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The Golf Rum Diaries - Casa de Campo (Part 2 - Overview, Teeth of the Dog, and The Links)
[Author's Note: In Part 1 we explored the general architectural themes Pete Dye used at the Casa de Campo golf courses. Now we will break down the individual courses and holes. Remember we are talking about four different facilities with a total of 90 holes: Teeth of the Dog (18), The Links (18), Dye Fore (27, the Marina and Chavon nines, which friends and family still refer to as "Dye Fore" and the new "Lakes" 9, which friends and family call "Dye Five" or more commonly just "Five"), and the private but sometimes accessible La Romana Country Club (27, divided into the "Old Course" 18 and the "New 9"). A new 18 with a working title of "Dye Six" will be started shortly.]
8th Green from Behind. Play Away from the Flag
Sunday, 6:15 a.m. As the sun comes up and the marina begins to materialize out of the Caribbean dawn, I'm high on a grassy plateau overlooking the broad expanse of the Dominican coastline. It's a fine, clear morning and I can hear the waves lapping onto the shore, smell the tang of the salt in the breeze, and hear birds chirping serenely. There is a wholesome sense of solitude here on this edge of the world, nothing but the wide placid waters of the Caribbean extending off into the horizon, sparkling sapphire blue.
Though I have a Droid full of music, "Exile on Main Street" has been the theme for the week and again, as if on cue, Mick Jaggar and three 20-something L.A. chicks (who sound right out of a Georgia gospel choir) are boasting about "stayin' up all night, stayin' up all night," directly after proselytizing that they "just want to see His face."
That's quite a contrast there, eh, Mick? Though it does speak volumes about the breadth and depth of the work on "Exile".)
I haven't been up all night, but I might as well have been. The rib rehab, rum and really good NSAIDS have done their job admirably. My ribs are on the way to recovery, and I've at least been able to hit a golf ball. I'm sore but no longer in constant pain. Yet sleeping is still problematic, and after three un-fitful hours (and two more tossing and turning), I realized this setback was actually an opportunity. And so I watch a splendid, joyful sunrise and reflect on the golf so far which is just as broad in scope and depth as "Exile on Main Street."
As of Sunday morning, I have played all 63 of the public holes at Casa de campo and 18 of the 27 at the private La Romana Country Club (I saw the "New 9" the next day, but we will include here a brief analysis of everything for the sake of uniformity). I can say with adamantine certainty that one of the critical questions I came to explore can be answered in the affirmative:
Dye Fore is vastly underrated and underappreciated. It needs to be ranked considerably higher - considerably higher - than it is right now, and every major golf and sporting magazine should send their best people here immediately, because one of the Great Golf Courses of the World (yes, capital G, G, C and W), is being badly short-changed. Someone's gonna get smart and be the first to come down here and print the undisputed truth: It used to be that golfers had that one reason to come to Casa de Campo . . . now they have two, and golfers need to put Casa at the top of their "To Play Immediately" list.
The Approach on 14
So to recap:
Teeth of the Dog was, indeed, everything that was promised: Seaside golf, intelligent strategic design to test the experts, resort playability for amateurs, and a unique and beguiling natural setting. Teeth laid the conceptual groundwork the way for much of the work Pete Dye did at his major championship venues, so it is also one of the most important courses in both golf history and golf course architecture.
The Links - while a links in name only - is still a solid golf course, a petit center filet in comparison to the double porterhouse and chateaubriand of Teeth/Dye Fore, but still a choice cut. Its stature is dimmed only by its ill luck at having two supermodels for sisters. The back nine, though watery, is particularly strong.
