Posted On: Sunday, December 31, 2017
It’s safe to say that it’s a combination of things that creates a truly memorable golf vacation. And while it’s a given that the golf has to be good - or hopefully great - there other important factors such as the quality of accommodations and the ease of getting to the golf course.
You also need good food and service and some enjoyable apres-golf activities.
So you can imagine what would happen if all these components came together beautifully in an all-inclusive package at a gorgeous five-star resort on a Caribbean island.
Yes, that’s right - it’s a wonderful thing!
And I got to experience it at Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort near Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
What struck me most about the experience was how easy things were at this resort. You wake up in a room that overlooks one of the world’s top-10 beaches then you take a leisurely stroll to a poolside breakfast buffet offering so many choices it’s almost overwhelming.
Sitting near the pool sipping coffee and enjoying a delicious breakfast is definitely a great way to start the day. And we haven’t even got to the golf yet!
But before looking at the resort’s impressive Pete Dye-designed golf course, here are some things you should know about the resort.
It has 1,991 rooms and it’s actually two resorts in one with an adult-only facility near the main family resort. Eighty per cent of the rooms have an ocean view.
They have five pools, including a rooftop infinity pool that overlooks the ocean, a fully-equipped fitness centre and a beautiful spa that includes hydrotherapy and other health and beauty treatments.
Food choices are incredible with 14 on-site restaurants - most of them distinctly different with décor and cuisine from various countries of the world (not to be missed is Kyoto - the Japanese restaurant where they will put on quite a show preparing your dinner).
After dinner, you have some other great choices to make - and they’re all right on the resort. There’s nightly entertainment in a 1,400-seat open-air theatre or you can head to one of the resort’s 16 bars including a disco and sports bar.
Other choices include a bowling alley and casino. You can also shop until midnight at the many retail outlets within the resort.
Being bored should never be a problem at this resort. And it definitely won’t be at the resort’s golf course where the course, with 25 inland lakes and ponds and 122 bunkers, will demand your full attention.
Dye is known for his tough golf courses (think Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Ocean Course at Kiawah Island) but in this case he has done an excellent job of making the course challenging but also highly playable.
The key is to choose the right tee deck.
You have five choices and they range from 4,688 to 6,555 yards, giving everyone from the scratch golfer to the high-handicapper a chance at a decent round.
Quick Tip: Having played from both the whites and the blues, I would recommend choosing less yardage than you would back home because you’ll get less roll on the soft fairways and you’ll have to focus on strategy, not power, to avoid the sand and water.
The meticulously-maintained course starts off with two of its easiest holes - a par 4 with a generous fairway that plays only 285 yards from the whites and a 144-yard par 3 that has a large and inviting green.
Then the real work starts. The third hole is a straight-away par 4 but at 394 yards from the whites and with bush down both sides of the fairway - and a single tree on the right side of the fairway providing an extra obstacle - it requires both power and precision.
The first six holes on the front nine have a real parkland feel to them but the views open up as you tee it up on #7.
The tree-lined fairways are gone and suddenly you’re looking at lots of water, sand and palm trees. It’s gorgeous - but a little scary at the same time.
The most memorable hole on the front is the 9th - a spectacular par 3 with an island green reminiscent of Dye’s most famous par 3 - the 17th at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Verda, Florida.
It’s only 118 yards from the whites but with any wind at all it’s a tricky shot to a two-tiered green that is protected by not only bunkers but also one of Dye’s signature features - railway ties (hit one of those and your ball could go anywhere).
Mercifully, the drop areas on the par 3s are right next the green so if you dunk your tee shot you still have a chance at bogey.
Dye is also known for great risk-reward holes and you’ll find plenty of them on this course, especially on the back 9 where water comes into play more often.
The 10th is a great example. It’s a 308-yard par 4 dogleg left with water all the way down the left side.
Take it down the left side and you’ll have a short shot into the green or you can play it safe to the right and take your chances with a longer iron into a green sitting on the edge of the water.
The ultimate risk-reward hole is the 15th - a par 4 that plays only 218 yards from the whites. How could you not go for it, right? But that’s the beauty in the design - if you go for the green there is plenty of trouble to deal with, including a pond along the right side and bunkers on both sides of the fairway. And the green is surrounded by trees.
An easy 5-iron and a short pitch should get you in birdie territory but Dye is counting on some players being unable to resist the urge to get on in one.
Whether you botch it or birdie it, one thing is certain: your next three holes will be memorable.
The 16th is a beautiful par 5 dog leg left where you may catch a glimpse of pink flamingos or other wildlife and the 17th is a dog-leg right par 4 that will test your nerves on your approach to a green surrounded by water.
The final hole is my absolute favourite. It’s a 252-yard par 4 dogleg left that requires a tee shot over water then an approach to a green that sits on the edge of an inland lake and is guarded by bunkers and railway ties.
Even if you don’t make par or better, it’s a memorable hole to finish on.
And once you’re done, I think you’ll agree that Dye has done a masterful job of creating a resort course that looks great, is challenging but fair and - best of all - is so much fun to play.
For more on the resort CLICK HERE
You can also view more photos by going to Harron Marketing’s “Paradise at The Lakes” digital publication. CLICK HERE