The Tom Fazio-designed Corales Golf Course at the exclusive Punta Cana Resort and Club opened for play in April 2010. With six oceanside holes and a dramatic 18th, it's already a high flyer in the Caribbean rankings.
Set out on cliff tops next to Punta Cana airport, a mile to the north east of the Punta Cana (La Cana) course, the Corales layout is a private layout that permits a certain amount of play by resort guests.
Most of the fairways are routed around a residential development that sits a little way back from the coastline with the final couple of holes on each nine cleverly positioned adjacent to the deep blue waters of the Caribbean.
Water only comes into play once on the front nine at the 390-yard 3rd but there are plenty of other hazards in the shape of huge waste bunkers to keep concentration levels high. The outward half concludes with a stunning 173-yard par three, where the green sits in a rather exposed position atop a rocky headland.
The back nine ends in similar dramatic fashion as the 214-yard 17th plays along the edge of the cliffs before the breath taking 448-yard 18th then dog legs sharply right around the Bay of Corales to the home green – all in all, a totally exhilarating way to end a round on a truly remarkable course.
The resort has hosted the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship since 2016 when it was an event on the WEB.com Tour – in 2018 the tournament transitioned to the main PGA Tour.
Where to start? Ocean views and ocean holes are from a sensory perspective are hard to overcome. Corales, has these, but......
Yes, this is a very nice golf course, conditions are excellent, although their golf carts are probably five years old. this really surprised me as I played there the Tuesday before the PGA tournament? If you are struggling to hit fairways, this is the course for you. From a design perspective, I loved the two holes with multiple greens. They flip flop which green to go to depending upon the day. In my opinion, they are better holes when they respectively go left or right. Unfortunately, the way the course is laid out, the third is straight one day and left the next over a water hazard. The 15th is straight the next day but a better hole when it goes right. Wind is a constant and an equalizer. Regarding the ocean holes, the 8th is a thinking mans par four, the 9th a sphincter puckering par three, 17th a grip it, rip it an hope par three and the 18th is a how big is your appetite par four.
Perhaps my expectations where too high, but i left disappointed. Good but not great. I would certainly not pay to play there again.
Serving as a PGA TOUR site annually certainly helps generate extra visibility and when you add in the smartness of an architect like Tom Fazio you can be sure the visual dimension is certainly going to be enhanced with the Caribbean playing a lead role.
The juxtaposition of holes 7-9 and 16-18, as mentioned by a few others, is without question spectacular from the visual standpoint. You hear the waves crashing along the shoreline and the wind whipping around adds all the challenge one can muster.
Controlling one's ball flight is an absolute must -- especially when dealing with 3-4 club wind or even more. Being able to have a laser-like focus is also tested because it's easy to be over-stimulated by the off-course scenery and therefore lose your concentration on what's called upon.
The par-4 18th is a brilliant hole that seduces players in attempting the heroic play from the tee.
My main concern about Corales is that the interior holes are on a lesser level of importance and design heft when held against the others. They are not poor holes per se, but they are clearly less in terms of the strategic aspects that players are called upon to execute,
On a number of the fairways, you can easily land a C-5 cargo plane if needed and the width issue is good given the wind patterns at different times. However, the architecture does not call upon specific placement angles with such landing areas on quite a few of those holes.
From a conditioning aspect I wish there were more runout when balls land in the fairway. Carpet like conditions can often mean more of a softer cushion-like dimension which overly calls for clear reliance on an aerial game. However, that's an issue not uncommon to other courses in the Dominican Republic generally. The greens have a wonderful smoothness and speed but the overall sophistication in terms of internal movements and positioning provides a mixed outcome.
Corales is a visual treat for sure, but the heft of the architecture is akin to an on/off switch. I've played a healthy number of Fazio courses over the years, and I don't view Corales as being among the top 10 layouts of his that I have played, Part of that reason is that the upper echelon of Fazio courses is highly competitive.
The DR is a fantastic place to be when much of the USA is winter bound. The depth of the courses has certainly expanded since my first visit back in 1994 when I played Teeth of the Dog then.
It's hard to not give the course a 5 rating but given what I have played from the Fazio portfolio the bar for that kind of recognition is rightly high. Corales provides a mixed bag and for that reason I have to hold off with 4.5. For many who do go there the intersection of land and water will be more than enough to score higher. I can understand the temptation to do that but for me the totality of the architecture must account for all 18 holes -- not just the select ones of note.