The par-3 16th hole at the Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda // © 2013 Mark Edward Harris
After visiting Bermuda in 1877, Mark Twain proclaimed, “You can go to heaven if you want to, I'll stay here in Bermuda.” Located only 650 miles from the U.S. mainland, Bermuda is the golf capital of the Atlantic. Less than two hours away from most East Coast U.S. airports, Bermuda, the “Jewel of the Atlantic,” devotes more of its acreage to golf courses than any other island in the world. If only Twain could see it now with a brassie, mashie or niblick golf club in hand.
The Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa overlooks beautiful Hamilton Harbour, and the scene out my window is reminiscent of a painting brushed en plein air. The all-suite property lives up to its reputation for seamlessly blending resort amenities with the personalized service of a boutique hotel.
The resort’s 6,100-yard Belmont Hills Golf Course, designed by Algie M. Pulley Jr., features multi-tiered greens, skinny fairways, a mine-field of bunkers and multiple water hazards — a challenging test even for scratch players. The par 3 17th hole, with a panoramic view of Hamilton Harbour and the Great Sound, is one of the most breathtaking holes on the island. Dinner at the Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa’s award-winning Blu Bar & Grill is the perfect choice after a long day on the course.
Another day, another round of golf, at least until after completing 18 holes. The Dark ‘n Stormy — Gosling’s Black Seal Rum mixed with Ginger Beer — and the Bermuda Rum Sizzle will wait until the 19th hole. Today’s links is the Tucker’s Point Golf Course, designed in 1932 by Charles H. Banks and enhanced in 2002 by Roger Rulewich. Undulating fairways, elevated tees and dramatic views of the turquoise sea make this course spectacular. At times it is difficult to choose between a club or a camera for the next shot.
Our 19th hole takes place at the Tucker’s Bar at the elegant 88-room Rosewood Tucker's Point hotel. One of Bermuda’s top dining establishments, The Point Restaurant & Terrace, is conveniently located next to the bar. Its walls display Pan Am's Sky Club murals, by artist Gerard Henderson, which depict the world's major ports of the 1880s.
My final day on the island includes a round of golf at the 6,842 yard Port Royal Golf Course, ranked by Golf Digest as the world’s best public course. Legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones combined undulating terrain and two dramatic oceanside cliff holes to create yet another incredible Bermudan golf experience.
For those who want to see how the pros handle Port Royal, the annual PGA Grand Slam of Golf will be played here from Oct. 14-16. This tournament boasts the most difficult qualification requirement in golf, inviting only winners of the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. The prestigious tournament has been hosted by the Bermuda Department of Tourism since 2007.
For mere golfing mortals, the Bermuda Golf Association holds tournaments throughout the year. These include the Bermuda Team Medal Championship at Riddell’s Bay Golf & Country Club; the Bermuda Amateur Match Play Championship at the Mid Ocean Club, the Bermuda Open and the Bermuda Amateur Four Ball Championship at the Port Royal Golf Course; the Bacardi World Par 3 Championship at the Turtle Hill Golf Club; Gosling’s Invitational Golf Tournament at the Belmont Hills Golf Club; and finally, the Bermuda Goodwill Golf Tournament at the Port Royal Golf Course, Riddell's Bay Golf & Country Club, Mid Ocean Club, and Tucker's Point Golf Clubs. The Bermuda Goodwill Golf Tournament is the oldest Pro-am tournament in the world. This year it will be held from Dec. 9-13.
But not everyone can live on golf alone. Off-the-links opportunities include sailing past or strolling along the island’s signature pink beaches (a combination of crushed coral, calcium carbonate and shells of single-celled Foraminifera), exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic town of St. George and visiting the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for a fascinating exhibition on the so-called Bermuda Triangle. Amateur spelunkers can explore the Crystal Caves, a great option on the occasional rainy day. A number of local eateries serve traditional dishes including Codfish and Potatoes, Hoppin' John (peas and rice), Pawpaw Casserole and Bermuda Fish Chowder.
To avoid congesting the narrow roads that crisscross the island, there are no rental car agencies. Visitors rely on an excellent taxi and bus system to navigate the left hand side of the road. Both its electrical outlets and currency, the Bermudan dollar, are on par with the U.S.