Golfers will forever enjoy the sensation of discovering that “new golf destination”. A recent trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic provided that experience for me. Situated on the eastern tip of the D.R., Punta Cana Resort & Club is entirely master planned. In recent years it has become popular as a destination of choice for many of the “all inclusive” resorts. These resorts, for the most part are situated to the north of the Punta Cana airport and offer various levels of service and price points.
For golfers however, the Punta Cana Resort & Club is the jewel to be discovered. When you scratch below the surface there are a multitude of fascinating storylines that emerge; the purchase of 30 square miles of jungle in 1969 with no road access, the commitment of the owners to improve their country through tourism, the sustainable tourism plans they have adopted, the rerouting of an international airport runway to enhance a golf experience, an airport arrival and departure process which is far from the ordinary, and a hotel experience at the very highest level.
The airport is owned by the same company who own the new Tom Fazio course, Corales and the Tortuga Bay hotel. They seamlessly blend together their businesses to ultimately deliver a memorable and unique product. The Punta Cana airport is the third busiest in the Caribbean and enjoys scheduled service from most major East Coast U.S. cities plus London, Frankfurt, Moscow, etc. As a guest of Tortuga Bay, as you deplane you are met by a hotel representative and whisked thru the arrival formalities via VIP lanes. Luggage is delivered and you are quickly sitting in a hotel vehicle for the 5 minute ride to the hotel. Tortuga Bay has only 30 suites in 13 villas alongside the beach. It is charming and comfortable with a superb staff.
The original golf course is La Cana, built by P.B. Dye in 2000. It has three holes played directly alongside the beach and is a very enjoyable course. Officially opened this month, the Corales course by Tom Fazio is a solid Fazio design. It can be safely discussed in the same conversation with Eagle Point, Calusa Pines or Caves Valley. Tom has delivered a fine course to the owners. From a conditioning standpoint, it is equal to his U.S. projects and given the commitment of the ownership, I believe that shall remain true over time. P.B. Dye is in the process of building the Hacienda course across the street from La Cana and it is scheduled to open either late 2010 or more likely 2011. I drove 9 holes with P.B. this past weekend and it certainly appears that it will be a fine test of golf. The current plan calls for the original La Cana course to be refurbished once Hacienda is open. Therefore, some time in 2012 they should have 3 very strong courses within 5 mins of a world class hotel and 5 minutes from a superior airport. A golfers dream!
Away from golf, they have a Six Senses Spa (the first in North America) with staff from Thailand. My wife, as a bit of a spa junkie and connoisseur was thoroughly impressed with the experience.
The departure experience at the airport was equally special, with VIP lines, lounges and for icing on the cake, a golf cart to the steps of your scheduled aircraft. It did not go unnoticed that they are re-routing the airport runway by what looked like 30 degrees to avoid overflight of the new Fazio Course and adjacent homesites…that is impressive!
If you are seeking a warm weather destination that is luxurious yet unpretentious, with excellent golf, spa and dining opportunities, I think you will not be disappointed in Tortuga Bay. I know I shall be returning and hope to see you there!