The Dominican Republic might not immediatly spring to mind when planning your next golfing holiday but with seven golf courses offering 86 holes on or overlooking the ocean, the Dominican Republic truly is golf’s Caribbean queen.
With the reopening of the iconic, cliff-top Playa Grande Golf Course – the penultimate design by the great Robert Trent Jones Sr., now remodeled by his son, Rees Jones – at Río San Juan, the tropical nation boasts more golf holes with a sea view than any other Caribbean destination.
What’s more, 37 golf holes are directly on either the Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean, meaning golfers enjoy an unrivaled experience playing alongside azure-blue waters or crashing waves.
Dubbed the “Pebble Beach of the Caribbean” for its dramatic layout, every one of Playa Grande’s 18 holes offers stirring views of the Atlantic Ocean, more than half of them playing right along the edge of 100-foot sea cliffs. Its reopening, following a redesign of six of the course’s back nine holes to accommodate the new Amanera Resort hotel on the cliff edge, has resulted in the final five holes being routed along the cliffs parallel to the ocean. This takes the country’s total of ocean view holes from 68 to 86, while the number of holes alongside the sea has gone up from the previous 27.
Keep your eyes peeled while playing Playa Grande, too. When you are not sizing up your putts looking for birdies, cast your gaze seawards and you might spot a passing humpback whale – thousands of them migrate to Samaná Bay, to the northeast, to mate and calve from mid-January to mid-March each year. You can also sometimes see them from other courses including Corales and Punta Espada, by the country’s easternmost tip.
Corales and Punta Espada are among five other golf courses around the Dominican Republic’s coastline with oceanside holes. Eight holes of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Punta Espada course play next to the sea, while 13 of its 18 holes have ocean views. Not only that, Punta Espada is this month celebrating its retention, for the eight consecutive year, of the #1 golf course ranking in GolfWeek’s Best of the Caribbean & Mexico list.
A Tom Fazio design, Corales boasts one of golf’s most magnificent finishes, the last three holes being called the Devil’s Elbow and culminating in a striking, U-shaped 18th that plays around a narrow, bluff-edged bay. Its 18 holes include 12 with sea views and four on the ocean. Of neighboring La Cana’s 27 holes, golfers can see the ocean from 14, with four also playing right by the water, including the closing two holes of its Arrecife course.
Opened in 1971 and renovated in 2005, Teeth of the Dog is one of four Pete Dye’s designs at the Casa de Campo resort at La Romana on the southeast coast, and was the first Dominican Republic course to use the sea to dramatic effect, putting it on the global golfing map. Its name derives from the jagged rock formations jutting into the Caribbean on which Dye placed tees and greens. Three of its four par-3 holes play over waves to the greens. In total, it has seven holes next to the sea and 11 with ocean views. Sister course Dye Fore, partly set on cliffs skirting the Chavón River valley, has 13 holes with Caribbean views.
You can also drink in the Dominican Republic’s glorious seascapes while sipping local specialties after a long and hard-fought round with your golfing buddies, chilling out with a drink at the 19th hole. The country has some great 19th hole locations to help you relax, nowhere more so than La Cana’s grand Golf & Beach Club, magnificently positioned overlooking a white-sand beach and the blue Caribbean. The clubhouse bars of Punta Espada and Corales also offer great beach and sea views.
If you prefer a change of scenery, try one of the 12 courses perfectly set up for visiting golfers inland. They include The Lakes Barceló Golf Course, with 25 lakes set within a mangrove forest, the Nicklaus Design layout at the Hard Rock Golf Club at Cana Bay, where pink flamingos resident on a lake by the 18th green add a splash of color, and the Gary Player-designed Guavaberry Golf & Country Club course, 30 minutes from capital Santo Domingo’s airport, bordering a tropical forest and nature preserve and lined by stately Corozo palm trees. Several have island greens for those who really don’t want to get away from water!