Once in situ at Casa de Campo, the Dominican Republic’s first luxury resort, there’s no reason to travel anywhere else. Philippa Kennedy shares her thoughts…
As a golfing destination, the Dominican Republic had not registered on my radar until recently. In fact, I confess that I had to consult an atlas when an invitation to visit popped into my Inbox.
A description of this lush, tropical paradise whetted my appetite - it’s the larger eastern part of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, the other half being Haiti.
Travel industry experts informed me that it used to have a reputation for ‘low-end’ package deal holidays but it’s now morphing into a luxury destination. Already famous for its spectacular white sandy beaches and quality cigars, it now has a choice of 26 golf courses to choose from and is rapidly becoming a top destination for golfers.
My particular destination was Casa de Campo, a 45-minute transfer from the airport. Driving through the entry barrier, you are immediately struck by the peaceful nature of the place with its discreet security, there’s usually a security guard patrolling every 500 yards or so. Licence plates of visiting cars are all noted electronically so the whole place feels extremely safe.
Casa de Campo has attracted the rich and famous for years, mainly from the States. The American action film star Vin Diesel has a home there and recent visitors have included Matt Damon, Jennifer Lopez, Stephen Spielberg and a host of US based sporting stars.
The hotel itself has 245 rooms and suites and a choice of 35 privately-owned villas, ranging from three-bedroom golf course villas to spectacular 10-bedroom oceanfront villas.
We were taken straight to our four-bedroom villa - perhaps the best option for groups - where our assigned concierge checked us in - so much better than waiting in a queue after a long flight.
It had a spacious living room with a 42-inch TV screen, squashy sofas and a big round dining table. Outside there was a small pool and sitting area, perfect for evening drinks.
A maid is assigned to each villa and ours cooked us a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and home-made pancakes on two occasions. Otherwise there’s a magnificent breakfast buffet at Lago Restaurant, close to two of the golf courses, with a wide variety of fruit, breads, cheese, meats, cereals and cooked breakfasts as well as more exotic and spicy fare.
The villa had a well-equipped kitchen and there’s a decent supermarket in the Marina for people who want to do their own cooking. For a group of women staying together, it’s a cost-effective option.
Each villa comes with two buggies to get about on. They are essential as the resort is so big, you couldn’t possibly walk, although it doesn’t take long to find your way about.
Staff on the resort are friendly and honest. A pal of mine lost his golf shoes on day one, but they turned up safe and sound two days later.
It’s the first time I’ve been on holiday when I didn’t venture off the resort. There’s simply too much to see and do on the 7,000 acres resort itself.
That includes three magnificent Pete Dye-designed golf courses, all very different but equally challenging. One of them - Teeth of the Dog - leaped straight into my personal top 10 favourites with its spectacular craggy coastal views and immaculate greens. It’s the No1 in the Caribbean and rated 27th in the world, but it should be much higher in my opinion.
My heart soared when I came across the seven coastal holes, carved out of rugged rock and coral and offering breathtaking views of the ocean crashing onto the rocks.
A second course is called Dye For, named after its designer and it really is ‘to die for’. It seemed enormous to me at the start, with its wide fairways, reasonably kind bunkers and wonderful vistas with seven cliff-side holes dropping 300 feet to the Chavon River below and a backdrop of the Dominican mountains.
Finally, The Links course reminded me a bit of a UK links course, but with views of the Caribbean, and many holes that meander through the interior of Casa de Campo. Every now and then you come across pretty little inlets where you might expect to see Captain Jack Sparrow slip his moorings just before dawn to head off on his latest raid.
Dotted around all three courses are some beautiful villas, the most expensive being on Teeth of the Dog.
The weather in November when I visited was perfect - warm, balmy with constant sunshine. The more energetic golfer can walk but these are big championship courses and we chose to take buggies. Caddies are mostly single-figure golfers, who play the courses regularly and seem to know every borrow on every green.
There’s a state-of-the-art golf academy with all the latest equipment and you can be plugged into an electronic contraption that accurately analyses your swing and helps identify faults. A bonus for groups of golfers is that you can actually bring your own pro and they are allowed to teach you, using all the facilities.
For couples, where one person doesn’t play golf, there’s plenty of other attractions, including beautiful beaches, but it’s just perfect for a group of golfers who occasionally want to try their hand at clay pigeon shooting, or horseback riding.
Having hardly registered the Dominican Republic previously, I now can’t wait to go back.
For more information visit: casadecampo.com.do