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Golf Course Review - Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)

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Updated: 2/17 1:42 pm

La Romana, Dominican Republic (SportsNetwork.com) - FACTS AND STATS: Course Architect: Pete Dye (1967, latest renovation, 2005). Year Opened: 1971. Location: La Romana, Dominican Republic. Membership: Resort, Public. Slope: 145. Rating: 75.9. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,478.

Hole-by-Hole:

1 - Par 4 412 Yds 10 - Par 4 405 Yds

2 - Par 4 390 Yds 11 - Par 5 604 Yds

3 - Par 5 551 Yds 12 - Par 4 483 Yds

4 - Par 4 489 Yds 13 - Par 3 201 Yds

5 - Par 3 176 Yds 14 - Par 5 497 Yds

6 - Par 4 500 Yds 15 - Par 4 374 Yds

7 - Par 3 229 Yds 16 - Par 3 204 Yds

8 - Par 4 414 Yds 17 - Par 4 463 Yds

9 - Par 5 602 Yds 18 - Par 4 484 Yds

Par 36 3,763 Yds Par 36 3,715 Yds

Key Events Held: World Amateur Team Championship (1974), Women's World Amateur Team Championship (1974), Shell's Wonderful World of Golf (1994).

Awards Won: Rated #1 course in the Caribbean - Golf Magazine, Top-50 Course in the World - Golf Magazine, Top-30 Course in the World outside US - Golf Digest, #1 course in the Dominican Republic - Golf Digest, #1 Best Resort and Golf Course - Travel + Leisure, #4 rated course in the Caribbean - GolfWeek Magazine, Top-25 Golf Resorts of the World - Links Magazine.

Website: www.casadecampogolf.com, www.casadecampo.com.

HISTORY: "I created eleven holes and God created seven!"

Certainly not in the realm and importance of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech or John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you" address or even the catchphrase from the Terminator movie when Arnold Schwarzenegger exclaimed, "I'll be back," but Pete Dye's proclamation when he built Teeth of the Dog is quite memorable, not to mention accurate.

The dean of course architecture, Pete Dye has built hundreds of courses around the world, most notably the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Whistling Straits and the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. In fact, Dye golf courses have hosted over 150 professional and amateur events around the world and are scheduled to host the 2014 U.S. Senior Open, the 2015 PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup.

But it was his work at Teeth of the Dog that propelled him to such great heights. Although this was not his first ever design, Teeth of the Dog is no question his first great design.

"When I first went down to Casa de Campo, there wasn't any roads to it and I talked to the owners about letting me build along the edge of the ocean," Dye said. "There was plenty of land and they actually wanted to build an industrial park, but I got that stopped and was able to build Teeth of the Dog with seven holes along the water. "

Sugar is certainly the product of choice in the Dominican Republic, with hundreds of thousands of acres on the island, but it's the business of service that makes the D.R. the most visited destination in the Caribbean.

An island shared with Haiti, D.R. boasts a population of roughly 10 million, and is the second-largest Caribbean nation, next to Cuba.

Owned and operated by Gulf & Western in the late 1960s, the La Romana sugar mill became the world's leading producer of the sweet substance thanks to the hard work of Alvaro Carta. The mill became so profitable that the owners wanted to grow the local economy and invest in its future.

At the time, Dye was just making a name for himself with his wonderful designs of Crooked Stick, The Golf Club and his breakout course, Harbour Town Golf Links with Jack Nicklaus. So bringing in Dye to design a worthy golf course in the region was hardly a stretch.

"I enjoy building them and I've been able to build for people who want a golf course," Dye said. "What I build are golf courses, no developments, just golf courses along with a driving range. Sometimes I hit it right and sometimes I make a mistake. You try and make the golf course playable for most people."

What separates Dye apart from many course architects, and he'll be the first to tell you, is that he builds the courses that he designs. "I've had 28 majors on my golf courses and some of my good competitors have only had two or three. I'm the only guy in the business that builds the golf courses. I design them, stay there and build them. I've built over 100 courses, but Fazio and Nicklaus, those guys do 20 courses a year, as they have contractors build the courses for them. I've always done the work myself."

