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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Teeth of the Dog Tops Caribbean Must-Play Lists

Teeth of the Dog - Casa de Campo
Teeth of the Dog Hole #7
If there's a soft, sentimental side to Pete Dye, I'd never seen it until I played Teeth of the Dog, the fabulous headline course at Casa de Campo in La Romana, Dominican Republic. For a guy who is renowned for designing brutal, tricky golf experiences, Dye gave the average player a break when he first laid out the course, which opened in 1971. He's tweaked it repeatedly since but Teeth of the Dog still offers regular guys and gals a chance to make a par now and then as long as they don't become besotted by the scenery.

Because views are what Teeth of the Dog offers in glorious profusion. Seven holes play along -- or over -- the sparkling Caribbean Sea, four on the front and three on the back side. The course is not quite as dramatic as Pebble Beach but it's very close. The biggest difference is that Teeth of the Dog has a more intimate relationship with the sea. You play directly over it on several holes and are close enough to bring it into play on more than you may like. You're not separated from the water by a beach either -- it's right there most of the time. When the sea isn't influencing your club selection it's drawing your eye.

Teeth of the Dog - Casa de Campo
Teeth of the Dog Hole #5
The par three fifth hole, one of the most photographed holes in the world, calls for a pinpoint 137-yard pitch over the crashing surf to a tiny seaside green while the longer seventh, 188 yards, presents much the same mix of beauty and terror on the tee. All measurements are from the blue tees, by the way. Holes along the water on the front side are dangerous for those with an over-active draw, while the seaside testers on the back punish the slicer. The wind, of course, beats everybody up all the time.

But the seaside holes aren't the only excellent challenges on the course. Teeth of the Dog provides an excellent mix of par fives that run from 457 to 555 yards, as well as a collection of par fours that bend left and right and stretch as long as 430 yards. There are also a surprising number of elevated greens. The course opens both nines with relatively easy holes, but the Pete Dye we've all come to know and love/hate shows up on the second hole, which has a waste area/lateral hazard that lines the entire left side of the fairway. The 170-yard par three 13th hole is jokingly (or not, depending on where your tee shot ends up) called the hardest par four on the course. It's the only one-shotter that doesn't play along the water but it's surrounded by an immense waste bunker and guarded by massive trees on each side of the green.

Greens are appropriately sized for the length of the shot you need to make coming in to them and contoured enough to make things interesting. Most of them are protected not just by well-placed bunkers but by grass collection areas that perhaps make up-and-downs even more difficult than sand.

Teeth of the Dog - Casa de Campo
Teeth of the Dog Hole #18
The three finishing holes capture the spirit of Teeth of the Dog perfectly. The 181-yard 16th has a green (larger than you think) perched twenty yards above the sea -- a place where aggressive fades will go to die a watery death. The 377-yard 17th is a gentle dogleg that hugs the cliff side in a beautiful risk-and-reward scenario. The closer, a 428-yard par four, plays away from the sea but holds your attention with a deep bunker that cuts the fairway in half right in most player's landing area, a lake that guards the corner of the slight dogleg, and an elevated green that drops off into a score-killing collection area and/or several bunkers.

Teeth of the Dog features five sets of tees ranging from 4779 to 7478. The blues, playing at 6,600 yards, are going to be more than enough for most of us. The course rating from there is 73.2 and the slope 137.

Teeth of the Dog is probably one of the most reasonably priced premier courses in the world, by the way. At $155 to $185 for hotel guests (and $175 to $259 for non-guests), it's a huge bargain. Caddies are required (and who wouldn't want one on a course like this?) and walking is encouraged. Need a swing tuneup while you're there? Casa de Campo is home to the only Jim McLean Golf School in the Caribbean.

But don't take my word for how spectacular Teeth of the Dog really is. You can see the entire course with a new smartphone app that allows users to virtually tour the layout with a moving aerial flyover.
Jointly released by Casa de Campo and Golf Digest/Golf World, the app also features course information, a yardage guide from all tee boxes for each of the 18 holes, tee time availability, tournament and personal scoring, and a photo gallery.  In addition the app provides information about the award-winning resort in the Dominican Republic, weather, a guide outlining things to do in the area, and convenient contact information. The free app is available now and can be downloaded by visiting http://www.bestapproachflyovers.com/TOD_teethofthedoggolf/.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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