Golf and more at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic: 10 reasons to visit

LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic -- I can't decide whether to swing or stare.

I'm lost in the gorgeous setting of the fifth hole of the Teeth of the Dog, which has been the top golf course in the Caribbean since opening in 1971. The waves off the Caribbean Sea are gently lapping the rocky shore. The ocean breeze blows over my shoulder, pointing directly toward the flag. While it feels so welcoming to cool off the heat of the tropics, it makes the 137-yard shot to the tiny green seem impossibly hard. My senses tingle with fear and anticipation of the shot that lies ahead.

This memory is just one of the many ways guests can relish Casa de Campo, a 7,000-acre playground for all ages that could be your escape to break the winter blues.

Here are 10 good ways to spend a vacation inside the gates of the Caribbean's coolest country club:

10. Joy rides: Every room at Casa de Campo has access to a souped-up golf cart -- complete with lights and some extra zip -- to explore the sprawling resort. A simple trip to the beach becomes more fun when there's a cart ride involved.

9. Beach time: Beaches in the Dominican Republic are some of the world's best. The resort's private Minitas beach is no exception. Pina Coladas are the drink of choice for a great day in the sun and sand at the resort.

8. Horseback riding: The ride through Rancho Peligro -- 10,000 acres of backcountry owned by the resort -- is a magical journey through the jungles of the island. The Equestrian Center is also home to a Polo Club that hosts weekly matches that can attract a crowd.

Video: Golf Advisor visits Casa De Campo, La Romana

7. Delicious dining: My favorite meal of my three-night stay was dinner at The Beach Club by Le Cirque, mere steps from the beach. The breakfast buffet at Lagos Grill starts off the day with freshly made smoothies and so much more. La Caña, near the main lobby for lunch or a quick cocktail, is perfectly convenient and satisfying.

6. Shooting range: It doesn't take an expert with the steel to enjoy an afternoon shooting skeet, sporting clays and trap at the Shooting Club. As a rookie, I missed all of the targets my first couple of attempts. A simple tip from my guide and ... bang, crack ... discs began disintegrating. A 110-foot tower is available for more talented marksmen.

5. Water sports: An array of water sports -- SUP, snorkeling and windsurfing -- and sailing excursions are offered off the shores of private Minitas Beach or at the 350-slip Marina & Yacht Club. La Marina offers excursions of deep-sea sailing, fishing and diving, or best of all, kayaking along the 300-foot cliffs surrounding the Chavon River.

4. Tennis: The La Terraza Tennis Center, the "Wimbledon of the Caribbean," features 13 Har-Tru courts (10 lighted for night players) all situated on a bluff overlooking the resort and sea. Legends John McEnroe and Jim Courier were set to play an exhibition in November.

3. A night out: Altos de Chavon, a replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village high above the meandering Chavon River, took more than a decade to build and perfect. It feels like a completely different world than the Caribbean, yet it's just a short shuttle ride from the main resort. The cobblestone paths lead to a wonderful meal at La Piazzetta, boutique shops, late-night watering holes, the St. Stanislaus Church (popular for weddings), and the amazing 5,000-seat, Grecian-style amphitheater that hosts intimate concerts and events.

2. Island hopping: Don't leave without taking a catamaran sail -- an excursion set up by the concierge -- to Catalina Island, a private island located off the southeastern coast of Casa de Campo. Snorkelers can swim along a reef, or curious explorers can disappear into the deserted island.

1. Golf galore: Fifty-four holes designed by Pete Dye attracts golfers from around the world. Casa de Campo's Links Course helps knock the winter rust off before golfers gear up to play the Teeth of the Dog and the 27 holes at Dye Fore. Although the inland holes of Teeth of the Dog are solid, they can't compare to the seven holes along the sea. Dye Fore's Chavon nine clutches the cliffs above the river, creating some dramatic moments. The Marina nine sits high above the marina, affording awesome sea views.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Golf and more at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic: 10 reasons to visit