Building Teeth of the Dog was not an easy task, as 300 local laborers, armed with pick-axes, sledgehammers, chisels, machetes and anything else with a point, toiled through the rugged terrain, along with Dye and his wife Alice for a couple of years before the course opened in 1971 at a par of 72, stretching to 6,888 yards.

"I transported all of the soil from just a few acres from the sugar fields to build the golf course and the resort," Dye said. "We hauled a lot of dirt, but it was peanuts compared to what was there from the sugar fields. They had a lot of sugar cane carts and we just kept bringing it down, bringing it down the hill and dropping it down there. So the dirt that was brought in was brought in from just a few miles north where they had the sugar fields."

According to lore, the original name of the course was Cajuiles, which referred to the cashew trees in the mountains, but during construction of the course, Dye overhead the local workers refer to the sharp coral rock that they worked on as "diente del perro," or "Teeth of the Dog." And the rest, as they say, is history.

Here we are over 40 years later and the course continues to gain accolades from every golf publication around the world and is widely considered the No. 1 course in the Caribbean.

Teeth of the Dog has hosted its share of local and regional tournaments over the years, but three international events stand out, as just three years after opening its doors, the World Amateur Team Championship was held at Casa de Campo. The United States, led by George Burns, Gary Koch, Jerry Pate and Curtis Strange, was victorious. Captain of the squad was none other than Hord Hardin, the former Masters Chairman at Augusta National. The Americans defeated Japan by 10 shots.

That same year, the Women's World Amateur Team event also was staged at Casa de Campo. The United States captured the Espirito Santo Trophy by 16 shots over Great Britain & Ireland. The winning American team was comprised of Carol Semple Thompson, Debbie Massey and Cindy Hill.

Twenty years later, Shell's Wonderful World of Golf was re-launched after a 23-year hiatus at the Teeth of the Dog, as Fred Couples and Raymond Floyd squared off. The match was a recreation of the 1992 Masters just two years earlier, where Couples captured his only major championship by two shots over Floyd.

Couples did not disappoint, as he defeated Floyd once again, putting on a dominating performance. As the story goes, Couples was at 7-under par heading into the 16th hole, a beautiful par-3 along the ocean. His caddie told him 4- iron and a young girl said it was a 5-iron. Couples hit the four and made double-bogey. Jokingly, Couples told the caddie, "If that little girl had been older, I would fire you and hire her!" Upon which the crowd roared with laughter. Couples would finish with 68 compared to Floyd's 76.

Over the years, Dye, who owns a home at Casa de Campo, continues to return to the Dominican Republic to tweak and renovate his "baby."

"I've been going down to Casa de Campo all the time over the years and I keep going back and forth, either adding on to or taking away," continued Dye. "The grass mutates after a while, so you need to keep putting new grass on and other items like that."

He certainly has, as the course now stretches to almost 7,500 yards with a rating of almost 76. The greens and tees are now Paspalum and the fairways are Bermuda 419.

"You try and satisfy the owner, of course, but the ratings change around and the ones that usually get rated, are the courses that have major championships," Dye said. "I try my best to build a golf course for who is going to play it. That's hard to do."

HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW: If there ever was a so-called easy hole at Teeth of the Dog, the first just might be it. A straightaway par-4 of just 412 yards from the tips, No. 1 is fairly simple. Your tee ball needs to clear the left bunker at the 206-yard marker and avoid the series of traps down the right. The landing area is quite generous, so strike early here. Just a medium to short iron should remain to a slightly raised putting surface, with sand right and left. Miss long and you'll have a difficult pitch back up the slope to the pin. By the way, playing in the morning, you'll be hitting directly into the sun. Not a bad thing, especially when you're coming from the cold and snow, but it might make for a tough start.

