Tortuga Bay at PuntaCana Resort & Club - aerialREAL ESTATE

Despite economic downturn, things are looking up at the PuntaCana Resort & Club in the Dominican Republic

By Larry Olmsted,
Special Contributor

The Dominican Republic has long been the 800-pound gorilla of Caribbean golf, with more courses and better courses than any other island or nation.

This trend started in 1971, when Pete Dye visited the then-undeveloped country and built his famed Teeth of the Dog Course at Casa de Campo. A more recent spate of golf developments has included Roco Ki and Cap Cana, but they have been somewhat stymied by the global economic and real estate slowdown.

Corales golf course at PuntaCana resort - hole 8Between these two extremes sits the PuntaCana Resort & Club, arguably the most opulent of the bunch, thanks in part to celebrity part-owners Julio Iglesias and Oscar de la Renta, who designed the latest luxury hotel within the resort.

Despite growing steadily for four decades, the PuntaCana Resort & Club has never received as much exposure as its nearby siblings. Yet it offers three top-notch golf courses and a full slate of resort amenities, including a beach club, clubhouses, restaurants and a spa. And it continues to expand and sell homes despite the economy.

Several factors have contributed to its success. First, it was a pioneer of sustainable development. It recently was named the winner of a Travel+Leisure 2011 Global Vision Award for Leadership, even as the resort is in the process of launching one of the world's most extensive coral restoration initiatives. Such endeavors have reinforced the long-term view and commitment of developers, as well as helped maintain real estate values.

La Cana golf course at PuntaCana resort - hole 5In addition, the resort owns and operates Punta Cana International Airport -- an amenity very few planned-communities can boast -- with nonstop direct flights from major international cities like Paris, London, Moscow, New York and Sao Paolo. Homeowners enjoy a VIP experience, are expedited through customs and can be at their homes 10 minutes after their plane lands.

But at the end of the day the main appeal is golf, starting with the original P.B. Dye-designed course, now called La Cana. One of his earliest projects, the course benefited from Dye's lack of other work and his ability to spend month after month at the site, whereas most name architects drop in for a day or two here and there while passing the work off to subordinates.

Homes at PuntaCana Resort & Club

The course, which overlooks the Caribbean Sea, has long been one of the best in the Dominican Republic. Its back nine features a limited number of luxury homes on large lots, making up the Arrecife neighborhood, that run from $735,000 to $2.8 million -- just for the land.

More affordable lots surround the resort's newest course, the Hacienda, also by P.B. Dye, which will be finished next year. It is ringed with 400 home sites, from $345,000 to $625,000, plus about 200 two- and three-bedroom condos. The two-bedroom versions will run $350,000, while larger floor plans (2,350 square feet) with three bedrooms plus maid's quarters will run $470,000.

While the two P.B Dye courses will be for the resort, the development added another course, the Tom Fazio-designed Corales, which is private and exclusively for homeowners and guests of the new luxury boutique hotel, Tortuga Bay.

Corales golf course at PuntaCana resort - hole 17Given its restricted status, the Corales is home to the resort's most exclusive neighborhood, where Iglesias, de la Renta and Mikhail Baryshnikov all have homes. Lots here are the priciest, from $1.49 million to $2.9 million. Currently throughout the resort there are about two-dozen finished homes and villas for sale, ranging from $850,000 to $8.5 million.

The Dominican Republic has undergone several infrastructure improvements in recent years, such as new highways and the addition of high-speed ferry service between Punta Cana and the Samana peninsula, a growing second-home beach destination. Last year the government announced another billion dollars in road improvements, and the travel time between Punta Cana and the capital of Santo Domingo has already been cut dramatically.

While much of the world seems to be in economic disarray, things have never been better, from a tourist perspective, in the Dominican Republic.

Larry Olmsted has written more than 1,000 articles on golf and golf travel, for the likes of Golf Magazine, T&L Golf, LINKS, Golf & Travel, Men's Health, Men's Journal, USA Today, and many others. He broke the Guinness World Record for golf travel and wrote Getting into Guinness, as well as Golf Travel by Design. He was the founding editor of The Golf Insider, and the golf columnist for both USA Today.com and US Airways Magazine.

November 1, 2011

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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