Bermuda’s Port Royal Golf Course — a course I played some 15 years ago — has a whole new look. A recent $14.5 million makeover got the course in shape to host the PGA Grand Slam — Bermuda’s high point in golf — in October. Port Royal will again host the event in 2010.
Andrew Brooks, director of golf, calls the changes to the course a reshape, not a redesign. The original course designer, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., never intended the views to be obscured by overgrowth. To open up the stunning vistas of the sea, Roger Rulewich (who worked on the original design team in 1970) reworked the course, clearing many of the old Bermuda cedar trees and adding new vegetation to enhance the beauty and keep to the original design.
To bring the course into the modern era of golf, distance was increased by almost 300 yards to 6,842 yards. Golf technology has evolved over the past 39 years, and today’s drives shorten courses with older designs. The overall design of the course changed little, with the exception of holes 12 and 13, which were reversed to a par 4 and a par 3.
The Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa, a traditional Bermudian getaway, is closest to the course and offers a European package that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fine dining takes place on the restaurant’s patio, and there are several lunch venues. The Spa at the Cambridge offers a full menu of treatments and massages. While I played the course, my daughter Laura enjoyed a manicure and facial.
Hole 1 (438 yards, par 4)
The opening dogleg right will educate you on the position golf you must play at Port Royal. Land your ball center right of the fairway for the approach to the green. I took two drives off the tee to check the best positioning. A right-side position takes the pond guarding the left side of the green nearly out of play. The green undulates, with a diagonal hump running from back to front.
Hole 4 (458 yards, par 4)
This slight dogleg right has two fairway traps on the right side of your landing area and an out-of-bounds and brush far left. Position your ball just left of these traps for your mid-iron shot to the elevated green, which has two traps guarding the right and left. Make sure you take enough club to reach the pin.
Hole 7 (517 yards, par 5)
This dogleg left demands a tee shot to the center right so you can gain a clean second shot to the rising fairway. Shots left will still be in play and can be recovered, but you will have to clear traps and several small palm trees on the left. If your second shot lands in the proper place, you’ll have a short-iron to the elevated green. Beware of a lone tree which stands to the right and can block your shot if you veer off course. Just beyond this tree is a trap to the right of the green. Getting to the green is worth it — the views are spectacular. Beaches and turquoise-blue waters form a backdrop for your putt.
Hole 8 (213 yards, par 3)
You have to backtrack to this tee box from Hole 7, but the vista is worth it. The hole is straightforward but plays a little less than the yardage indicated, since the green sits slightly below the tee box. To the right of the green is a sand trap, and the fairway has a small throat, which many balls can use to roll to the green. Shots over the green are in big trouble due to thick vegetation and the location on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Take time to take in the beautiful water and the bathers below at the Pompano Beach Club.
Hole 15 (412 yards, par 4)
This picturesque hole near the bluff above Hole 16 is next to an old fort, the Whale Bay Battery, which from 1876 to 1940 protected the Royal Naval Dockyards from the entrance to Hog Fish Cut Channel. Take a few minutes to view the barracks and magazines for shells.
Your tee shot must be accurate — balls left can roll out of play down to the vegetation on the slope leading to Hole 16, and even the fairway traps on the left and right might not keep your ball in play. The green is straightforward and, as long as you do not fall off into the bunkers and grass depressions, you should be able to make par.
Hole 16 (235 yards par 3)
Try to play this hole from the tip, just for the excitement and the sheer beauty — from the back tee box you can clearly see the green jutting out into the ocean. As with any ocean hole, the wind can be a factor, and this is no exception. Everything slopes left to the ocean, including the approach fairway for those who come up short. Many a ball finds the thick vegetation or the beach below.
Hole 17 (507 yards, par 5)
Now that you are moving away from the ocean and back to the clubhouse, the course gets a little tricky with the designer’s addition of a massive pond left of the dogleg right, well within play. Drive your ball to the center of the fairway, favoring the right — but not too far right — to catch the series of fairway bunkers. Your next shot is a lay-up; try to avoid the left side of the fairway as the pond follows to where the hole rises. Your third shot will be to a highly elevated green with two traps on its right side. This hole, with so many trouble spots, demands perfect accuracy.
Hole 18 (410 yards, par 4)
From the elevated tee box you are driving to the fairway below. Again, the large pond comes into play for errant balls left and short. Big drives will easily clear this distance and gain an uphill lie to the green. The second shot requires extra club to make the green, and there is a nice view of the clubhouse beyond — a good finish to the course.
Port Royal Golf Course
P.O. Box 189
Southampton, SN BX, Bermuda
tel 441 234 0974
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