Although the second hole is just a shade under 400 yards in length, the real difficulty lies with tee shot. The hole angles to the left and features a waste area all along the left side of the fairway, complete with rock outcroppings, so just missing the landing area will most likely result in a penalty shot. So, if you can, favor the right side of the fairway. A successful tee ball will leave a short iron to a fairly long putting surface that slopes from back to front and runs diagonally away from the fairway. If you miss the fairway off the tee, play to the front portion of the green or just short to leave your best chance at saving par.

The teeth of the golf course (no pun intended) begins on the par-5 third, a lengthy, New Jersey-shaped three-shotter. Avoid the two fairway bunkers off the tee on either side and you're pretty much home free, as the landing area is quite wide. It's your second shot that might create consternation. If you decide to lay up, play to the 100-yard mark, short of the bunker in the middle of the fairway. If you want to bang a three-metal to reach or just play short of the green, then you'll have to negotiate several bunkers within shouting distance of the promised land. The putting surface is raised, so take that into account when attacking with your approach. One word of caution: be careful. The green is only 28 paces in depth, very narrow, with deep pot bunkers left and right and any shot just a smidgen off-line, will end up in sand. Most players think all par-5s should be birdied, but par is not a bad score.

With anticipation of the Caribbean Sea, the fourth hole is not to be overlooked, especially from the back tee at 489 yards. Rated as one of the easier holes from the forward tee boxes, this hole has plenty of bite. Yes, the fairway is wide, but missing left or right will end up in sand. The toughness comes from trying to land your approach on the sliver of green with the ocean in the background. Miss left and long and sand awaits, while off- line right will end up down a steep slope, making for another difficult pitch. The long, narrow putting surface will test the best of players.

The first hole on the water is the sensational fifth. A modest par-3 of just 176 yards, this beauty is all carry from tee to green, as sandy waste areas and bunkers guard the putting surface. Let's not forget the water and rocky grave to the left and a tight landing area of a green, one of the smallest on the course. A sandy mote protects the left side, while mounding and more sand guard the right. In other words, you better be spot on! First time around, a deuce filled the scorecard. Second time, not so fortunate with a double-bogey.

Number 6 is by far the most difficult hole on the course. At 500 yards, this dogleg left par-4 has it all. With water all along the left, your tee shot is critical, as the hole bends from right to left. Another generous fairway, but cut the corner and you'll end up sandy or wet. Oh and by the way, you'll need at least 250 yards off the tee to gain the fairway! A long iron or fairway metal will be needed to reach the putting surface and depending upon pin location and the wind, it might be a three-club difference as the green is 40 paces in length.

The next signature hole on the docket is the seventh, a beautiful par-3, this time over water and beach. At 229 yards, it's the longest of the quartet and is all carry. The green sits like an island, surrounded by sand ... and that's the good news. This gem is punished by the elements, so picking the right club will be critical. In addition, the green is quite large with plenty of slope. I'd love to play this one over ... again and again!

If you thought it was going to get easier, guess again. Number 8 ranked as the third-most difficult on the course. This two-shotter runs up to 414 yards, with the stunning coastline along the left. Try to favor the right and you'll end up in one of the many sand traps. The fairway slopes toward the ocean, but the wind should hold your draw to the landing area. Your approach will be the tougher play, as the green sits below the fairway and is L-shaped. Sand and a swale loom short and, of course, the water hugs the putting surface left. A back-left pin will add 10-15 yards to your approach and the narrowest part of the green. This is one of those holes that will have you saying words that are restricted to the locker room.

As you head back inland on the ninth, you've reached the longest hole at the Teeth of the Dog, 602 yards from the tips. This hole features three critical elements: the tee shot, the layup and the approach. As the hole swings first to the left, you'll need a draw around the 180-yard bunker on the left. Your layup now must reach a narrow portion of the landing area at the 100-yard mark, avoiding the fairway bunkers on either side. Finally, your approach to the putting surface is played uphill to the small, but wide green, with a U- shaped trap in front and an ugly, pot bunker in the rear (yes, I was in it). With the crowd watching from the clubhouse, make sure you take enough club, otherwise you'll end up just like the group in front of you ... making a big number as you make the turn.

