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Teeth of the Dog still has plenty of bite

By Phil Sokol - Director of Operations

La Romana, Dominican Republic (SportsNetwork.com) - "I created eleven holes and God created seven!"

Certainly not in the realm and importance of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech or John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you" address or even the catchphrase from the Terminator movie, "I'll be back," but Pete Dye's proclamation when he built Teeth of the Dog is quite memorable, not to mention accurate.

The crown jewel of the Casa de Campo Resort, the Teeth of the Dog has been consistently ranked in the top-50 world golf rankings for the past four decades and continues to outshine every course in the Caribbean and most around the planet.

Completed in 1971, Teeth of the Dog has grown from just under 6,900 yards to well over 7,400 yards in length and boasts a very difficult rating of 75.9. Over the years, Dye and his wife Alice have renovated, lengthened and refined the course to fit the design challenges of the 21st century.

"When I first went down to Casa de Campo, there wasn't any roads to it and I talked to the owners about letting me build along the edge of the ocean," Dye said. "There was plenty of land and they actually wanted to build an industrial park, but I got that stopped and was able to build Teeth of the Dog with seven holes along the water. It's a difficult golf course, but it's not as difficult as Pine Valley."

Personally, I can't say that I conquered the Teeth of the Dog, but I can boast about making birdie on the par-3 fifth, the first ocean hole on the course. No, it wasn't from the back tees, but a deuce on the scorecard, no matter where you played from, is pretty good to me.

Is the course as difficult, as say, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, another Pete Dye masterpiece? I don't think so, but having said that, it certainly was everything I had heard about and more and it certainly kicked my butt!

The Teeth of the Dog, however, is just a small part and parcel to what Casa de Campo is all about.

Upon your arrival to the resort, you're given a golf cart to maneuver around the property. Trust me, you'll need it, as the facilities are spread out over thousands of acres.

Accommodations at Casa de Campo are not your run-of-the-mill rooms. They range from luxurious villa homes, hotel rooms, suites and classic villas with, of course, all of the usual amenities. Hence the meaning, world-class resort.

The only downside, if it counts as one, you'll spend little time in your room, as the resort has so much to offer.

We briefly talked about golf and will finish with that later, so we'll move to tennis, as the award-winning La Terraza Tennis Center is nicknamed the "Wimbledon of the Caribbean," with its 13 courts, 10 of which feature lights.

Let's move on to the shooting center, a facility which features over 300 stations and a 110-foot tower for trap, skeet and sporting clays shooting. Lock and load!

"I haven't shot trap or skeet for years, but was really excited to give it a try," said David Magagna, world traveler and Casa de Campo resort guest. "We arrived at the shooting center where we received our vests and shotguns, of course, and the all important boxes of shells. After a short drive over to the shooting stations, we got started. What a blast! (no pun intended). The Clay Sporting Clays were popping up quickly, and you had to simply anticipate the spot and let it rip. I had a great day hitting approximately 16 out of 20 Clays that afternoon ... now if I can carry that skill back to Teeth of the Dog, that would be excellent."

If horseback riding is your game, Casa de Campo has both English and Western riding on several trails that overlook the golf courses, the breathtaking Chavon River and, of course, the miles upon miles of sugarcane fields.

Many in the know, however, feel that golf is secondary when it comes to Polo in the Dominican Republic.

Led by Cali Garcia-Velez, the director of polo & equestrian operations, Casa de Campo has hosted many world-class polo tournaments and exhibitions over the years. "We at Casa de Campo feel that we offer a comparative blend," said Garcia-Velez. "With everything from The Beach Club and our golf courses, sport shooting, world-class polo, a spa, restaurants, boutiques and a 16th century replica of a Mediterranean village and amphitheater."

Hard to argue with that logic.

A day at Casa de Campo is as good as anywhere on the planet.

Start out with a round of golf on Teeth of the Dog and try to survive the seven holes along the Caribbean Sea. Follow that up with lunch overlooking the golf course and then take your golf cart and drive down to Minitas Beach, the resort's secluded spot where the drinks are flowing and the water is as still and as mesmerizing as the sunset. If you thought that was relaxing, hop back into your cart and head on back to the spa for a steam, sauna, hot tub and a dunk in the cold plunge pool. Now it's off to dinner at The Marina and one of the many choices to sample. How's that for a day in the life! The hardest thing to do is trying to figure out what tomorrow will bring.

The spa is quite intense, as it's more than just a steam and sauna. Pick your poison, as the treatments are extraordinary.

I'm a hot stone massage guy, so I was right at home with this stimulating therapy. The rocks, however, might not be your cup of tea, but don't worry, there are so many massages, wraps, body and sun relief treatments, aromatherapies and facial, feet and hand care, that you'll have a difficult time choosing the right specialty to cure what ails you.

Since we began with smashing the little white ball around, it's only fitting we finish with the 90 holes of golf at the resort.

Dye has designed and crafted each and every hole at Casa de Campo, spreading out over 7,000 acres. From the Teeth of the Dog to The Links Golf Course, the Dye Fore layout with its 27 holes and the wonderfully private 27 holes at La Romana Golf Club.

Each course is quite distinct and challenging.

The Links course, at just over 7,000 yards, has a bit of a Scottish flair and boasts five consecutive holes on the back nine, where water comes into play. The layout was recently renovated and is quite pristine.

If you think the Teeth has bite, then you'll be quite bloody after wrestling with the Dye Fore track. The three nines -- Marina, Chavon and Lagos -- offer intense views of the Chavon River, the Caribbean Sea and the Dominican mountains. "Visually, the course is intimidating and the par-3s are in a word ... incredible," said Gilles Gagnon, director of golf at Casa de Campo.

From the black markers, you top off at 7,740 yards, have seven cliff-side holes with over 300 feet of elevation and winds that gust sometimes up to 40 miles per hour. Yes, the fairways are generous and quite reminiscent of Kapalua in Hawaii, but, all I can say is ... good luck!

Finally, if it's serenity that you seek, then La Romana should be your choice. Although private, a round on this serene, but difficult course can be arranged. You just have to know people!

And thank goodness I do, because I have a score to settle with the Teeth of the Dog on my next visit!

01/28 12:26:29 ET

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