Above: All risk and reward at the 18th
I was looking forward to playing The Lakes course as I had heard so much about PB Dyeís redesign. And, judging by the amount of work that had been put into the new Barcelo Palace Delux resort, things looked hopeful.
I first visited the Dominican Republic back in late 2008 for Golf Monthly magazine and stayed at this very same resort, but one of the reasons you didnít see a course review of the newly named The Lakes was because although I could see the track had bags of potential, at the time that is all it had. It was left in a state of disrepair and needed a lot of TLC, so back then I simply couldnít recommend the course to readers of my site.
As I walk into the new air-conditioned clubhouse and pro shop, I can see that it truly is worlds apart from the old clubhouse. Sergio Poo, who was the director of golf at Nick Faldoís Roco Ki back in 2008, is now running The Lakes, so I knew everything was in good hands. In fact, after I jumped on the buggy out to the first tee I could see straight away from the tees, fairway and the new bunkering that things had changed dramatically and the manicuring was perfect.
The first is an easy enough driving hole, but you really do have to be in the right position to not only miss the new fairway bunkering, but also to attack the new green, which is now shallow and wide and protected by four bunkers. The green also has some nice complexity and, with the new grass that has been laid, it now rolls fast and true.
The second has seen a complete redesign and is now a tough but beautiful par 3 over water Ė itís amazing what a few changes and some TLC can do. The 3rd and 4th were always good holes and the 4th has seen a remodelled green and bunkering put in, which means itís a tough second shot for those who decide to go for it on this par 5. Unfortunately, what has not gone is the smell of stagnant water once you get to the green but, on a positive note, it doesnít stray from that area.
So, by the time you get to one of my favourite holes on the course, the 5th, the smell has gone, but what you do see as you stand on the tee is a beautifully design par 4 of only 364 yards. It was a great hole before and I love what PB Dye has added. The bunkering here looks perfect from the tee, and being in the right place is again important.
You will probably only have a wedge or 9-iron in, but itís a blind shot over a hill that protects the green, with bunkering in the front and back of the mound and also left, right and to the back of the green, so clubbing and ball control are really important if you donít want to wrack up a big number. The 5th does represent a great birdie opportunity, but you could also walk away having wracked up a 7 or 8 just as easily.
Three solid holes bring you to the new par 3, 9th with its island green. Itís a great hole that I know you will enjoy, but you really have to be on the right section of the green or you could end up with a speedy downhill putt if the flag is on the front section.
After that itís a little trek to the 10th, and if you want a challenge I would play it from the back tee over the water. The 11th is a great little par 4 that brings you to another new hole in the par 3, 12th, which again has water in play, as does the other par 3 on the back nine, the 14th. The dog leg right 17th brings you to the beautiful 18th hole, which dog legs left and is played over water to a tiered green in front of an open-air church. And indeed, you might want to whisper a few words of prayer before you decide to take on the liquid beast and decide how much of the dogleg you are going to chop off.
The green is long, so being on the right tier will leave you a birdie chance. As I lip out for mine I look back and smile Ė PB Dye has done a great job, and the course has come a long way since I last played here. And thereís even better news for guests who are staying here Ė you can play the course for free. Now thatís a real bargain.
The stunning new par 3, 9th hole. A very pleasant surprise and a great finish to the front nine.
The beautiful 3rd holeNew bunkering at the 5thTough green at the 17th