Pete Dye’s ‘Heaven 7’ on Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog
What happens when the greatest golf course architect in the modern era plies his considerable imagination and skill on one of the most beautiful spots on Earth? Well, you get one of the special places to play the ancient game of golf at Pete Dye’s glorious Teeth of the Dog layout.
Even with his 50-plus year resume featuring sparkling gems like Harbour Town Golf Links, the Ocean Course at Kiawah, TPC Sawgrass, PGA West and Whistling Straits, the maestro himself calls Teeth of the Dog his “best course.” How’s that for high praise?
“The opportunity to carve out Teeth of the Dog was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Dye wrote in his book, “Bury Me in a Pot Bunker.”
Why so good? Well, with seven dramatic holes hugging the craggy coral formations rising out of the azure Caribbean Sea, the golf is thrilling. The ocean holes, Nos. 5 – 8 and 15 – 17 are as scenic and challenging as the famous oceanfront seven at Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula.
However, Mr. Dye doesn’t take full credit for his creation of the “Heaven 7” on Teeth of the Dog, giving a “co-designer” tribute to a higher power. Dye famously quipped, “I created 11 holes and God created seven.”
Dye allows the player to get acquainted with the proceedings as the first four holes are inland and solid with teases of his hallmark traits living in harmony with island life: waste areas flanking fairways, bunkers exactly where your ball seems to want to travel, lush tropical vegetation swaying in the trade winds and tricky sloped greens providing all the challenge one would want with the flatstick.
Though all 11 of the inland holes are first-rate to the nth degree, Teeth of the Dog really presents its winning argument on why it’s widely recognized as the No. 1 course in the Caribbean and top 40 in the world with the Heaven 7. It all becomes apparent as we get seaside for No. 5 with the serene tropical sky and ocean expanse forming the mesmerizing horizon. You know immediately you’re playing somewhere special.
Few par 3s anywhere are as magnificent as the 174-yard 5th, which demonstrates in spades why the course is so acclaimed. This jewel of a hole isn’t camera shy as it’s become one of the most photographed in the world. It’s also the epitome of why playing Teeth is as “must play” as they come. Take a moment to savor the seascape before getting to the business of what Dye and Mother Nature have in store, golf wise.
The tee-box is hard against a rock wall standing guard against the unrelenting pounding of the surf while the peninsula green boldly juts out into the sea. Despite the idyllic setting, menace lurks most everywhere especially as a pretty little cove swallows up most anything hit short and the ocean at large is ready to devour shots struck to the left.
A semi-circle bunker flanks the raised putting surface front and left, while a ball-swatting tree rudely guards the right corridor should one think an inland route away from the drink might be prudent. It really isn’t, as the downhill pitch shot is next to impossible to stop. Thankfully the aforementioned bunker prevents the ball from becoming waterlogged. Throw in the vexing sea breeze and it’s all the golf one would want.
The 5th is so perfectly good, you just can’t wait to play it again, but the course still has six more oceanside holes of the “Heaven 7” remaining, each one every bit as fun and dramatic and thrilling to play. And on it goes at Teeth of the Dog, just one grand hole after another working in tandem to form the tapestry of this masterpiece. You only need to play Teeth of the Dog once to concur with Mr. Dye. Yes, this may well be his best course.
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