No. 16 alone worth the show at Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda — Port Royal Golf Course in Berm is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design with oleander-lined fairways, good elevation changes and colorful in that Bermuda way.

Port Royal Golf Course - Fairways
Port Royal Golf Course has oleander-lined fairways and a big-name architect in Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Port Royal Golf Course - FairwaysPort Royal Golf Course - Greens
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Port Royal Golf Course

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Located on the shorefront of Southampton Parish, the Port Royal Golf Course is one of the most frequented public golf courses in Bermuda and it is even known as being one of Jack Nicklaus' favorites. Robert Trent Jones designed this 18-hole course, which hosts the Bermuda Open Championship every year.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 71 | 6842 yd. yards | Book online | ... details »
 

What's not to like?

Add to that the fact it's a public course, and now you have something. It isn't as fancy-shmancy as some of the old, private golf courses on the island — nor are the green fees as hefty — though everything is expensive in Bermuda, as the locals never tire of telling you.

"No, it isn't as pristine as some of the private courses here," said local Lowell Vestbirk. "But you don't really expect that when you play a public course. You want a course that gives you a bit of a challenge and this one does that. I think it's very well laid out. He's kept it challenging most of the way through."

Port Royal Golf Course is relatively long for Bermuda, being such a tiny island and short on terrain, at 6,561 yards.

You won't be playing much bump-and-run here; many of the greens are elevated — some of them radically so, like Nos. 6 and 7 — making it all the better to see the physical splendor of Bermuda. On No. 7, in fact, on your approach shot, the green is so high up it's framed by nothing but the bright blue Bermuda sky.

Port Royal Golf Course offers some good risk-reward chances, like the 325-yard 10th. It's a dogleg left that big hitters can carry, but beware: there's a big bunker on the other side of the trees and a valley. You'll have to really whack it to reach the elevated green.

No. 11 is another fun hole. It's a 442-yard par 4, but drivable if you can reach the downward slope off the tee; the ball will roll close to the green. The par-3 11th has the most treacherous green, a radically sloping putting surface back to front has probably caused many a three-putt.

"This green's a bloody nightmare," said Darren Clark, after doing just that.

But, Port Royal Golf Course's par-3 16th steals the show. The course calls it its signature hole, and if you play it from the blue tees you'll see why. If you try it from the tips, and you should, you'll be hitting over the ocean and ravine. It's the Bermudian version of Pebble Beach. The green falls off in the back and on the left hand side to a rocky slope leading down to the ocean.

Port Royal Golf Course: The verdict

Port Royal Golf Course is an excellent public course, one that you should make a point to play if you're on the island. It doesn't have the fancy trappings of the more exclusive private clubs, but it has a big-name designer, an imaginative layout and cheaper green fees. The greens are rough in spots.

Bermuda stay and play

Elbow Beach overlooks the waters of South Shore and close to the capital of Hamilton. The property has 235 rooms including the main building and cottages, all set among 50 acres of gardens that slope down to the beach, which is reserved for guests. Most of the rooms have ocean views.

The main building is more than 90 years old, painted a classic Bermudian shade of yellow. It houses a restaurant, Veranda bar, cigar room, shops, function rooms and a business center. Butler service is available.

There is also a spa, which has six, self-contained suites, with granite soaking tubs, bamboo flooring and river pebble-lined steam showers.

The Pompano Beach Club is a smaller, boutique property. It has cottages, many of them brand new, with terrific ocean views that look like they've come straight from a magazine ad. The owners here are extraordinarily friendly, calling almost all their guests by name.

The spa at the property has all sorts of things they do to you to get you to chill. There are seven types of massage, including chocolate aroma, and lemongrass stress relief. There are body treatments, including the "tutti-frutti salt glow scrub," the "micro buff body polish," and the "serenity mud wrap." If you're not limp by then, they also have baths, like the whipped milk bath and mocha milkshake bubble bath.

The Reefs is also a smaller property, though larger than the Pompano. It also offers cottages with spectacular ocean views — in my room, for example, the ocean filled two picture windows in two different directions. Possibly the best ocean view I've ever had without actually being in the ocean. Each cottage suite has its own "garden setting" with private patio and Jacuzzi.

Bermuda dining

Elbow Beach will do nothing if not feed you; there are no less than seven places to eat and/or drink.

The Seahorse Grill has fine dining, including prime, dry-aged Angus steak dishes. The Veranda Bar, just off the lobby, is Bermuda's first rum bar, Blue Point is a poolside grill, Lido, located just above the beach, has a Mediterranean-influenced menu, Mickey's Beach Bistro and Bar is on the beach and serves more casual food, the Sea Breeze Terrace offers cocktails and Deep is the nightclub.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


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