true reason why I always wanted to come here. For the next four holes I was in shear heaven as the “Dog” really shows off her teeth. Each hole perilously hugs the ironstone shoreline offering dramatic scenery and intimating shot making. Any of these holes could be signature holes anywhere else so make sure you have your camera ready. Holes 9 through 14 are all inland holes that are very well designed but somehow pale in comparison to the ocean. Dye was very generous with his fairways off the tee allowing you room to spray the ball. However your approach shots here are paramount as there are deep swales around all the greens will leave you with very tough up-and-downs. The greens are in perfect condition but very irregular in shape making them even more difficult to hit. Once I got to 15, 16 and 17 we were back along the ocean. Like a great buffet I gladly welcomed a second serving of the most delicious views you will find anywhere. Even though the topography is relatively flat the conditioning is pristine and boasts as being only course in the world to have seven holes directly on the ocean. As Pete Dye humbly said himself “I created eleven holes and God created seven!" To read more about golf in the Dominican Republic visit http://golftravelandleisure.com/category/mexico-carribean/dominican-republic-mexico-carribean/