Dye Fore (Marina and Chavon nines) - Dye Fore demolishes all expectations. It is one of the great links courses of the world, every bit as good in natural setting and golf architecture as Teeth of the Dog and in many eyes even better. If the pros ever came here for a televised tournament, it would be as big a moment in golf history as when Jack Nicklaus put Pebble Beach on everyone's golf map with his U.S. Open win in 1972. Once that happens, the tee sheets would be full for the next decade straight. Dye Fore is a bucket-list golf course to be spoken of alongside any of the courses at St. Andrews, Bandon Dunes, southwest Ireland and Pebble Beach. You can't say you've seen all the great golf courses of the world if you have not come to Casa de Campo, because there are two of them here.
Five (The "Lakes" or "Lagos" nine of Dye Fore) - Five is excellent architecturally but, as it is contained on its own plateau, secluded from either the marina views or river views - with almost a blank space for a natural setting, it's a stark contrast from the majestic grandeur of the natural settings of the Marina and Chavon nines. It feels and looks more modern (though it does play somewhat similarly to the other nines in that you can use the ground game), but it's so desolate and secluded, desert almost, that switching to Five from either Marina or Chavon is a pretty noticeable change in the flavor of the golf. You'll still have to play it intelligently, it is a load of fun and does have old-school design moments. But where Marina-Chavon looks like it's 100 years old, Five looks like Pete Dye's recent work from the 1990s forward.
Happily, however, Five also looks like the "New 9" at La Romana, so . . .
La Romana (New 9) - Completely different from the "Old Course," which was built in 1986, the New 9 is most similar to Five. It has the same modern shaping and contours as Five, shares a more similar natural setting with Five than either the Marina or Chavon nines (or the Old 18 at La Romana), sits adjacent too Five, it even - at times - looks and plays like Five with similar bunkering in places, as well as many opportunities to play the ground game.
La Romana (Old Course) - If you look at the various Casa courses chronologically, you can smoothly trace Dye's progression as a designer over his career. La Romana Old fits perfectly between the primordial Pete Dye work at Teeth and the Links and the more modern shaping and design at Five and the New nine. Like all Dye courses, especially those at Casa de Campo, it employs the "Doctrine of Deception," allowing you to pick your line and fail or succeed on the planning and execution of your game plan, not the architect's requirements. It's also an excellent players' club, much like Quail Ridge in the Palm Beach area of Florida, with many excellent and competitive amateur players from across the globe.
And by the way, 90 holes of Pete Dye golf and not a single railroad tie to be seen anywhere. Water hazards are sandy, coral reefs or rock-lined. Remember that the next time someone tries to describe "typical" Pete Dye golf course to you as "railroad ties."
[Author's Note: There's been talk about making Dye Fore a 36-hole facility. Pete supposedly set aside land for a clubhouse which will sit between (and therefore unify) the four nines we are discussing - the three already at Dye Fore and the New nine at La Romana. What makes perfect sense is to combine the new nine holes of La Romana (play that first because it ends on a par-3 and a zany one at that), and Five/ Lakes nine into a contiguous whole. They look alike, play alike and are fairly close to one another. Moreover, breaking up the Marina-Chavon combination would diminish a golf treasure, one that is of great architectural value and importance and one that, with more intense media exposure, would rise rapidly to the prominence it deserves.
"I like that idea, that makes a lot of sense," said Dye. Of course it does - it keeps together what was intended to be together. "They might also just divide the 36 holes into those north of the road and those south of the road and call them the North and South courses."
That would mean La Romana New and the Marina nine would be paired as the North course and the Chavon nine and Five would be combined into the South course. Personally, your author feels that choosing convenience over much more important considerations like design continuity and historical importance is a misstep, however well intended. There is no other benefit to the proposed "North-South" division than convenience, while there are several grave objections artistically and substantively. The proposed North-South division would result in two courses of mixed heritage and style: each would have nine holes of links golf and nine non-matching holes of modern golf. Marina-Chavon should be preserved for the links golf treasure it is. A combination of "New-Five" would also be a triumph both artistically and architecturally, a perfect example of this "hyper-modern" style Dye has exhibited so successfully of late. A superficial example of this same flavor can be seen at places like Nemacolin Woodlands and French Lick.
