Anytime someone starts comparing a course to Pebble Beach Golf Links, there’s a natural tendency to say: Hold on, pump the brakes, take a deep breath.
Those comparisons, however, keep coming up with regard to Playa Grande, the cliffside course on the Dominican Republic’s northern coast that Robert Trent Jones Sr. originally built in the mid-1990s.
“These are higher cliffs than Pebble Beach, and there are more holes on the ocean than Pebble Beach,” architect Rees Jones said. “The reason I’ve been so much in love with this project is it’s such a great site, it’s a Pebble Beach-plus site.”
Less than three years ago, Playa Grande reopened to strong reviews following an extensive Rees Jones renovation of his father’s work. It seemed like a fitting complement to the luxurious hotel that graces the property, Amanera. But Jones’ time on property was just beginning.
In December 2016, Discovery Land Co. closed on the purchase of the hotel, golf course and 2,400 acres, and called in Jones to take another crack at the project.
“The thinking was the golf course was incredible,” said Dave Gordon, Discovery Land’s business manager on the project. “It was clear that there were some constraints when he first renovated it, and those were capital constraints. … We told Rees we wanted to go back in and spend whatever it takes to re-envision the course and make it into the incredible course that he and his father envisioned.”
Anyone familiar with Discovery Land knows the company has a well-heeled clientele that expects the best and has no qualms paying for it. The company wanted to create a golf experience that took greatest advantage of the clifftop setting and also opened up more ocean views for homesites. Playa Grande reopened this month, and Jones believes it’s a course that everyone will enjoy.
“This is a golf course that anybody can play,” Jones said. “We designed it so that you can go around the trouble and good players can flirt with the ocean. It has more shot options because of the way the ocean weaves in and out.”
Among the design changes: The entire course was re-grassed with Pure Dynasty Paspalum, which is ideal for seaside settings and gave it “that popping green” aesthetic, Gordon said; all of the bunkers were redone with bright white Maryland sand; the fifth hole was reoriented toward the mountains; and new back tees were added on half the holes. New drainage also was installed. (…)