THE ISLAND MAY have changed a touch since Mark Twain said, ‘You die and go to heaven if you want to, I’ll stay right here in Bermuda,’ but it still boasts one of the finest golf clubs to be found anywhere.
Bermuda is home to more golf clubs per square mile than anywhere else in the world and, standing very much at the top of the range, is the determinedly upmarket members’ club of Mid Ocean.
There has been a golf club here since 1921 when architect Charles Blair Macdonald, widely acclaimed as the father of American golf architecture, laid out the course alongside the Atlantic.
Unusually for courses on the island, whilst views of the ocean come thick and fast only a few of the holes approach the cliff edge. From the third hole until we reach the 18th tee the drama and spectacular beauty of the layout come with climbs up gently sloping tree lined fairways and skirting deep lakes before heading down into lush valleys.
At 6,548 yards this is not the longest course on the island but everywhere there are opportunities for risk and reward shots, none more so than when arriving at the stroke index one, fifth hole where, if we are feeling bold, we can cut off as much of the huge Mangrove Lake on the left hand side of the fairway as we dare.
As a small portrait of warning however; In the clubhouse there is a photograph of the legendary baseball player, Babe Ruth, who it is said lost a dozen balls in his attempt to drive the green.
The far more sensible approach is to keep the ball in play and not to be over ambitious with some or the blind tee shots and strokes hit into raised, undulating greens surrounded by plenty of white sand.
As well as the outstanding condition of the course with the ball invariably sitting up invitingly on both tee box and fairway alike, it is possible to walk Mid Ocean. The design sets tee boxes within easy distance of the preceding green and, apart from one steep climb up the par four, 376-yard 16th, there is no necessity to hire a buggy, even though the members may look at us askance when we set off on foot.
And should fatigue cut in there is also a most welcoming halfway house at the turn where we can enjoy a leisurely break, sandwiches and liquid refreshment of varying degrees of potency to recharge the batteries. The local cocktail of ginger beer and island rum, known as a ‘Dark and Stormy’ is a popular solution to three putts or a dose of the yips.
There are no weak holes at Mid Ocean although the last two are outstanding with a long par three at 17 onto a kidney-shaped green surrounded by eight bunkers of varying degrees of enormity. When the trade winds are blowing hard into one’s face even a driver may not be enough here, while the 421-yard, par four 18th runs the length of the cliff edge alongside as limpid blue an ocean to be found anywhere.
Indeed, one elderly American lady tourist was so impressed at the various bright shades of blue that she asked, in all seriousness, if it were possible to bottle the different coloured sea water to take home as a souvenir!
But it is time for us to briefly turn our back on the crystalline blue Atlantic and climb up the hill to the large pink stucco clubhouse.The terrace beckons, where we can gaze out across the ocean with a cold beer in hand and reflect on our round.
And be it good, bad or simply indifferent we will find Mid Ocean Club members consistently welcoming and keen for visitors to enjoy playing their course. At the Mid Ocean, it is very hard not to.