An Expert Guide to Golfing at Casa de CampoPublished on 03/14/2023 · 8 min readGolf Expert Adam Ditcher brings you along on his time playing the courses at the Casa de Campo Resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic
Photo by Adam Ditcher
I recently had the great privilege to attend a golf tournament at the Casa de Campo Resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic. The resort, ranked as a top option in the Caribbean by Golf Digest, contains four different Pete Dye-designed courses: Teeth of the Dog, Dye Fore, The Links, and La Romana. Dye Fore contains three different nine-hole courses: Marina, Chavon, and Lagos. Experiencing the courses and having the opportunity to play them was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I would highly recommend a visit to any golf fans who are looking for a dream golf destination.
I was invited to attend a tournament put on by PGA Magazine called the GRAA Pro-Am at Casa de Campo. We arrived in the Dominican Republic on November 3rd and left on November 7th, 2021. We had the opportunity to play the front nine at The Links course upon arrival at the resort on Wednesday. After that, we played Teeth of the Dog twice—once for a Thursday practice round and again on Saturday for the final 18 holes of the 36 hole tournament. Friday, we played the first round of the tournament at Dye Fore and were on the Chavon course for our front nine and the Marina course for our back nine. La Romana is a private club at the resort so we were not able to play it while on the island. Additionally, we didn’t get an opportunity to play the back nine at The Links, so I am only able to speak to the first nine holes.
Starting on The Links upon arrival was a great warmup for the more punishing Pete Dye designs we had awaiting us. The Links sits on the internal portion of the resort and has no holes that are along the ocean like Teeth of the Dog. The course isn’t nearly as punishing as the other designs we went on the play, but the green complexes were brutal in true Pete Dye fashion if you missed the green. A lot of slopes and collection areas surrounded the greens, and some of the greens slope severely. The small green on the side of a hill on hole #3 comes to mind immediately as a challenge.
The course doesn’t play impossibly long—we played the back tees for the front nine and the tips are about 6,800, while Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore can both tip out far beyond 7,000 yards. Both of the par 5s on the front nine were fairly manageable, and overall it’s a great place to start your trip to get your game in shape, especially if you are from Buffalo, NY, where trying to practice golf in October can get difficult with the weather.
Teeth of the Dog
The picturesque Teeth of the Dog was our next treat on the island, and we were able to play this beauty twice. Settled into the south-facing towards the coast of the resort, there are seven holes right along the coastline, and the signature design by Pete Dye on the property lives up to its photos online. Some of the green complexes were, in typical fashion, extremely punishing the first time seeing them, and it was immensely helpful to get a practice round on the course before the tournament to be able to make some mental notes on places that are impossible to get up and down from.
Starting on the first hole, you play inland for a bit until you reach hole #5. Seemingly easy on the scorecard, it’s much more intimidating to hit into a par 3 under 150 yards when everything to the left is the Atlantic Ocean, and any miss right leaves a downhill pitch straight towards the ocean. After fumbling your way through, you’re greeted with a par 4 straight along the coast and then a second par 3 along the Atlantic. Finally, hole #8 is another gorgeous par 4 along the water before you turn inland for the end of the front 9. Do not fear, however, as you’ll return to the coastline for holes #15, #16, and #17 as you approach the end of your round trying to keep your round from falling off the rails.
Hole #15 is a short par 4 with a fun extra green on an island in the middle of the ocean to your right. It’s worth noting that you don’t actually play to an island green, but it’s a fun extra feature so players can run a closest-to-the-pin challenge (don’t expect to recover your golf ball) if they get stuck waiting somewhere for the group ahead of them. Hole #16 is another lovely ocean-side par 3 but with the water on the right side this time. Hole #17 finishes your ocean views with a final par 4 that has bunkers down the left side and the Atlantic down the right. You end up finishing hole #18 right in front of the clubhouse. On Thursday, we were glad to see the round come to an end after a lot of jet lag and struggle on the course!
We started the tournament on Friday with our final Pete Dye design: Dye Fore. Located within the same resort, you’d think that the two courses were on opposite sides of the country with the drastic variation in terrain. While Teeth of the Dog flows along the coastline by the ocean, Dye Fore’s 27 holes stretch along the Chavon River and the valley around it. Specifically for the two nines that we played for the tournament, the Chavon nine holes run along the river valley, and the Marina nine holes go down the hills and sweep back up after a beautiful view overlooking the marina on the south shores of the island where the Chavon River empties into the ocean.
The first nine that we played, there is basically nowhere to miss down the right side until you get to hole #4. The first three holes all run right along the river valley, and the terrain just drops off the right of where each hole is carved into the hill. You then get out to holes #5 and #6, where the valley sits on the left side of the hole. And after that, holes #7-9 all sit inland from the river valley, although they aren’t without their challenges, both in terrain variation as well as more of the standard wild green complexes that Pete Dye put all over the property.
The Marina course starts on the opposite side of the road, down near the driving range, and has three straight holes that lead you down the slope of the hill towards the ocean. Suddenly, after putting out on hole #12, you can see all of the boats docked adjacent to the river mouth and some beautiful homes that have the best morning coffee view within miles. After #13, the rest of the holes work their way back up the hill towards the main road to Dye Fore. Every hole sweeps through the landscape as if it was always meant to be there.
The variation across just the three nines for Dye Fore is astounding. We did not get to play the Lagos nine, but I’m confident that it would be just as challenging and memorable as the two we were able to explore.
Once-in-a-Lifetime Golf Experience
Our team did not exactly set any course records out on Dye Fore, and after a frustrating day, we found ourselves closer to contention in the tournament than we had expected. The final day of the tournament, we went back to Teeth of the Dog and finished up our golf excursion.
However, Casa de Campo has plenty of additional activities that are available on the resort in addition to golf, such as a shooting range, spa, multiple restaurants and bars, a cigar factory nearby that offers tours, and pools and beaches all around. We stayed in a lovely villa which meant that we could have all of our group under the same roof instead of in separate hotel rooms across the property. Each villa came with golf carts so you could transport yourself around the resort, and the staff at the resort were friendly and seemed to genuinely care about your guest experience.
All in all, I had an outstanding time at Casa de Campo and would highly recommend the resort to anyone seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience with their golf buddies. It also helps that somehow, we ended up winning the tournament in the net division. On Saturday, our team played a little better back on Teeth of the Dog, having already seen the course, and the win was a pleasant surprise at the event-ending banquet for our squad.
If you are struggling with the winter blues and want some help brainstorming ideas for a golf getaway or need some new equipment to get ready for your trip, be sure to reach out to me or my fellow Curated Golf Experts. Also, be sure to check out my other articles on packing for a golf excursion as well as tips for how to fly with golf clubs!