Seaside golf thrives in the Dominican Republic

Home to 26 golf courses, the Dominican Republic doesn't have quite as many as Puerto Rico.

More of its holes sit directly on the ocean, though, a major reason the Dominican Republic just might be the best golf destination in the Caribbean.

The paradox of the Caribbean is sadly alive and well in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Spectacular beachfront resorts and seaside courses provide a stark contrast to the poverty elsewhere on the island. Pete Dye's iconic Teeth of the Dog course at the luxurious Casa de Campo resort celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2011. Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Price and others have built upon that foundation.

Here are 10 of the best public places to play golf in the Dominican Republic:

Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo

The venerable Teeth of the Dog Course roams directly along the shore seven times, including three spectacular par 3s. Dye returned in 2005 for an extensive facelift. Nothing more needs to be written. It's a bucket list destination.

Corales at the Puntacana Resort and Club

This immaculate Tom Fazio design opened in 2010 as an exclusive playground with limited public tee times. The Corales Course takes an Augusta National approach to its conditioning with no blade of grass out of sync. The three ocean holes starting at no. 16 are called "El Codo Del Diablo" (aka "The Devil's Elbow"). The two coastal beauties that finish the front nine, the par-4 eighth hole and par-3 ninth hole, might be even better. Fazio built an extra green at both the third and 15th holes to add shot variety. They rotate play daily. Celebrities Julio Iglesias and Oscar de la Renta -- two investors at Puntacana -- own secluded homes on the course, and de la Renta designed the understated clubhouse.

Video: Part II of our visit to DR takes on Punta Cana, Punta Espada

La Cana at the Puntacana Resort and Club

The P.B. Dye-designed La Cana Course at Puntacana was rushed into completion in 2001 to give golf to this growing destination on the eastern shore of the island. A few shortcuts during construction make premium conditioning harder to achieve, so it's never as lush as Corales. The price tag reflects the difference. Dye built wild mounds and tiny pot bunkers that erupt out of nowhere. The fourth and the 16th greens flirt with the ocean, while the par-3 fifth, par-4 17th and par-5 18th holes roam directly along the shore. Island greens on the par-4 seventh hole (surrounded by sand) and the par-3 12th hole (surrounded by water) add to the carnival of fun. Dye's inland Hacienda Course, which opened nine holes in 2012, uses some of the same tricks.

Punta Espada Golf Club at Cap Cana

Jack Nicklaus introduced Punta Espada to the troubled Cap Cana development in 2006 by making birdie on the incredible par-3 13th hole over the ocean. For several years it hosted the Champions Tour before the economy tanked. The resort eventually plans on having three Nicklaus courses. It will be hard to top the original. Several of the tees and greens of the eight picturesque seaside holes are so close to the rocky coast that golfers can actually feel the ocean spray of the waves.

Dye Fore at Casa de Campo

Pete Dye added another nine holes in 2011 to an amazing facility that dances on the cliff tops of a 300-foot-deep river gorge. Dye Fore's 27 holes boast spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea, the Dominican mountains (the highest mountains in all the Caribbean), the Chavon River and the Casa de Campo Marina. Dye Fore might play second fiddle to Teeth of the Dog, but it's certainly not a second-tier experience.

Playa Grande Club & Reserve

Rees Jones is currently renovating his father's seaside stunner located along the remote north shore. Robert Trent Jones Sr. originally built 10 holes directly on the ocean with cliff-side fairways. The work is expected to be completed later in 2014.

The Links at Casa de Campo

A renovation completed in 2012 brought this Pete Dye course built in 1974 up to the standards of its two sister courses. While the Links Course lacks the views of Dye Fore and Teeth, it still provides a strong test of golf through lagoons, jungle and sand. If you're still desperate for more, check out La Estancia (designed by Dye's youngest son, Paul Burke Dye) about nine miles away in a developing estate community.

Guavaberry Golf & Country Club

Guavaberry, a 7,156-yard Gary Player design, sits in the jungles of Juan Dolio less than an hour from the airport at Santo Domingo, the capitol. Player designed two greens separated by a waterfall on the par-3 13th hole, a unique twist on an otherwise straightforward resort course just minutes from a budget-oriented all-inclusive on the ocean, the Costa Caribe Corale Resort, Spa & Casino.

Cana Bay Palace at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana

The golf at Cana Bay Palace, an inland 7,253-yard course by Nicklaus, resides conveniently inside the gates of a sprawling all-inclusive resort just 35 minutes from the Punta Cana International Airport. The fairways at Cana Bay Palace start out wider before shrinking as the round goes on. The 453-yard ninth is both the hardest and the prettiest hole with water seemingly everywhere.

Iberostate Bavaro Golf Club at the IBEROSTAR Punta Cana

Like the Hard Rock, the Iberostar is about a half-hour from the airport. P.B. Dye transformed a naturally flat landscape into a challenging course of elevated terrain with swales and mounding, 105 of his signature sand bunkers, lakes and extensive rock work. Iberostate Bavaro Golf Club opened in 2009.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries 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 @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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Seaside golf thrives in the Dominican Republic