PUNTA CANA -- As of Jan. 1, Punta Cana Resort and Club here will feature a P. B. Dye-designed golf course and six golf villas on its 15,000-acre property.

All 18 holes of the new course feature views of the Caribbean Sea, with four holes situated along the water.

The villas, designed by native Dominican Oscar de la Renta, are styled in English colonial architecture and overlook the sea and the golf course.

Sixty-four newly remodeled hotel guest rooms also will open; the resort's remaining 336 guest rooms will be remodeled by the end of 2001.

To finish renovations without disturbing guests, hotel management will close one of its four accommodations' buildings at a time.

The total cost of the renovation and expansion project, including the golf course, is about $10 million.

Room renovations consist of the addition of marble floors and wooden furniture and soft goods.

Future plans include a clubhouse, with a restaurant and pool, on the golf course and the completion of the rest of the golf villas. Also, two additional golf courses are in the planning stages.

There are currently 80 two- and three-bedroom beach villas, six golf villas and 320 hotel rooms on the property.

"Not one palm tree was cut to build the beach villas," said Thea Pichardo, manager of groups and incentives.

The buildings were designed around the trees and thus feature holes cut into the roofing and open spaces allowing the trees to grow.

Theodore W. Kheel and Frank Rainieri, the property's founders and principal owners, aspire to give back to the community.

In that frame of mind, Grupo Punta Cana, the developing company for the property, said it plans to build working cattle ranches on the property for Dominican families to use.

The future golf courses will then be built around the ranches, offering local culture for the guests playing the course while also providing a means of making a living for area families.

Another way Grupo Punta Cana said it gives back to the community is by opening a 1,555-acre nature reserve.

The property offers guided walks in the reserve, which features native plants and animals and spring water-fed lagoons.

Winter rates, valid Jan. 4 through April 14, range from $80 to $100 per person, double, depending on room type. For golf villas, the nightly cost is $1,000 for up to six people.

For resort details, call (888) 442-2262 or visit www.puntacana.com.

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