A Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed golf course, Port Royal debuted in 1970 and has since undergone two major renovations. The first by Jones Sr. in 1995 and more recently underwent a major renovation by Roger Rulewich just prior to hosting the 2009 PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Like most things in Bermuda, Port Royal has an interesting story behind it. The Port Royal history involves disgruntled farmers and land disputes that caused Jones Sr. to alter the course design several times as arguments over the land were resolved. However, all the rerouting led to the creation of the world-famous and much photographed, spectacular 16th hole – the tee and green of which perch precariously on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. An insider tip, when you’re on the 16th tee look below into the Atlantic Ocean, chances are you’ll catch a glimpse of the beautiful parrot fish that patrol the coastline.
Port Royal resides in the Southampton Parish of Bermuda which is located on the western side of the island and is easily accessible from many of the local resorts. While in Bermuda, I stayed at Cambridge Beaches which offers cottage-style accommodations that are ideal for either a family vacation or golfer getaway. The Portal Royal course is managed by the Bermuda Government and is by far the most popular course on the island with more golfers playing here than any other course on the island. The 18-hole course is a par 71 that plays 6,842 yards from the championship tees. With some of the island winds you’ll face, the course is going to play well over 7,000 yards. Jones Sr. was so proud of Port Royal’s design he’s been quoted as saying that it’s the best course he ever designed outside of the United States. High acclaim coming from one of golf’s greatest architects, and the first architect to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
In terms of course layout, Port Royal is unique in its design, the course features lots of interesting and challenging holes. Each has something going on whether it’s a lake, out of bounds, bunkers, or the Atlantic Ocean. The signature hole at Port Royal is, of course, the 16th, the tee and the green of this par 3 are between a coastal cliff overlooking the Atlantic. By far, this will be the toughest tee shot of your round, and depending on the wind that day, it might be downright impossible. From the back tees, you might end up hitting a driver, odds are you will likely lose at least one ball so bring at least one extra to the tee box. The 16th is one bear of a golf hole, also it just so happens to be one of the Golden Bear’s most favorite golf holes. That’s right, even Jack Nicklaus has the 16th at Port Royal on his short list of favorites.
While the 16th garners all the fame, it overshadows many other great holes at Port Royal, in particular, the 7th and 15th. Either hole would be considered a signature hole on most golf courses around the world. The 7th hole is a par-5 that plays at 517 yards and gives you your first glimpse of the ocean. That ocean breeze heavily guards a tabletop green, even the biggest hitters will find this par-5 difficult to reach in two. The 15th, a par-4 playing at 412-yard is a dogleg-right, playing downhill and starts next to the old Whale Bay Battery, a 19th-century British fort. Make sure to take your cart into and around the battery; you’ll see some amazing views and it makes for a great photo. If you happen to visit Port Royal during March or April keep your eyes open you’ll have a decent chance to see humpback whales just off the coast.
Port Royal Golf Club 4.6 Stars out of 5
Often listed as one of the world’s best public courses, Port Royal doesn’t disappoint and any trip to Bermuda wouldn’t be complete without getting at least one round golf on Port Royal. The course sits atop old farmland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and provides some of the best views in golf. The view from the driving range alone is hard to match! The Port Royal practice facilities are better than average and include a driving range with a stunning ocean view and strong ocean wind, a putting green, and a short game area that includes a practice bunker. Regardless of skill level, Port Royal is a must play, the course offers four sets of tees; black 6842 yards, blue 6401 yards, white 5894 yards, and red 5176 yards. Keep in mind each tee is going to play considerably longer depending on how much the wind is blowing that day. If you’re a double-digit handicap like myself, I strongly recommend playing from the white tees. Port Royal is open 7 days a week and you’ll have no problem booking a tee time, for more details please visit the Port Royal Golf Club.