But we may be speculating idly; nothing has been decided yet and Marina-Chavon is still the marquee combination at the Dye Fore facility, and something every golfer needs to see in their lifetime. Dye Fore is so good you should drop what you're doing and leave now.]
5th Green is Gorgeous but Deadly
The Big Dog
Teeth of the Dog is a critically important golf course to study. Historically, it's a marker, a watershed, an important milepost in golf design, a place where you can see our generation's greatest golf designer begin his stratospheric journey in full ascension. More importantly, you can see why his ideas about golf design are great and begin to trace his design concepts and ideology, viewing the progression of his career vividly from the start.
But you need the right kind of eyes. Anybody can make shallow, superficial observations of what a golf course looks like and state the obvious, but a true golf-travel critic will explain to you how a golf course plays. That's the crucial difference. If you want to know why certain courses (and correspondingly certain architects' courses) stay atop rankings lists for a long time (Ross, Macdonald, Mackenzie, Doak, Dye) and why others debut high, then steadily percolate downwards (Nicklaus, Fazio, Rees Jones) the difference is the same as between the lightning bug and the lightning: the former exhibit stronger concepts of golf course design while the latter are just another flash-in-the-pan pretty face. The latter look great, the former play great.
First, Teeth was built the old fashioned way - by hand. Teeth is a groundbreaking course metaphorically . . . and literally! Pete, Alice Dye and 300 native laborers with machetes, shovels, pickaxes, oxen and carts had to hand-carve the jagged edge of the coral coastline with primitive implements, as well as move the innumerable boulders that peppered the property. They couldn't bring in any of the modern equipment, and it resulted in grueling, back-aching labor.
"This property was chosen because they couldn't grow sugar on the coral," said Teeth assistant pro Raul Cendoya. I doubt they could grow much else on it, with gigantic boulders littering the parcel as well.
Brilliantly routing the layout of this difficult 152-acre parcel for both maximum excitement as well as strategy, Teeth is the first of those "Figure 8" seaside/lakeside routings Dye uses to balance the strength of the course, the hazards and its scenic views between the two loops of nines and to balance the number of left-to-right and right-to-left holes. It's one aspect of a larger design concept called the "Doctrine of Symmetry," which Dye uses liberally, especially at resorts and tournament venues. He used the same Figure-8 routing concept at Whistling Straits and, to a slightly lesser extent, at Kiawah Island, so what you see here laid the groundwork for his major championship venues later in his career.
Although Dye does like the Doctrine of Symmetry, he also - happily - loves the Doctrine of Deception. His holes are never dreary, center-line, penal slogs. He doesn't "frame" the shot for you - that's kid's table design; at a Dye course you have safe options and dangerous options, and he'll try to tempt you to go for a shot beyond your talent or bluff you into playing safe when you could have gone for it. But either way, he gives you enough rope to either hang yourself or the golf holes - it's up to you to make sure it isn't you swinging from the gibbet.
Now let's get something else straight right off the bat. There's been talk by some writers that "Teeth of the Dog is a second-shot golf course." NO, Teeth of the Dog is NOT a "second-shot golf course." While an average player tacking his way around the course intelligently can manage his game quite well and post a satisfying score, an expert can't just drive the ball anywhere he likes and expect to be able to make birdies or even pars.
"To score well on a Pete Dye golf course you must drive the golf ball well. It all sets up off the right tee shot," explained director of instruction Eric Lillibridge. "You should also start at the pin and work backwards - like Ben Hogan did - to understand where Pete wants you to hit the ball. Teeth is completely playable for amateurs, the fairways are wide. But for an expert to put his drive in the landing zones for the optimum approach to the flag places a premium on both length and accuracy. You have to plan every shot carefully because the green complexes on Dye courses and, especially at Teeth, are smaller."
