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.

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