Dominican Republic, the perfect golf destination

Santo Domingo.– The Dominican Republic is hot, and the pace of openings seems likely to establish the country as the Caribbean's choice golf destination.

One course that has gotten recent attention is Punta Espada, the first at Cap Cana and a Jack Nicklaus signature, which opened in 2006. The 7,382-yard route includes eight oceanside holes and others that make use of the area's bluffs and beaches.

In Punta Cana, Nick Faldo's Roco Ki Resort opened in 2007, as did Nick Price's Punta Blanca near the new Majestic Colonial Beach Resort.

This year, Tom Fazio's Corales golf course, a private membership club at Puntacana Resort & Club, and P.B. Dye's Hacienda, for hotel guests, both open while a second Nicklaus design, Las Iguanas Golf Course, is under construction. These will bring the number of D.R. courses to 22.

If you're more inclined to try a new course that's had a chance to mature, visit the Guavaberry Golf & Country Club, which opened in 2002 on the south coast. The Gary Player design follows a route over coral rock formations, one of which rises on either side of a double green on the signature #13.

The only knock on the D.R. is that resorts tend to be spread out and not that accessible to one another, so the large number of courses suggests a more varied experience than most players are likely to have.

That said, Casa de Campo has three outstanding designs within its 7,000-acre complex. The most famous is Teeth of the Dog, the Pete Dye course that has consistently been rated one of the world's best and which reopened in December 2005 after an extensive makeover.

Dye's most recent Caribbean design is Dye Fore, whose contours follow the Chavón River, the location for parts of Apocalypse Now. If it weren't overshadowed by Teeth, the 7,770-yard route would get more attention for its beauty and challenge. The neglected-sibling course is the Links, which is more forgiving than the other two but worthy of respect.