No. 3 - a Rarity for Dye
Another reason why you can't just spray the ball all over the park is because there seriously penal hazards await you if you hit the ball sideways at the wrong time. You block a drive out right on 15 or 17, it's swimming with the calamari. You slice on 14, you're in a mangrove. You yank one on six or eight, the ball rolls up on a beach in Venezuela. And you hit a goofy hook on two, and you're in the only arroyo on the property. Besides, Dye's liberal use of diagonal angles and S-curves creates what's referred to in golf design as "Lines of Charm." You can't just fire away at the flag - you have to play intelligently to have the correct angle for the next shot. Torrey Pines is a second-shot golf course; Bethpage Black is a second-shot golf course, even the Links course is, perhaps, a second-shot golf course. Teeth of the Dog is most certainly not.
Let's correct another misconception: Because of the strategic, intelligent nature of the design, Teeth of the Dog is not all about the seaside holes . . . it's all about the angles and strategies. Yes, the seaside holes create indelible memories. But the inland holes are excellent architecturally and one of the reasons why this particular seaside course stays high in the rankings while others debut high and then founder, is because the inland holes match up much better than at other courses.
Teeth of the Dog can be divided into four parts, a symphony in four movements: Nos. 1-4, 5-9, 10-13, and 14-18.
Pretend you are starting to draw your Figure 8 at the center point - begin by drawing the lower-right quadrant: these first four holes make their way to the edge of the Caribbean. They are all excellent holes and set the stage for the first stretch of seaside golf admirably. At the first, a short par-4, good internal green contours turn one large green into two small greens. The grassy hollows back right and left are deep, but they give you greenside options - pitch, chip, putt or lob. At the par-4 second, where the only arroyo in 90 holes of Pete Dye/Casa de Campo golf guards the left side at a diagonal angle, the green actually opens up quite widely from the right, so there's no reason for an amateur to challenge the arroyo too closely. However, the professional will want to hug the left for his best angle to get close to the flag.
"Dye's greens get really shallow if you're coming in from the wrong side," explained Lillibridge. "Take No. 1 - the green sits obliquely, so you want to play well left off the tee to get the optimum angle, not just play straight at the flag. The same is true with two - for an amateur the further right you are the better, but for a pro he has to challenge the hazard to have his approach coming in down the axis of the green."
Three is the first of Teeth's four par-5s, playing uphill to a green benched into a hillside guarded by steep roll-offs and deep bunkers. It's an excellent, short par-5 because its small green and severe surrounds defend par well without unnecessary length. You don't need 600 yards to defend a par-5 if you have small, curvaceous greens and interesting, rugged, closely-shaved surrounds. You get your first picture-window views of the Caribbean to the right of this fairway, as well as at the fourth green.
Five through nine form the lower-left quadrant of the Figure-8 with the Caribbean hugging the left side of holes 5-8, a par-3-4-3-4 stretch, and some of the most unforgettable golf of your life. Even though you have a short-iron or wedge on your hands on five, that tiny green sits in the Caribbean Sea; not adjacent to it . . . in it!
"Five green is the size your bedroom growing up as a kid," quipped Lillibridge.
The Difficult 13th with its Raised Green
Although seven is similar in appearance, it's a much longer shot with a little more bail out room right and long.
The two par-4s, six and eight, feature similar tee shots over an edge of the coral coastline, the approaches are markedly different from one another. Eight is phenomenal with its semi-blind bunker and swale guarding the front of the green. To use the ground contours on the approach you must aim far right (at the palm tree!) to have the ball filter back to the hole. Everything slopes around the bunker and grass swale. It's an amazing approach shot, one you'll replay in your head for a long time.
"The bail-out is in the back, so I put a deep grass bunker back there, but guys can play out of it. Heck, you can putt out of it if you want," stated Dye. "Short grass lets everybody play what club they want and not get frustrated trying to pitch out of a spinach patch full of long rough all day. It gives a resort golfer a better chance, but it gums up a pro's head when you make him think 'What do I do here?' "
The par-5 ninth is another of the quintessential "draw off tee, fade into green" S-shaped Dye holes that tries to keep the player off-balance with alternating shot requirements. That has also become one of the most important and unmistakable defenses to scoring Dye employs. Similarly, the par-5 11th follows the same alternating shot pattern, but features significantly less curve to its S-shape.
