Casa de Campo, which lies on the picturesque southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic about 11
2 hours from Santo Domingo, began as a getaway for executives of Gulf+ Western. The company operated La Romana’s sugar mill, once the world’s largest.
In the early 1970s, famed golf course designer Pete Dye conjured an 18-hole marvel called the Teeth of the Dog, which has sweeping seaside views and has been named the best course in the Caribbean by Golf magazine. A round can set you back as much as $250, plus tax, though half that much if you’re a resident and well worth it at any price, devotees say. “There’s nothing like it,” says Lou Gilmore, a Pennsylvania businessman who winters at a villa he owns here.
Oscar de la Renta, who once owned a home in Casa de Campo, provided input about the overall “ambience” of the development, according to an official history.
The property is now owned by a corporation controlled by the Fanjul family, Florida sugar moguls and Olympic-size political campaign donors. The Fanjuls’ villa is called Casa Grande, which means “big house,” and “it’s no exaggeration,” says Phil Silvestri, a longtime resident, who notes that the Fanjuls’ place has its own helipad, natch.
Moneyed Santo Domingans, the ones who don’t have their own helipads, can still chopper in, touching down at the regular helipad — next to the polo grounds. Foreigners arrive in fleets of private jets at a major airport 10 minutes away. The commercial planes that bring golf-obsessed business owners and executives, with well-defined ankle-sock tan lines to prove it, are almost an afterthought in the blizzard of private-jet bling.
Guests at the retreat’s plush spa hotel — where rooms were going for between $495 and $1,800 a night recently — buzz around the manicured grounds in personal gas-powered golf carts. But they can’t keep up with the villa owners (and their children) who tear down the streets in huge, souped-up golf carts, with windshields, that can touch 30 mph.
Mansions of staggering dimensions and architectural variety dot quiet streets where orchids, bougainvillea, flowering flamboyant trees and palms thrive: Italianate villas, Mediterranean behemoths with barrel-tile roofs, Balinese-style jaw-droppers with expansive ocean views. Some require up to 18 staffers, small armies of cooks and maids, and even the most humdrum of the estates invariably have at least four to six attendants, says Proaño, who produced the upcoming film “Cristo Rey” when he wasn’t busy managing and selling villas in Casa de Campo.