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.
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
The round begins with a relatively easy 393 yard par 4 and a nice hole to start the round. The second is a slight dogleg left 384 yard par 4 with a bunker down the entire left side of the fairway that has large rocks on the right side of the bunker and is not a place to go. The third is a straightaway 498 yard par 5 that is very generous off the tee with a small elevated green that can be challenging to judge the distance. Fabulous views of the Caribbean start here. The fourth is a downhill slight dogleg right 443 yard par 4 that plays shorter than the yardage. The green is protected by bunkers with the right side having a steep slope that must be avoided. The fifth is the first of 4 holes that play along the Caribbean Sea on the left. The fifth is a 157 yard par 3 over the Caribbean and one of the most scenic holes anywhere. Accuracy is certainly a requirement here. The sixth is a 474 yard par 4 that ranks as the number one handicap hole on the course and is certainly a great hole. The seventh is a 224 yard par 3 that I believe is the most difficult par 3 on the course and again have to hit over the Caribbean on the tee shot. Another scenic, great hole. The eighth is a 414 yard par 4 that was my most difficult to play and another great hole along the Caribbean. The closing hole on the front nine is a 545 yard par 5 that was fairly generous on the tee shot and second shot. The green is slightly elevated and a birdie opportunity awaits on this hole.
The back nine starts out with a slight dogleg left 396 yard par 4 that is protected by a large bunker down the entire left side of the fairway on the tee shot. Keeping to the right side of the fairway is essential as it is the best angle for the approach shot. The eleventh is a 575 yard par 5 with a bunker again down the left side and keeping to the right side of the fairway is the best line. This is a true 3 shot par 5 and the second is protected by a bunker down the right. A birdie hole with well struck and placed shots. The twelfth is a solid 451 yard par 4 with a tee shot that should be kept down the right side. The green is protected by a large tree left and short of the green and is protected by bunkers right of the green. The thirteenth is a 180 yard par 3 that is entirely surrounded by a large bunker with a large tree just left of the green. The green is slightly elevated and is a nice, solid par 3 hole and enjoyable to play. The fourteenth is a 497 yard par 5 that starts back in the direction of The Caribbean. A good tee shot can lead to going for the green in 2 but it must carry over a lake. For those not attempting to reach the green in 2 there is room left and short of the green. The next 3 holes again play along the Caribbean on the right side this time and all are great holes. The fifteenth is a 374 yard par 4 that should be kept down the left side of the fairway. The second shot is one of the nicest on the course as the green is on the edge of the Caribbean. The sixteenth is a 194 yard par 3 that is just another excellent hole with a carry over the Caribbean required on the tee shot. The seventeenth is a 433 yard par 4 that may be the most difficult on the course. Just hit a nice tee shot down the left side and will be fine and again the green is protected on the right side by the Caribbean. Another great hole of many on this course. The eighteenth is a 445 yard par 4 that is a slight dogleg to the left. Keep the drive down the right side of the fairway and will have a nice second shot to the green. To the left and short of the green is a pond that attracts errant shots.
Overall an excellent golf course, superbly manicured, and an excellent test. Here is a link to a video slideshow I created for Teeth of the Dog. Jim Brady