Nos. 10-13 tack back inland and form the upper-right portion of the Figure-8. Ten is a great sweeping par-4 playing right-to-left, curving like a scimitar around an enormous waste bunker. Again, Dye creates the Line of Charm between the tee and the green, making you bite off as much of the hazard as you dare off the tee.
I'm of two minds about the long par-3 13th, the only par-3 not on the edge of the Caribbean. It's a well-defended with its crowned green and wraparound bunker, but its difficulty also arises from length as well as the premium on accuracy and the aerial attack. It has many design concepts of a "Short" hole as seen at, say, National Golf Links of America, or other C.B. Macdonald Bloodline courses (though it lacks the trademark "thumbprint or horseshoe in the green), but it's length makes it what many, including Lillibridge, call, "the easiest par-4 on the golf course." That being said amid a mango grove, it's a solid, if puckish hole with a unique character.
At the 14th tee the course turns back for the home stretch. No. 14 is a great, short par-5, reachable but dangerous, with water waiting off the tee and on the second shot and deep pot bunkers all around the green complex. You can take anything from three to eight.
That brings up another misconception about Teeth of the Dog that should be corrected: People who think the par-5s here are weak are dead wrong. There is a world of difference a short hole and a weak one. Remember, two of the greatest par-5s in golf are also the shortest - 13 and 15 at Augusta National. It's that siren call of temptation into the risky shot that makes a great par-5, not six 600 yards and a required full third shot into an oversized green. Teeth's par-5s are all good holes and 14 is a particularly fine short par-5.
If you must have ludicrous length, nine and 11 can now stretch to 600 yards, but are still 530 and 555 from the blues, plenty of length for amateur golfers. "Don't underestimate the par-5s," agrees golf architecture expert Jim Coleman, who loved Casa so much he bought a house where he splits time between the D.R. and the States. "14 is great example of a tropical hole with it's tropical lagoon, and the lay-up is difficult because the landing area is narrow. Three is also strong because the green sits elevated, grinning at you like a skull. It's a really difficult shot to pitch onto that green or hit a longer club in."
Nos. 15 though 17, a par-4-3-4 sequence return you to the sea, this time with the water on your right. At 15 a savior bunker running along the sea wall may save your ball from rolling into the Caribbean, but a push, block or slice is wet. The site of a lonely flag fluttering in the breeze silhouetted against nothing but the rolling waves is as idyllic as any golfer could desire.
Many people agree that 18 is a weird finisher; it just doesn't fit with the rest of the golf course. This medium-length but severely uphill par-4 features a cross-bunker that cuts almost completely across the fairway, leaving only a narrow sliver of a landing area for the correct angle to the pin. Approaching from anywhere other than Position A is sheer murder. The water really isn't in play at all unless you hit a goofy pull-hook for your approach. The green has several undulations, and bunkers and swales protect it fiercely. It's a short but difficult closing hole, and you have to be mindful not to fall asleep on that tee box thinking that now that the Caribbean Sea is behind you, the worst is over. No. 18 has ruined a lot of scorecards because people made the mistake of breathing easy too early.
No. 15 at Teeth of the Dog
Dye came here first in 1969, finished the course in 1971, and Teeth has been top dog in the Greater Caribbean/Central America region since that day . . . the unopposed, all-belts unified champion. It's remarkable longevity in a vastly competitive field as it's beaten back all-comers . . . even Dye Fore!
