When it comes to epic golf buddy trips, the short list of destinations typically reads something like this: Pinehurst Resort, Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach, Streamsong and Destination Kohler. Then there are more regionally-focused properties, like PGA National, Barton Creek, the Homestead and Reynolds Lake Oconee. Many groups don’t consider the Caribbean an option due to distance and cost. But Casa de Campo Resort and Villas in the Dominican Republic has been dispelling both of these myths for decades.
First, let’s consider distance. There are direct flights to the Dominican’s primary airport, Punta Cana International (PUJ), from several U.S cities including Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, New York City and many more. Flight time is typically between two and three hours, and the shuttle ride from PUJ to Casa de Campo is an easy 45 minutes along a smooth four-lane highway. Make sure to look up from your smartphone and check out the endless sea of sugarcane fields and mountain ranges in the distance.
Second, let’s talk about cost. Make no mistake, Casa de Campo is a premier, luxury resort property. Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez, Jay-Z and Beyonce are regular guests, as are many former U.S. Presidents. But shoulder season rates in the late spring and fall, and off-season rates over the summer are considerably less than the peak season, spanning January through April. And what you get for the money; well, let’s just say if your group is all about collecting experiences, Casa de Campo is one of the best values on the planet.
So if you and your crew would like to mix it up a little bit for your annual golf hang, here’s our Ultimate Casa de Campo Resort and Villas Golf Trip Guide.
Grab a Golf Package
All inclusive, all-you-can-play golf packages can help offset the cost for groups who prefer to stay in a spacious golf villa right on the golf course. Casa de Campo typically offers an unlimited golf package including all three courses – Links, Dye Fore and the legendary Teeth of the Dog (all designed by Pete Dye) for $499 per golfer, per night. The all-inclusive edition is $699 per night, and both versions include golf carts.
For larger groups, the Golf Buddies Villa Package is the perfect choice. It includes a comfortable three- to five-bedroom villa, one round of golf per person on all three courses, daily, shared carts, practice range balls and four passenger golf cart. Regarding the latter, golf carts are the preferred transportation mode in and around this sprawling, 7,000-acre complex. Just be sure to check the website for the latest offers and pricing by season.
Bring Your ‘A’ Game
If you think Casa de Campo’s relaxed Caribbean vibe means the golf courses are going to be pushovers, think again. Teeth of the Dog is widely considered one of Dye’s most challenging courses, and that’s saying something considering the World Golf Hall of Famer’s design credits include the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and the Stadium Course at PGA West. With seven holes playing along the ocean, “Teeth” will be one of, if not the most, memorable track your group ever plays, period.
And if not for Teeth of the Dog, Dye Fore would get way more mention as one of the Caribbean’s most demanding tests. Many of the international “best of” rankings include this 27-hole complex among their top courses, including Golfweek, which has it slotted at No. 20. The Chavon Nine, playing along a high cliffside overlooking the Chavon River, is one of the most dramatic settings for golf in the world. With three nines and the Golf Learning Center, Dye Fore is a micro golf destination unto itself, capable of facilitating a full day golf and good times for your group.
The “third pitcher” in Casa de Campo’s rotation is The Links. At just over 6,700 yards and a reasonable slope rating of 129 from the back tees, this vintage Dye design gladly plays the role of a welcoming old friend, offering golfers an opportunity to fine-tune their game a bit before taking on the dynamic duo that is Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore. Collectively, this triumvirate provides golf groups with the optimal blend of playability and challenge.
Bring Your Appetite
Casa de Campo is no ordinary golf resort, and its culinary offerings are anything but “run-of-the-meal” (see what we did, there). In fact, the evening’s dining establishment becomes a destination of its own, a celebration of the day’s good times on the golf course. On arrival day, it’s hard to resist the allure of the Caribbean, and the new Mintas Beach Club is an awesome spot to grab a casual dinner while sipping a cocktail and gazing out into the azure waters.
Either of the restaurants at Altos de Chavon, Chilango Taqueria or La Piazetta, pair perfectly with a day at Dye Fore. This replica 16th century Mediterranean village is only a quarter-mile away and five minutes by golf cart. Build in extra time to walk its cobblestone streets and visit the many boutique stores tucked into its quaint corridors. If your group’s battery meter is still full, check out Genesis Nightclub for a true taste of the Dominican nightlife.
The other “must make” dining sojourn during the trip is to the Casa de Campo Marina, which could easily pass for a James Bond movie set with its multi-million-dollar yachts, luxury condos and lively Latin vibe. La Casita is THE place for fresh, Spanish-inspired seafood dishes while kicking back at a dockside table just a couple of feet above the waterline. The whole fried or baked red snapper never fails to delight, paired with one of the restaurant’s crisp, cool white wines or an ice-cold beer.
Oh, and a word about breakfast, the most important meal of the day for many golf groups. The all-you-can-eat buffet at Lago is a thing of beauty, choc-full of American standards and Dominican delights. And Dominicans take their coffee seriously, so there’s a full array of fresh brewed java including house-made cappuccino. Lago looks out on Teeth of the Dog and the ocean, so it’s also a great way to prime the pump in the a.m.
When it comes to international golf destinations, the question is often “to bring clubs, or not to bring clubs?” Even serious, low-handicap golfers will consider shipping clubs in advance or, if the resort stocks current high-end sets, reserving rental clubs. Robert Birtel, longtime golf director, encourages Casa de Campo groups to bring their own clubs. The resort does have Titleist rental sets available for those who prefer the convenience of not checking bags.
Birtel is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the finer points of planning a golf buddy getaway to Casa de Campo. His favorite order of play for groups is Teeth, Dye Fore, Teeth and Links, but he’s also a big fan of groups opening on Links to get their sea legs. He also suggests that groups explore renting a golf villa and hiring a personal chef to prepare meals during their trip (which Casa de Campo can provide for an additional fee).
And the obligatory Covid-19 update: as of this writing (October 21, 2021), the U.S. still required a negative Covid-19 test for reentering the country. Casa de Campo has a private testing site in the heart of the resort, and representatives will gladly schedule your group’s tests well in advance of your visit. Overall, the resort is as fastidious a property as you’ll find anywhere in the world in terms of Covid-19 safety protocols, including cancellations. You can learn more at its Casa Cares page at the website.
For more information, or to explore reservations at Casa de Campo, visit www.casadecampo.com.do