PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - The 2017 hurricane season took a swipe at Corales, a private Tom Fazio course known for its immaculate conditioning. Its best seaside holes have been closed this fall as the club gears up for its big week next year.
The entire 7,650-yard course reopened Dec. 16 after damage forced reconstruction of the eighth and ninth holes. Fazio returned to make both holes more challenging and protect them from future storm surges off the Caribbean Sea. The eighth fairway was raised several feet, and the green at least 10 to 12 feet. Two bunkers, one to the left of the fairway and one right of the green, were added as well. The green on the par 3 ninth was raised more than 15 feet.
Two other changes - 27 new palm trees planted to the left side of the par-4 13th fairway and new cutting patterns creating closely mown collection areas around the greens - will greet players at the Dominican Republic's first PGA Tour event, the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, set for March 19-25, 2018. The championship, a Web.com event the past two years, will play opposite the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at the Austin Country Club. The Corales clubhouse is also being expanded in preparation for the tournament.
Playing Corales, blanketed in Paspalum grass since opening in 2010, guarantees a memorable day. Only a handful of resort guests at a Punta Cana Resort & Club property (like the Westin or Tortuga Bay) are allowed access each day, ensuring golfers a solitary, exclusive experience guided by mandatory caddies. Two par 4s - no. 3 and no. 15 - feature two separate greens that rotate regularly. It will be interesting to see which greens tournament officials use more.
Keep an eye on how the pros attack the Devil's Elbow, the finishing three-hole stretch on the sea. The 416-yard 16th hole heads toward the water with a bunker blocking the middle of the fairway. Tournament organizers can also get creative on the 214-yard 17th hole, changing the angle of attack and the impact of the wind by choosing to use the tee boxes along the rocky seaside cliffs or the other tee boxes located further inland that play directly toward the shore. The striking 501-yard final hole, featuring an expanded back/black tee, ends with dramatic forced carry over the cliff-lined Bay of Corales. What a final tee shot with a $3-million purse on the line.
Video: A visit to Punta Espada, Corales and La Cana