Ever since it was agreed that my mate’s wedding would be held in the Dominican Republic, that our respective families would attend and that I would be his best man, I had been looking forward to it.
And suddenly the suggestion that golf, too, might be on the agenda made the prospect even more exciting.
So after the official festivities had been completed, and while the other grown-ups and kids were enjoying the hotel’s facilities, three of us took ourselves off to paradise – to play a course rated one of the world’s most spectacular and the venue for the 2002 World Cup of Golf.
The Teeth of the Dog course was designed by Pete Dye in conjunction with that great golf course ‘architect in the sky’ beside the ocean at the Casa de Campo resort – just 20 minutes by complimentary taxi from our own hotel.
It was my first chance to play one of the top 100 courses in the world (and rated No.1 in the Caribbean). And as a 22-handicapper from Stockwood Vale in Bristol who has only been playing for two years, I was ‘a little tense’ as we headed for the first tee.
My playing companions – Stuart Groom (11 handicap) and Wayne Usher (22) - were equally apprehensive as we handed over our $240 (£134) green fees and I hired myself a set of crusty old Callaway Big Bertha irons and woods for $20 (£11). I also chipped in an extra £11 for a caddie called Reggie.
The Teeth of the Dog’s creation set Dye the task of transforming the overgrown, jagged coral reef coastline at La Romana, two hours south of the capital Santo Domingo.
At home, I play once a week and try to practice once a week following the short-game tuition in Dr Bob Rotella’s excellent book ‘ Putting out of your Mind’. I frequently score under my handicap but nothing prepared me for this.
The first couple of holes are set back from the coast, to avoid a scary start but we quickly discovered the greens were equally frightening – fast and undulating and mostly surrounded by cavernous bunkers.
We also found that unless you are a good ball striker (I'm not) you can find yourself hitting the green only to roll off the back or sides into the ‘dog’s gnashers.’
After a while, we reached the seven ocean holes where the wind really kicks up. On the front nine it tended to keep our balls in land but on the back nine, as a slicer, I was in big trouble.
Dye’s trademark railroad sleepers, waste areas, island greens and tees and undulating putting surfaces contribute to his well-known signatures, though God played a major role, too. As for the rough it was as tough as old rope and when the ball sat down in it we needed arms like Popeye to get it out with any distance.
All around the course there is a lot of building work going on with drilling, banging and bulldozers rumbling around. Considering the price we paid, it was quite off-putting.
My caddie proudly told me that he ‘played to a four handicap’ and had his best round here of one over par 73 (Yeah, right!). Our doubts kicked in when most of the borrows he attempted to read for us on the fast, sloping greens, broke the other way!
As I was the one who actually paid for his services, he seemed really helpful in handing over the appropriate clubs for me and returning them to the bag. That is, until the 15th hole when I realised I was missing the sand wedge. We seemed to spend the next 45 minutes driving back and forth in a fruitless search for it, though we did discover my pal’s 9-iron!
The course was in good condition and with lush fairway grass. Probably not surprising considering that on one occasion, I had to walk through a spraying sprinkler to play my ball while the greens staff sat, no doubt amused, under the shade of a nearby tree.
Best hole on the front nine was a par-3 with a tee sticking out into the ocean and demanding a carry of about 120 yards to a green that slopes toward the sea.
We agreed the course was very nice but disappointing because of the noisy work going on around it and therefore not great value for money, especially as I had to pay $30 (£17) compensation for ‘losing’ that gnarled sand-iron, which would probably be handed in later.
My advice for anyone contemplating a visit here is to book your tee time for after 5pm when you can get a reasonable twilight rate.
Footnote: If you take your golf clubs to the Dominican Republic, book their return in advance, otherwise you will pay $10 (£5.50) per extra kilo for the return journey. One of our group paid an extra $80 (£45) and that’s on top of the $20 (£11) per person entrance Tax to the country and $10 (£5.50) leaving tax.
However, it’s still is a third world country outside the resorts and when you see what people have to live in, it really hits home.
As for me, the Teeth of the Dog bit me soundly on the bum – and on my wallet.
Teeth of the Dog course, Dominican Republic