Corales Golf Club is a private residential golf community in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The golf course, designed by Tom Fazio, opened in 2010 and is recognized as the premier layout on many lists for Caribbean Courses. The course features the most ocean-front golf of any Fazio golf course, with holes 7, 8, 9, 16, 17 and 18 set into ocean cliffs overhanging the Atlantic Ocean (about 25 feet above the ocean waves). This course features Paspalum turf and is known for its pristine maintenance and sandy native areas. The local Cana Palm tree is a feature element of the landscape that frames this layout.
Corales hosted a Webb.com Tour event in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the Corales will start a new four-year contract for a brand-new PGA Tour event to be played the week of March 19th thru 25th. Exciting news for a country that has not yet held a regular event on the PGA Tour. Then along came Hurricanes Irma and Maria!!
The Dominican Republic was hit hard by these hurricanes. Corales suffered rising ocean water damage to holes 7, 8, 9 and 18. Trees and foliage suffered wind damage and the course needed an extensive tidy up after each storm, to pick up vegetation and clear out trees toppled by these two separate strong hurricane events.
Golf holes 8 and 9 were a total loss as the ocean water storm surge pushed waves inland. All grass was gone after the storm surge water receded. Greens and Tees were demolished. The irrigation system was pulled up out of the ground. The pipe and irrigation heads were pulled back into the ocean, as was much of the soil that formed these golf holes. All with less than six months to prepare for an event on the PGA Tour.
The reconstruction work was led by Golf Course Superintendent Julio Diaz, who built this course originally and is a Turf Graduate from Rutgers. Together with his on-site team of more than 75 golf course staff Julio Diaz began the reconstruction process.
Julio ordered all the necessary materials and rented the construction equipment to rebuild the golf holes. Barges shipped materials from Florida to get the irrigation parts onto the island. Shapers and finish operators were brought into the Country from Mexico to climb onto the equipment and begin the restoration. Trucks started hauling new soil back out to the holes, to lift the holes up after the dirt was washed into the Ocean.
With the full financial support from the Ownership team at Punta Cana Group, the work began with a frantic pace. Tremendous energy and dedication went into the work to restore the Corales for the PGA Tour event. The owners operate a 20-acre turf nursery that they built when Corales was first imagined, so the sod and grass was on property to re-grass the holes.
Don Frank Raineri, from the ownership and management team at Groupo Punta Cana, decided to install a new 6-foot-high sea wall … down the length of holes 8 and 9 to protect the holes from future storm surges. This concrete wall was anchored into the existing rock base, then hand formed in wood walls, and poured in place with re-bar reinforcement. This wall is strong and massive and included a footer drain with pass thru drainage built into the design. The concrete wall was then veneered in local rock to match the shoreline edges and blend in a completely natural, fitting seamlessly into the setting and looking like it was always there. What an achievement, in less than four weeks to design and build.
Fazio Design helped stake out the new golf holes and was on site to shoot grades and supervise the redesign work. Senior Design Associate, Tom Marzolf MEIGCA and ASGCA, drew new green plans for Julio Diaz to stake and build. Marzolf and Diaz walked the land and oversaw the army of men, who worked in shifts, seven days a week to push the construction to completion. “I have never seen so many people working on one golf hole in all my life,” said Tom Marzolf.
The work to create the new holes offered a design opportunity. While these holes are like the existing layout, everyone at the Corales agrees that these new holes are more dramatic and bolder. The greens were built to USGA guidelines and were sodded with greens-grade paspalum, to shorten the grow-in time. The golf holes were sodded wall-to-wall in less than two weeks, once the irrigation was back in place.
Grow-in of the turf is going very well. Julio Diaz has been lowering the height of cut and topdressing the turf. Fertilizer is pushing the growth. These holes will blend in well to the other holes on the course, and no one will ever know that a hurricane … let alone two hurricanes, wiped these holes away.
Punta Cana is once again ready to welcome the world’s greatest golfers to Corales, March 19th thru the 25, 2018.
Click here to read more about Tom.