Teeth is Dye during his formative years: you can see his progression as a designer starting at an early point in his luminescent career. For example, greenside swales aren't as pronounced or rounded as in later courses, they are smoother and more natural-looking and they have macro- and micro-movement. Even so, you also have to have a good short game from 100 yards in. Teeth has 116 bunkers, and you'll end up in plenty of them whether you play aggressively or conservatively. Green complexes are fiendishly clever and difficult at times, even though you have short-game options. If you miss a green in regulation it's imperative the next shot gets on the green, because if you don't that's how wasted strokes pile up and ruin your score. It speaks to how well-defended Dye courses are without overuse of water or machismo-like length. It's also an easy walk, with tees and greens close together.
Is it a links? Maybe - you sure can play the ground game and the terrain does link the land to the sea. "I don't think about those things when I'm designing, but now that I think about it, maybe it is a links . . . maybe Dye Fore is too," explained Dye.
Also there are many ties - more cultural and ideological than superficial with "Exile on Main Street."
"Since we were out of the country and doing everything by hand we wanted to reduce everything back to basics, the music too . . . and the more you follow the music back, the more you connected with its roots until eventually you were listening to Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson . . . Maybe we missed America, but when you're touring the Midwest in 1964 and '65, that's all you're going to hear. It's the other side of rock 'n' roll."
Teeth is the same way. Dye was out of the country and doing everything by hand. But Tom Doak wrote that because of the difficulty in doing the work without machinery, Dye could pay meticulous attention to detail. "I know he loved that," wrote Doak, "because I know deep down it's Pete's own favorite [design] - ideal job description, total artistic control including choice of site . . . he could shape every contour by hand like the craftsman he is."
Opened in 1974, the Links was the second course Dye built at Casa de Campo. It shares a clubhouse and practice facility with Teeth (and is, therefore, just steps away from the main building, much of the resort lodging, restaurant, pool, spa, etc., amazingly convenient). Renovated in 2011-12 by Pete and his onsite, longtime associate, Chris Lutzke (who has worked with Pete on projects for over 25 years, including French Lick, Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run), the Links is a links in name only. It's an inland course, at times protected by trees, at times playing around man-made lakes, but at all times employing hazards strategically.
Where the holes on the front are a mixed bag of really good, curiously interesting holes, and a couple experiments by Pete that never got repeated again anywhere else, the back nine, though watery, is particularly strong. While Teeth of the Dog is a symphony in four movements, the Links allegros from humble beginnings to a rousing crescendo.
The 8th Green with its Hurly-Burly Undulations
If there is a drawback, the Links doesn't have a specific character. Teeth and Dye Fore are two different styles of exciting clifftop/links golf: one tropical, the other more classic. The Links, as an inland, parkland design - ringed by trees and houses - doesn't seem to have a unifying flavor or "statement of place." Unlike Teeth or Dye Fore, it doesn't show you anything you haven't seen before.
But it's still good, straight-ahead golf. It serves its purpose admirably as a fine, low-impact change-up from Teeth and Dye Fore. Easiest to play physically and with lots of options and angles for approaches to its well-guarded greens, it won't beat you up, but it's not a pushover either. Also, it is primordial Dye, which means it lacks the intimidating, often over-the-top mounding or bunkering of his more modern work. You can see his strategies in the ground a little more clearly than at Five or some of Dye's modern American work. For experts, there are a lot of good "half-par" holes where you can make three or six. You can be as aggressive as you like, but you have to execute, and the greenside hazards are severely testing on a player's short game.
"What's interesting is that the Links course and La Romana play almost as tough as Teeth, but don't look anywhere near as hard as Teeth," Dye noted. "So people walk off encouraged and want another crack at it. That's the thing about Casa de Campo. People like it so much here they want to come back no matter what they shot.'"
As such, the Links is perfect for the whole family or for the younger kids to practice on in anticipation of a date at the bigger courses on-property. Plus, tees and green are close so, under normal conditions, even walkers can zip around the Links in as little as two-and-a-half hours and have all day at the beach, too.
The first hole doesn't look like much of an opener until you get close to the wide-but-shallow green, which severely tests distance control. Miss and you're well below green level in either a bunker or the depths of a grassy hollow with a nasty first pitch of the day on a short par-4 you thought was a pushover. At the second, we see an early example of the "S-shaped" par-5 that became a staple of the Dye repertoire.
