By Rick Young
Pete Dye’s most famous piece of golf-land art will always be the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He envisioned the course out of the Florida swamp, and it has gone on to become the home of the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The PLAYERS.
But the “Teeth of the Dog” course in the Dominican Republic is the one that captured the late US course architect’s heart. The crown jewel of Casa de Campo Resort & Villas in La Romana, Teeth of the Dog was a revelation in Dye’s storied career, with the seaside 18 holes first bringing his name to prominence in 1971. He liked the area so much that he and his equally famous course-designer wife, Alice Dye, kept a retirement home there. And that’s where Dye passed away recently, not far from a majestic seven-hole stretch of Teeth of the Dog that the designer himself refused to take credit for. “I created 11 holes. God created seven,” he often said.
And Dye isn’t alone in his appreciation. This past year, Golf Digest magazine ranked Teeth of the Dog number one in the Caribbean and 27th for courses outside the USA (and 52nd in the world).
What stirs the emotions while checking this course off your bucket list? To answer that, we need to look past the awe- inspiring Caribbean ocean vistas because all 18 holes are challenging. Terms like “let up” and “breather” are never used to describe Dye’s work here.
Playing as short as 4,950 yards and as long as 7,475 yards, it’s a course that demands attention to detail and proper nerve to play as the designer intended. He offers you “best” and “not so good” sides to take off the tee, and your reward for the correct line will be an easier second shot.
The greens are beautifully crafted, with gentle to rolling pitch and the speed tailored smartly for a resort clientele. Equally impressive is Dye’s bunkering. Start to finish it is bold and innovative, but not diabolical in placement or extraction should your ball find the odd one.
To give you a frame of reference for the playing experience, Teeth of the Dog hosted the 2019 Latin America Amateur Championship with the winner, Alvaro Ortiz, earning a place in the Masters at Augusta National.
“It inspires me. Good shots are rewarded, poor shots are punished,” said Ortiz after his win. “A quality test [of golf].”
All bite, no bark
At the same time, Teeth of the Dog is very fair. With consideration for the correct tees, based on ability, it can actually play somewhat short with no forced carries and run ups in front of many greens.
The width of some of the fairways might even fool you on occasion.
“It’s the Pebble Beach of the Caribbean,” explains Jason Kycek, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Casa de Campo. “Not only is it distinct, but the general feed- back we get from players as a first-time experience is ‘Wow!’ Then it’s, ‘Can I book another tee time?’ Golfers never get tired of playing it. We also have two other outstanding Pete Dye courses on the property—Dye Fore and Dye Links—but no question, Teeth of the Dog is what Casa de Campo is known for with golfers worldwide.” And no hole is more memorable than the famous par-three fifth.
For nearly half a century, it has stood the test of time as one of the games most-photographed golf holes. Jutting out on a peninsula next to the ocean, the entire setting has a singular aura about it. The shortest of the course’s par-three holes requires only a short iron to the green site, and it’s one you hope to hit to allow more time for pictures.
Equally memorable (and photogenic) are the longer and more devilish par-three seventh and 16th holes—both capable of tightening your grip to a stranglehold level—while the short par-four 15th is arguably the most difficult fairway to negotiate here, with a tight driving corridor to dry land.
“The mix of holes is amazing,” says Kycek. “To think Pete did this course almost 50 years ago speaks to his genius as a designer. The seven holes along the water are fantastic, but golfers will come in and tell us they love the inland holes just as much. There’s great balance.”
Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo might not be Pete Dye’s most famous golf course, but it’s not hard to make a case for it being his finest.
Award-winning golf writer/author Rick Young is one of Canada’s most trusted voices on golf and matters related to the golf industry. A founding member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Young’s articles have appeared in a variety of publications through- out North America.