As we move away from the ocean, we begin the back nine with a medium-length par-4 that doglegs sharply to the left. A sandy waste area protects the entire left side of the hole through the green. At the 100-yard mark, a stone wall aqueduct separates the fairway, so it might make sense to lay back with a three metal or hybrid off the tee. This historic portion of the course provided water to the sugar mill back in the day. Your approach is played slightly downhill to a green that features plenty of movement and is guarded by several distinct bunkers. Ranked as one of the easier holes on the course, the 10th can jump up and bite you if you're not paying attention.

The longest hole on the course, No. 11 tops off at 604 yards and its S-shaped fairway, or double-dogleg, will provide you with plenty of challenges. There's little problem with the tee shot, as the fairway is generous, but just in case, favor the right side. Laying up can be tricky, as the fairway tightens between plenty of sand on both sides, including a large waste area on the right. The real difficulty is the approach. Despite having a short iron, the green is raised with shaved chipping areas all around and bunkers on the right and left. In fact, the bunker to the right is shaped like a donut. Although the green is fairly long, it is quite narrow and the edges are reminiscent of Pinehurst No. 2. Survive here and it can propel you down the stretch.

Number 12 is a monster of a par-4, stretching 483 yards. Although three bunkers guard the right and one 60-yard trap protects the left, the fairway is quite wide and very accessible. Your approach is where trouble lies, as you're left with a very long shot to a green protected by a large trap right, while the left corner of the green is guarded by a tall, 100-year-old tree. Not a lot of movement on the putting surface, but you'll have a very difficult time making par.

With three par-3s perched along the ocean, the 13th is often overlooked on the Teeth of the Dog. Certainly on the scorecard it's disrespected, as its rated as the easiest hole on the course. Hardly. I'm sure Mr. Dye gained inspiration for his Island Green at the TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course, as this hole is completely surrounded by sand. The raised putting surface also is protected on both sides by a pair of tall trees and the slopes around the green will repel any shot just a bit off-line. Getting up and down from these swales is next to impossible. It's been called "the hardest par-4 on the course."

The dogleg right 14th presents a great opportunity to get back one of the shots lost on the previous holes. The shortest par-5 on the course at only 497 yards, it has two key components. First your tee shot, which must avoid the trio of bunkers down the left side and the waste area all along the right. With a big tee ball, you can get home in two, but not without risk. A large lake on the right will certainly come into play if you try for the green, but it's worth the risk. If you're not a gambler, try to lay up toward the left- center of the fairway, as the landing area slopes hard to the right and funnels toward the sand. The putting surface is one of the smallest on the course at 28 paces in length and is quite narrow, with a severe falloff to the left and a bunker to the right. If you haven't realized it by now, the Teeth of the Dog is a second-shot course.

As you head toward the 15th, you'll hear the waves crashing along the rocks as the Caribbean returns in view. This is the shortest par-4 on the course at 374 yards, but it's also rated as one of the most difficult. With the wind howling off the ocean to your right, you'll need to start your tee shot fairly close to the edge in hopes of landing in the fairway. A mid iron should suffice to reach the green, but the surface is tucked to the right, jutting out into the ocean. You'll need to be right on target, as this green is as small as any on the course. A back-right pin looks great on camera, but quite difficult when you're trailing in a match.

The final par-3 on the course, the 16th is another signature hole at Casa de Campo. Ocean to the right, a pot bunker reminiscent of Pine Valley's 10th near the front, more sand to the left and a green with more movement than Jell-O is what awaits. Standing on the tee during his match with Floyd, Couples pondered what club to hit. He chose poorly and made double-bogey. If the Greens Superintendent decides to put the pin in the back-right portion of the putting surface, no one will make par.