The par-4 third is notable for its extreme rarity from Dye - a straightaway hole. For once, there is no Line of Charm and you can bust a driver as far as you want dead at the flag and then hit it again in the same direction. Normally a Dye hole bends you this way and that . . . oftentimes in two different directions in the same hole, the "alternate-shot patterns" of, say, Nos. nine and 11 at Teeth of the Dog, five at PGA West (Stadium Course), and the back-to-back S-turns of 14-15 at Sawgrass. With the green benched into a hillside with a steep drop-off left, the third hole looks more like a Jones design than a Dye.
There are some other interesting notes on the front. The waste bunkering at the short par-3 fifth gives a glance at Dye's eventual move in a modern-looking direction. The par-4 sixth, on the other hand, showcases another unusual idea (and one thankfully abandoned going forward): tree gates.
The course really picks up steam at eight, another hole that looks unlike any other Dye hole you've seen anywhere, but a really good one that should have been brought back. Though a long par-3, the green sits well below the tee in its own little dell, prim as a cameo, completely surrounded by bunkers and mounding. There is phenomenal movement to the green surrounds, with hollows and swales all around the putting surface. It's the most interesting hole on the front nine and one not often repeated by Dye, if ever.
From the 12th hole on, the golf course is excellent. I normally don't like man-made, inland water hazards, but by utilizing diagonal angles, Dye turns penal hazards into strategic ones. No. 12 is an excellent Cape hole swerving hard right around the lake. Another diagonal angle confronts the golfer at the short par-3 13th.
Fourteen and 15 are the best back-to-back holes on the course playing around and over a second large lake. "At 14, I put a great big, deep grass bunker right where you want to bail out to avoid the water," explained Dye. "The miss is actually short of the green." That's actually a constant theme on Dye holes, and when both sides of a green seem well-guarded look for bailout areas long or short.
After a carry back over an arm of the same water hazard guarding the green at 14, the 15th features an excellent roll-off to the left side and front of the apron, sending poorly-struck or -planned approaches scurrying well away from the curvaceous green. The 16th green contains two plateaus separated by a long but shallow swale, a theme Dye also used at La Romana and Dye Fore and one adapted from his love of Raynor and, in particular, Raynor's use of Biarritz and double-plateau greens. While the 16th green is not a classic double-plateau or a Biarritz, you can see Raynor's influence on Dye, and you can see how the green contours Dye designs continue to test the golfer. They are a refreshing change from the oversized, flat, homogenized greens of many American mega-designers. Indeed, 12-16 are as strong a stretch of golf holes as any anywhere on the Casa property, barring the closing stretch of Dye Fore. Their only shortfall is in the natural setting category. Nos. 17 and 18 are an outstanding par-5-par-4 finishing combination.
The Links has excellent green complexes and diverse hazards (so it's a tough test of your short game), but it's mellow off the tee. You can hit driver every hole, and can even spray it, but approaches have to be tight to score well. There are 120 bunkers out there, most of them greenside and many of them deep. At Teeth, you get bitten sharply and deeply when you make a bad mistake; at Links it's death by 1000 little cuts.
Monday, 12:00 a.m. I'm on the same hill as I was this morning, but this time all the stars in the tropical sky have been unveiled and we can see the lazy haze of the Milky Way above. The Big Dipper is directly overhead (as opposed to the horizon of a more northern sky). We're trying to find Orion, but flailing. I got a "D" in Astronomy in college because what I thought was a duck was a high-level Physics class.
"We," by the way, is me and a nubile little Northern California number in her late-20s. Her name is Missi, with two "i's" . . . two sultry bedroom eyes at that. I met her in the pool the day before and talked her into hanging around for a few adventures like walking Teeth of the Dog, hanging out in the Jacuzzi, and late-night star-gazing while "Exile on Main Street" still plays on my Droid. "Tumbling Dice" is on now and, right when I need him, Mick is there, singing the song he wrote with his housekeeper who loved craps:
Honey! There's no money . . .
