Last December my wife and I were invited to attend a FAM at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda. Golfing in Bermuda in December? Would the weather be warm enough?
I’ve written about the Fairmont in Scottsdale twice, San Diego-area once and the wonderful Fairmont in Charlevoix in Quebec, so I knew the accommodations and food would be wonderful. We looked at the weather in Hamilton, Bermuda and the average temperatures were 65 degrees in December. Forgot about that water effect!
My wife and I had spent our honeymoon in Hamilton at the Princess, so how could I pass up a chance to return? I didn’t play golf that week in 1969, but I certainly looked forward to it this time.
Bermuda has eight golf courses, Belmont Hills, a 6,000-yard course and Ocean View, a 9-holer both in Hamilton; St. George’s G.C., a short (4,000-yard) 18-holer on the northeast tip, Tucker’s Point G.C., a 6,500-yard layout built in 1932 and Mid-Ocean G.C., the famous links opened in 1921 on the southeast side. The last three courses are on the southwest side of Bermuda and include Port Royal G.C., Riddell’s Bay G.C., a 5,800-yard layout, and Turtle Hill G.C., the course next door to the Fairmont Southampton.
The three courses we played were Mid-Ocean, Port Royal and Turtle Hill, and it was as pleasant a golf trip as we have ever taken.
Mid-Ocean Club is the famous, private course that was designed by C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor and upgraded by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Babe Ruth always vacationed in Bermuda (he had to take a ship, while we took an hour and forty minute flight from Boston) and played golf at Mid-Ocean. He would always try to drive the 433-yard par 4 fifth hole over water, but he never made the green.
With three such marvelous designers it is no wonder that almost every hole is spectacular. We loved the fifth, but the seventh, a downhill par 3 with two small ponds in front and a wide bunker in back of the severely sloping green is a gem. Many of the greens are elevated, so make sure you take enough club. The Redan 17th is Raynor’s gift to the course.
Many PGA Tour events have been played here including the PGA Grand Slam in 2007-2008. The famous Bermuda Talks took place in 1951 at the course. Dwight Eisenhower, Sir Winston Churchill, The Duke of Windsor and John Foster Dulles attended the summit talks and also partook in the golf. George Bush played Mid-Ocean often.
The pictures that grace the clubhouse made us feel like we were in a museum. There are many of Charles Blair Macdonald while he was designing the course, and of course the smiling Babe.
The public has access to the course on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so make sure you leave one of those days open to play it.
Our second course was Port Royal G.C. I had played this course a few years ago with Tom Gorman, a fellow golf travel writer and a columnist for this publication. We had taken the wives on a cruise from Boston, so a day of golf had to be part of the vacation.
The course underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2009 under the eye of Roger Rulewich who worked with Robert Trent Jones, Sr. on the original design in 1970, and the results are wonderful. The views are so amazing on many of the holes. You won’t know whether to grab your wedge or your camera. You look like you are hitting right into the ocean on the par 3 eighth, and then you go straight up the huge hill to the green at number 9. You come back down the hill at 11, a fun par 5. The par 3 16th has the ocean left, so be careful.
Port Royal also hosted the Grand Slam for a number of years. It is an excellent course that requires you to use all your clubs. The winds that whip across the course will affect many of your shots.
Our last day was Turtle Hill Golf Club. Our fourth floor room looked right down on holes 2 and 3, Horseshoe Bay across South Rd. and the Atlantic Ocean past that. We have not been in many hotels with better views.
Turtle Hill is not your typical Par 3 course. It measures 2,800 yards and the holes range from 115 to 220 yards. There are two holes that you have to hit over ponds, the elevation changes are severe on some holes (number one is pictured with this story—straight downhill) and the greens are fast and undulating. Yes, the greens have BERMUDA grass.
The rooms, food and hospitality at the Fairmont Southampton were marvelous. There are many dining options and the Gosling rum is a big hit a most all meals. Many readers who have visited Bermuda might remember this hotel as the Southampton Princess, but Fairmont has done a marvelous job upgrading the rooms and the grounds with every amenity that you could imagine. Fairmont also purchased the Hamilton Princess (our honeymoon hotel) and the group we were with was given a boat ride up the bay to Hamilton for a meal at the Fairmont Princess. We even met a bartender who was working at the Princess in 1969.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority has created an arm of their organization to bring back the golf on the island to its former greatness. We would like to give special thanks to Andrew Brooks, Director of Golf Sales and Marketing (he was at this year’s Boston Golf Show in March plugging Bermuda Golf) for making the golf so much fun, and the staff at the Fairmont for making this trip a truly wonderful second honeymoon.
Bruce Vittner is a member of the Golf Writers of America, the Golf Travel Writers of America and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.