In 1971, Pete Dye and a crew of laborers took sledgehammers and pickaxes to coral rock and created Casa de Campo's Teeth of the Dog. Ever since, there's been no shortage of reasons to trek to the Dominican Republic for an exceptional golf vacation— and here's one more.
Along Hispaniola island's northeast shore, architect Rees Jones has recrafted a modern marvel called Playa Grande. Opened in November 2015, Playa Grande is the centerpiece of a Dolphin Capital–developed resort and community that also features the striking, cliffside Amanera hotel. This is the first golf property for luxury-branded Aman Resorts.
Jones and senior designer Bryce Swanson had a head start: a preexisting 1997 layout created by Jones's father, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., that never quite realized its potential. Following the renovation, consider it realized.
The seaside layout is draped atop headlands (much like Pebble Beach), with 10 cliff-top holes edging the Atlantic. The oceanside drama commences early, at the 245-yard, par-3 third, and things get outright thrilling on the 190-yard, par-3 seventh and the 450-yard, par-4 ninth, both of which demand carries over water. Significant routing changes occurred on the back nine, which now closes with five consecutive seaside beauties. Still, the course is playable for all, thanks to softly contoured green surrounds, many run-up opportunities into the low-profile greens and bailout areas galore.
Playa Grande embodies a perfect resort-golf experience. Better players can do battle with length, strategic bunkering and shot-making demands, while wide fairways and layup options cushion the blow for higher handicaps. (The views are for everyone.) Rees, your father would have loved what you've done with the place.
Where: Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic.
Course Info: 7,259 yards, par 72.
Architect: Rees Jones, 2015