Monday, April 19, 2010

New Corales Course a Must Play

I just returned from a four-day jaunt to the Dominican Republic. It was my second visit to the “D.R.” and I came away more impressed than ever. My primary reason for the visit was to see and play the new Corales Golf Club Course at the PUNTACANA Resort & Club.

The course has been getting a lot of pre-opening buzz and I went down to see what all the fuss is about. Believe me, this one deserves the buzz. Think Pebble Beach oceanside style holes with Caribbean colors. Set between rocky cliffs, coral reefs and the expansive Caribbean Sea on the eastern shoreline of the country, Corales promises to take its place as one of the world’s great, exciting seaside golf experiences.

Designer Tom Fazio was on hand for the ribbon cutting and he summed up his latest masterpiece this way: “Corales encompasses a dramatic blend of captivating vistas, ocean cliff-side holes, rolling inland terrain and salt-water lakefront green sites, as well as with a memorable mix of variety and strategy. With a variety of short and long holes, holes playing into the breeze as well as downwind and a tremendous mixture of visual elements, playing Corales will be an experience to remember, and is sure to set the new standard of quality golf in the Dominican Republic.”

Here are some brief observations from my round:

  • Six of the 18 eighteen holes are oceanfront, including the final three, which have been dubbed “The Devil’s Elbow”
  • The fairways are gargantuan wide. Because of the prevailing winds, Fazio gives even the most struggling mid-handicappers more than ample landing areas.
  • The entire course (tees, greens and fairways) has the same grass—a plush carpet of Paspalum Supreme.
  • Currently there are no homes on the course. Plans call for a low-density focus with only 124 home sites.
  • The director of golf is highly-respected Jay Overton, who you may know from his many years at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa.
  • Construction on the course started in 2006.
  • My two favorite holes are 17 and 18. When you stand on the green of the par 3 17th you’ll feel a refreshing spray of Caribbean ocean against your back as the waves crash a few feet away. On 18, you hit across turquoise/blue waters from one craggy cliff to another. You can play safe leaving yourself a long second shot or bite off a big chunk resulting in a short wedge to the green.
  • The landscaping by world-renowned Spanish landscape designer Jesus Ibanez is phenomenal.

My advice: If you can play only one course in the Caribbean, make it the Corales.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Masters Musings

Where Will Tiger Play Next?

You won't see Tiger at Quail Hollow, The Players or any other upcoming tournament. Let’s face it, he played in a well protected environment at the Masters with overly polite fans afraid they would have their badges yanked if they got too rowdy. Once the beer guzzling, “You da Man” types, get a hold of Tiger at a regular event, watch out. Can you imagine Tiger at the island hole 17th at TPC Sawgrass at the Players, which is framed by thousands of beer swilling fans (not patrons)? If you think the Florida v. Georgia game is “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party”, you haven’t been around the 16th  and 17th greens at the Players on a hot spring day.

Best Round at The Masters

Like much of the golf universe, I was glad to see Phil Mickelson slip on the Green Jacket at the Masters. Phil played great and that 207 yard, 7-iron, between the trees off pine straw on the 13th hole is a shot for the ages. That said, Tiger’s final round was unbelievable. How can anyone, except Woods, jack one in the bunker, miss a one-footer, hit drives into other fairways all day and still shoot a 69. Almost every other pro would have shot 78.  Regardless of what you think of Tiger and his “Cocktail Waitresses Tour Across America”, the guy is still the greatest golfer on the planet.

Tiger No Longer Untouchable

First, Masters Chairman Billy Payne ties into Tiger and admonishes him about his off-the-course behavior and diminishing role model status, then announcer Jim Nance takes Tiger to task in a post Masters radio interview about Woods’ on-course cussing and general rogue behavior after a bad shot. There used to be a day when nobody, and I mean nobody, ever criticized Tiger. Those days are long gone.

Anthony Kim Will Win the Masters

One player overrun by the Tiger v. Phil morality play and golf tournament was Anthony Kim, who had a stellar Sunday. Kim is a virtual birdie and eagle machine at Augusta National. If he can get his injured thumb back to normal, he’s my early favorite at next year’s Masters.