Punta Cana Golf Course
Seeking to make the most of a marvelous site at the 15,000-acre Punta Cana Resort and Club on the eastern tip of the island, P.B. also sought to redeem himself for previous design efforts, many of them over-the-top creations that were judged to be visually stunning but virtually unplayable. P.B., who's fluent in Spanish and has been visiting the island since he was a kid, was determined to climb out of the proverbial sandbox and put his talent to good use at his home away from home. For him, this meant less is more.
The 7,152-yard, par-72 course, one of the longest in the Caribbean, sits opposite a sandy beach dotted with tall coconut palms fronting the Mona Passage, the body of water that separates the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico. This is the dry side of the island, but a cooling sea breeze is ever-present. Dye was given a valuable parcel that gave him room enough to route four holes directly along the sea, with the other 14 offering glimpses of the ocean. There was one problem, however: The entire site was a shelf of coral rock.
"Basically, we had to manufacture everything, including the soil," P.B. laughs, enduring a process similar to his dad's at nearby Casa de Campo in the late 1960s. After two million cubic meters of caliche (road bed gravel) was spread across the dead-flat site to create contour and movement, Dye capped the rock with sand and carpeted the fairways with Seashore Paspalum, a new hybrid grass that can be irrigated with seawater or recycled water. The grass, which requires half the amount of pesticide and fertilizer required by normal grasses, is dense, emerald green in color, and tends to perch the ball perfectly -- a plus given the unremitting challenge of Punta Cana.
Weaving holes in and out of a dry forest, P.B. brings players to the brink of the sea at the short par-three fifth, where the green tends to shrink in the face of a steady 10-knot breeze. Raising the ante, Dye goes for the jugular at the kooky seventh, a short par four that bends sharply to the left and leads to a tiny atoll-like green awash in sand and fronted by a hellish netherworld of deep swales, gnarly mounds, and pot bunkers. Dye calls this area "Hecklebirnie," or golfer's purgatory, according to Scottish legend. A few too many whacks here and you'll be begging for mercy and heading for the beach.
The back nine comes on strong and finishes in style. The par-four 17th, which plays directly along the sea, has large sunken waste areas indenting the fairway that are buttressed not with railroad ties but sawed-off palm trees, a nice local touch. The grand par-five 18th, a gentle dogleg to the left, is clearly patterned after the famous 18th at Pebble Beach, only here the shoreline is sandier, the water bluer, and the journey from tee to green longer and more perilous.
A beachfront clubhouse overlooking the 18th green opened late last year. It will one day feature a spa and fine dining. Also, P.B. plans to break ground (or chisel rock) later this year on a second resort course he promises will have seven holes set along the sea. The same number, in fact, as Teeth of the Dog.
Punta Cana's three-night Titanium Golf Package, featuring deluxe Golf Villa accommodations, all meals, unlimited golf with cart, and other extras, is priced at $985 per person, double occupancy. a la carte green fee is $84 for hotel guests, $112 for non-guests. Details: 888-442-2262.