This is my third and final piece from my trip to Bermuda earlier this year, rest assured I saved the best for last. The Mid Ocean Club isn’t just the best golf course in Bermuda, it’s one of the best in the world. There isn’t a top 100 list in existence that doesn’t include Mid Ocean. Opened in 1921, Mid Ocean was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald; the father of American golf course architecture. This is the same Macdonald that Bandon Dunes chose to honor with their Old Macdonald Course. Mid Ocean was one of Macdonald’s finest accomplishments. He was extremely proud of the course layout; even telling all his golf friends “a more fascinating, more picturesque course than the Mid Ocean, will not be found in a pilgrimage around the world; there is nothing commonplace about it”.
I haven’t quite made the pilgrimage around the world but I’ve come close. Having played golf courses across the United States, Scotland, England, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean, I’ve seen my share of great locations and course designs. Macdonald wasn’t too far from the truth when he told his friends they wouldn’t find a more fascinating and picturesque course. Bermuda’s location, a small island in the Atlantic Ocean located 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina provides more picturesque views than an old view-master. Macdonald took care of the fascinating part with a course design that is equal parts classic, challenging, and unique.
The Mid Ocean Club is located inside Tucker’s Town, a small community in St. George’s Parish, on the northeastern tip of Bermuda. The course is set more inland than you would imagine, this helps provide protection from hurricanes and allows the Atlantic Ocean to serve as an impressive backdrop. Perhaps more impressive than the views of the Atlantic Ocean is the undulating terrain, on an island paradise Mid Ocean’s course routing feels like a paradise of its own. As you make your way around the course, you’ll find yourself going from high elevation amongst massive trees to dramatic valleys below.
No hole at Mid Ocean stands out more than the 5th, the famous Cape hole, a 433-yard par four. The tee is elevated and sits perched atop a hill that overlooks Mangrove Lake. The lake view serves two purposes, it’s a beautiful background but there to deceive you. The carry to the fairway over the lake appears much longer than it plays, in most cases, the driver is going to be too much. Play it conservatively off the tee and you’ll be left with a shorter than expected second shot into an extremely difficult green that’s guarded by a steep embankment funnelling down to a pair of bunkers. The player tip on this shot into the green is aiming for the right side, it features a steep slope which ricochets approach shots to the center of the green. After holing the putt you’ll better understand why the 5th is rated as the hardest hole on the course. Legend has it Babe Ruth took an 11 on the 5th after slicing a few balls into Mangrove Lake.
On the back nine, another par four will grab your attention, the 437-yard 12th. Less deceiving but more demanding, it will require a well-hit driver off the tee. Hopefully, you have a right-to-left game, I don’t so I ended up in the fairway bunker on the right and ended up with a triple bogey. However, if you can hit it right to left and avoid the fairway bunker you’ll be left with a long, uphill second shot into a green that slopes left to right. The green is protected by a false front, so any approach that is short could end up rolling back 25 yards. Make sure you have enough club and aim for the back left corner of the green.
Mid Ocean is such a unique experience and a true challenge of skill. During the round, you’ll be faced with several blind shots and the course will bait you into hitting the wrong club more than once. On top of all that, you’re in Bermuda and the winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean can wreck havoc. Depending on the wind, club selection could vary on almost every hole, luckily the caddies at Mid Ocean are amazing. I was blessed with a caddie that has been working at Mid Ocean for over 50 years. In fact, I’ve never had a caddie that knew the ins and outs of a course as much as he did. If it’s your first time playing Mid Ocean I strongly recommend you employ the services of a caddie and make sure to listen, they know how every putt breaks and where not to hit the ball.
Mid Ocean Course Rating 4.75 out of 5
As I said up front, I saved the best for last from my trip to Bermuda. It was an absolute pleasure visiting Bermuda and playing a round at Mid Ocean. The Mid Ocean Club is special on many levels; the club features an astonishing member list, it’s one of only 16 courses ever designed by C.B. Macdonald, and heck even Ian Fleming mentioned the club in his James Bond short story Quantum of Solace. If Mid Ocean is cool enough for James Bond to mention, no wonder why such an A-list of celebrities and heads of state have paid them a visit. Why wouldn’t they, Mid Ocean features a varying terrain that ranges from volcanic hills, lakes, ponds, and tree lined valleys.
Macdonald, famous for his template design which was developed based upon his favorite golf holes in Scotland. Mid Ocean provided Macdonald with a unique landscape, something special which in return gave his classic template design more character than any of his other designs including his work at Shinnecock Hills which will host the 2018 U.S. Open Championship. Needless to say, it’s easy to see why Mid Ocean earned a spot on the Golf Aficionado Top 10.
Planning a trip to Bermuda and want to play at The Mid Ocean Golf Club? It’s private, but don’t worry they set aside tee times for visitors, in fact, you can actually stay in one of their cottages as a guest for the night. Visitors can play the course mid-week, subject to availability. For more information and to make a tee time, please contact the Golf Shop (441) 293-1215 or email Mid Ocean Director of Golf, Kevin Benevides (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tee times may be booked up to three months in advance (subject to certain restrictions).