Bermuda – Grand Slam of Golf

Port Royal Hole 16B (1)

By Dave Finn

Rich with history and architecture, blessed with safe friendly people, Bermuda offers world-class golf, pink sandy beaches, crystal clear water and magnificent restaurants  all within an easy 2 ½ direct flight from most major cities on the eastern seaboard of North America.  The weather is perfect year round and the scenery is second to none.

For us golfers there are five 18-hole championship courses, one 9-hole and an 18-hole par-3 to test your skills.  In fact Bermuda boasts as having the highest concentration of golf courses per square mile in the world that takes up almost 17% of the country’s 21.6 square miles of real estate.

For the seventh consecutive year, Bermuda has proudly hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in mid-October pairing the winners of all four majors vying for a $1.2 million prize purse.  In 2011 I had the pleasure to witness part of this two-day event won dramatically on the last hole by “Rookie of the Year” Keegan Bradley. How cool is that!

What an ultimate golf experience!   You can play some of the more scenic and picturesque courses in the world as well as follow alongside the most decorated professional golfers of the year testing their skills on a course that you too can play.  2010 participant Martin Kaymer reportedly said “It’s like a paradise, playing golf in paradise” and I could not agree any more.During my brief visit I only got to a chance to play four of their courses and I was not disappointed.

Tucker’s Point Golf Club was originally designed by Charles H. Banks in 1932 however this 18-hole par 70 course has gone through numerous modifications over the years.

In 2002 Robert Rulewich, the former chief designer for Robert Trent Jones, again revamped this course and replaced the greens with TifEagle Bermuda grass to make them faster but kept the challenging elevation changes that it was most famous for.  The black tees are just a little under 6,500 yards but with a course rating of 72.1 and a slope of 134, I would highly recommend you swallow your pride and move up a set of tees since accuracy is much more important than distance on this course.

The 13th and 17th are their signature holes.  #13 offers a panoramic view of the entire north coast and west end of the island while #17 has sweeping views of Tucker’s Town and Castle Island.   You will find that the greens are large, the course is well manicured and offers stunning views of the turquoise sea.  This is a private course but allow visitors to reserve a tee time a minimum of 48 hours in advance.  If you are a Tucker’s Point Resort guest green fees are $180USD otherwise they are $215 + $35 per person for a cart. Juniors are $50 (No charge when playing with an adult).

Mid Ocean Club is a private club that was designed in 1922 by Canadian born architect Charles Blair Macdonald and revised in 1953 by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones.

Home of the 2007 and 2008 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, this is a true ocean course that consistently ranks as one of the finest in the world.  Big greens, possible 35 mph winds and six par 4’s over 400 yards will definitely test your skill and patience.

The first three holes run parallel to the ocean but the 3rd hole is probably one of the most picturesque on the island, a downhill par 3 that runs perilously close to the rocky cliff ocean shoreline.  The 5th hole is the toughest on the course.  With Mangrove Lake in play all the way down the left side, this is a very intimidating hole.  You will find there are plenty of bunkers to contend with but the sand is very consistent.  Be forewarned though that the Bermuda rough or “snatch grass”, as I like to call it, will grab your ball and settle in or bury.   Mid Ocean is a private course but allows guests on Monday, Wednesday and Friday only.  Tee times can be booked 24 to 48 hours in advance exclusively through To A Tee, Bermuda Ltd. for $305USD including cart fees.

Port Royal Golf Course  was designed in 1970 by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones.

After a $15.9 million renovation in 2009 by Robert Rulewich, a Jones protégé, it was lengthened to 6,842 yards so that it could host the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 PGA Grand Slam of Golf.   Port Royal has more of a modern feel with a new computerized irrigation, rebuilt TifEagle greens, professional Proangle sand that has been perfectly setup for tournament golf with wide fairways and big amphitheater greens.   Even though holes 2 to 6 are relatively flat, for the most part this layout offers undulating terrain and dramatic ocean-side cliffs.  Holes 7 through 9 have amazing ocean views but the 10th green and 11th tee block offer the best perspective of the entire course.  Hole #16 is undoubtedly one of the all-time great par 3’s and very reminiscent of the infamous Pebble Beach #7.  At 142 yards from the whites (or 180 from the blues), you are faced with a daunting iron shot that hugs the edge of a coastal cliff and needs to carry a chasm to a green perched on a cliff jutting out to the ocean.  If the wind kicks, up as it usually does, then your club selection could vary by 4 or 5 clubs.  This is definitely a Kodak moment!

This course was in perfect condition and one of the worlds’ premier public golf layouts offering breathtaking tropical landscape, sweeping ocean vistas and one of the greatest holes in golf.  Port Royal is a public course that will set you back $145USD for 18 holes plus $32 each for a power cart.

Fairmount Southampton Golf Club is adjacent to the Southampton Princess Hotel and a great way to start your vacation or hone your short game.

A scenic  18-hole 2,684 yard  par-3 executive golf course with lots of elevation changes, heavily bunkered greens, numerous water hazards and great views of the

aquamarine-coloured ocean.  Green fees are $86 USD for adults and juniors are $56 including a shared cart.

Other golf courses in Bermuda that I did not get to play but wished I did are:

Riddell’s Bay Golf & Country Club

Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Club

Ocean View Golf Course

For a population of just around 65,000, Bermuda has so much to offer.  Besides the great golf, there are nine named sandy beaches and countless others, outstanding fishing, diving and yachting, a multitude of relaxing spas, plenty of boutique shopping and first-class restaurants to tempt you.

Bermuda fortunately has a sub-tropical archipelago weather warmed by the Gulf Stream so the average temperature only fluctuates from 68 to 85 degrees though out the year.  It’s never too hot or too cold to play here.  Plus there is no rainy season and the showers will quickly dissipate to allow the blue skies to prevail so weather will not interfere with any of your outdoor activities.  I think 2011 Open Champions winner Darren Clarke sums it up best after competing in the 2011 Grand Slam Championship.  “I was scheduled to play Valderrama next week, but I’m not playing now because I’ve decided that Bermuda is such a beautiful place that I’m going to stay on for a few extra days.

For more information on other vacation packages in Bermuda you can visit their Department of Tourism website at www.GoToBermuda.com.

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Dave Finn is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Golf Travel Writers of America, International Golf Travel Writers and Travel Media Association of Canada, and an award-winning photographer. Check out his website: www.golftravelandleisure.com

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