Come on sixes and sevens and nines!
Stay there baby, I'll be right outside,
You can be my partner in crime . . .
"If this is golf writing, I like it!" she beamed, her Brugal Extra Viejo and Sprite carefully balanced in one hand, perfectly curved hips grooving to the beat.
I like it too. Damn, girl, you look like a strawberry ice cream sundae! Just another reason to love Casa de Campo . . .
But again, "Exile" brings me back to Teeth of the Dog. Like "Exile" on Main Street," Pete Dye's work shows you unexpected things, and because of that people tend to misunderstand it at first. But also like "Exile" you see how Teeth of the Dog traces its craft back to its classic precursor's roots, not only paying homage to them but becoming a textbook example of them, sharpening and slightly modernizing them so we can see them more clearly. Over time, like "Exile," Teeth has acquired a magical glow and is spoken of in revered holy whispers. You'll notice you never hear any of the standard, tired complaints about Dye's other courses spoken about Teeth of the Dog. You never hear the talk of "unfairness" about Teeth. You never hear the cries of "over the top" or "screwy" or "manufactured." Both Teeth and Dye Fore look eminently natural.
And heck, as far as exiling people goes, they should have sent Napoleon here, not Elba. He'd have never wanted to leave. I know I sure don't. Great golf and a gorgeous girl, add rum and seafood as needed - you can be my partner in crime indeed.
News, Notes & Quotes
Diente del Perro
The jagged coral edge that forms the barrier between the golf course and the Caribbean resembles the bottom jaw of a dog, hence the super-cool name: Teeth of the Dog - Diente del Perro.
"I know Diente del Perro!" my wisenheimer 89-year old Dad said as he proofread this article. "He was from East Utica. I went to St. Agnes Grammar School with him and Joey Testa and Tom Miggliaccio."
Uh . . . Dad, that was Vinnie del Tierra, but thanks for playing.
Jim Coleman & the Coleman Tees
After a 2005 renovation Teeth of the Dog now plays to a 75.9 rating and a bloated 145 Slope. (The blues are 73.2 and 137.) The reconfiguring of the tee markers resulted in a 6,500-yard blue tees (they used to be 6,700), but 7,000 gold tees.
Well, Jim Coleman missed the 6,700-yard markers so much, he just plays them anyway! They're now referred to by staff and even some guests as the "Coleman Tees" - the old blues. You gotta be super-cool for Casa de Campo to name a set of tees after you!
America, Take Note!
The signs are everywhere and on all the scorecards: "Your position on the golf course is behind the group in front of you, not in front of the group behind you. Keep your pace of play."
It works and it's refreshing to play golf in three hours again!
Paspalum is Your Pal
Both Teeth and the Links have the new Paspalum grass for both the greens and tees. Happily, it has grown in well. Sometimes Paspalum has a tendency to skid for the first 12-18 inches of the putt due to its particularly short grain. We saw several players raise concerns about this at Kiawah Island during the 2012 PGA. Having played on new Paspalum greens in the U.S., I can confirm I've seen several courses where the neophyte Paspalum greens skidded. The Paspalum at Teeth and the Links is, on the other hand, perfectly predictable. Balls started on the line intended and held the line for the duration of the putt.
Casa de Campo is running a summer special for $329 per night U.S. Check www.casadecampo.com.do for details and scheduling of course closings for maintenance, or click on Part 1 of this article (http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/the_golf_rum_diaries_casa_de_campo_part_1_setting_the_table).
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma 's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 420 nationally ranked public golf courses in 40 different states, and covered seven U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships, along with one trip to the Masters. A four-time award-winning sportswriter, Jay was called the best sports poet alive by both Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports writers and broadcasters. Jay has played about 3 million yards of golf - or close to 2,000 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf, PGA.com, Golf Magazine and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.