As hard as the sixth hole was earlier in your round, the 17th is equally as difficult. Bending slightly to the right as it hugs the water, this par-4 will test your skills and embarrasses your lack of the same. Again, the fairway is quite inviting and should be handled relatively easy. As we said before, the true test of your game will come with your mid- to long-iron approach, as the green is situated very close to the rocks and a watery grave. Even with a successful second, the green can be very intimidating with many nooks and crannies. I speak from experience when I say, avoid the half dozen or so bunkers that adorn the left side of the fairway, as they are a double-bogey or worse.

Although you're leaving the ocean behind, the difficulty of the course is still at hand, as you tackle the 18th. If you're able to bust a 300-yard tee shot, then you'll be able to clear the crossing bunker that looms large down the left. If not, then play down the right side of the fairway for your best chance. The landing area does tighten quite a bit at the 150-yard mark, so it is best to have a long approach. As you head down the fairway, take note of the asphalt that you cross, as this was originally part of the airport runway that inhabited the property back in the early 1960s. With a medium to long iron, your play will be slightly uphill to the raised putting surface that is one of the longest on the course at 40 paces. A sharp falloff on the left leads to a pond, while missing right will end up in sand. Quite an exacting finishing hole.

FINAL WORD: This is certainly not your typical Pete Dye golf course, with railroad ties like at Harbour Town, or huge mounding, aka Whistling Straits. What it does have that reminds you of who the architect is, are enormous waste bunkers, contoured greens with shaved mounding, elevated greens and, of course, strategy, similar to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. That's part of the Pete Dye trademark. That's what was developed first at Teeth of the Dog.

"I just carved out 7,000 acres when I was down there, which was just a small parcel of the 500,000 acres that they had, which didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things," Dye said.

No, it's not big and flashy like some of the modern courses of our time. What it is is a course that tests your ability, enhances your senses and stimulates your inner soul.

"The Teeth of the Dog is a course you can play day after day and never tire of it," said Gilles Gagnon, director of golf. "Every hole is different, with its own intimidation factor. But despite that, it is a course that golfers at every skill level will enjoy. No matter what your score is at the end of 18 holes, you will be delighted to have had the opportunity to play the Teeth of the Dog."

The first few holes are solid, but when you reach the dogleg fourth through the eighth, you realize just what this great course has to offer. The back nine is no slouch, either, especially from numbers 12 through 17.

"It's a difficult golf course, but it's not as hard as Pine Valley," Dye said. "It's not simple by any stretch with the seven holes along the ocean and people peel their ball off into the ocean all the time, but they get around. It's still not an easy course, but people enjoy playing it."

To say the least. And the critics? They are obviously few and far between, as the course has been rated in the top 100 of every golf publication around the world since records have been kept.

What Casa de Campo has become in the past 40 years is a world-class resort, complete with all trimmings.

"Since building Teeth of the Dog," Dye continued, "we have five golf courses down there now and an airport that's big enough that non-stop wide-body jets come in from all around the world every day. It's a big resort and it's doing quite well."

Golf is just a small sampling of what this sensational resort is all about.

Deluxe accommodations, elegant and sumptuous dining, a rejuvenating spa, world-class polo and equestrian excursions, skeet and clay shooting, tennis, sailing, a private beach, your own personal touring cart and, yes, golf.

The phrase buddy trip or couples retreat has been bandied about for years in regards to resorts all around the world, but none can hold a candle to what Casa de Campo can offer.

How many times can you go to the same resort year in and year out with the guys or gals. I see and hear from many groups that go down to Myrtle Beach or Florida or even California and Oregon all the time, boasting "The 15th annual Myrtle Beach Cup" or "The Panhandle Championship," etc., etc.

Stop!

It's time to broaden your horizons, and think outside the box. The costs are going to parallel each other and you'll have better weather, meet friendlier people, experience new adventures and encounter a style of life, "The Sporting Life," that will grow on you.

Casa de Campo is everything rolled into one. It's the ultimate golfing and vacation spot, with 90 holes to choose from. Give Casa de Campo a try and embrace your life.

Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to psokol@sportsnetwork.com.

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