1 Atlantic 10 Mercer Hill
2 Long 11 Trott's
3 Eden 12 Hillside
4 Mangrove 13 Biarritz
5 Cape 14 Leven
6 Brow 15 Punch Bowl
7 Short 16 Lookout
8 Valley 17 Redan
9 Sound 18 Home
Mid-Ocean is one of those timeless places that are all too rare – as good or better as you remember – sort of like the way Switzerland is. Neat, tidy clever, well-run and a joy to visit for starters. Charles Blair Macdonald laid out a very memorable set of holes with very little filler using a very contoured and hilly property to its fullest. Recent work at the hands of Tom Doak and associates has involved recovering the green surfaces and much tree removal as well as the usual bunker renovations that clubs must do from time to time.
The setting is incomparable looking out over infinite miles of ocean, rolling Bermudian landscape, stunning coastline and those charming white stepped-roofed homes. Standing on the first tee a voluptuous landscape of land unfolds in front of you encompassing the first hole and 16 – 18. One of the suggested points for an ideal routing is to avoid putting the clubhouse on a hill so that one must hill-climb at nine and the end. At Mid-Ocean there is a magnificent and distant half-way house and only a short walk back up the hill to lunch or cocktails. What a magnificent place to have either overlooking matches finishing on the eighteenth or just to have lunch or dinner. The big climb back is on the sixteenth with the green hard to the first tee. The view in that direction is unobstructed now as well due to restoration.
One must spend a few minutes gazing from the first as it is such a remarkable spot and the task at hand – picking a line on Atlantic – the opener – a very formidable challenge. The landing area slopes to the left towards the Redan 17th and one really should steer far clear of that line yet many caddies at the club question the openness of that first tee shot as the 17th is now so exposed. There are many bunkers in view but only one key bunker per player left at the limit of one’s attempting carry to shorten the hole. The green is a skyline and rather large benefiting a long drive with better depth perception. The green is hard to the cliffs making for a nearly humourless start although the second – a shortish par 5 is not as forgiving as the card might suggest owing to the markedly uphill nature of the second shot and the relative blindness. The Eden third is one of the better examples of what is a generally the most uninspired template on most courses from Macdonald, Raynor and Banks.
Mangrove is one of my favorite short par 4's anywhere. It is uphill to a skyline green with pesky well-placed bunkers just where you want to place your tee shot. Lots of slope to the green and a peek at the iconic Cape. It is never anything but thrilling. One cannot help but think of Babe Ruth standing on that tee emptying his bag of balls trying to drive the green once one has heard that story. Cape for some is almost anticlimactic except there are so many extras - special spots in the fairway, a raucous green complex and the seductive tee shot. No - you cannot carry it as far as you think, always play a little right of what you are confident you can carry!
I personally am a fan of this peculiar little Short template - not possessing the wildly contoured green that some do it is surrounded by little ponds making water rather than sand hazards key for this almost square green.
#8 Valley is a marvelous example with a near button-hook at the end with a good long drive to the left side what is needed. The green is rather elevated from the fairway leading to a high tee option for #9 - and a left bend from there.
Sound plays even more uphill than it appears, I needed a full three iron after a fine drive last play and that is typical. This far end of course leading to the half-way house is wide open to enjoy the view now. The half way house is almost the furthest point away from the clubhouse and is one of the finest in golf for location, elegace and a sense of presence.
The second nine has some of the most exciting land anywhere. Ten feels as though it will slide away if not somehow tacked down, a wonderful four with a crowned green. Eleven the five, feels very snug but one wishes that technology didn't have such impact. The routing of the second nine just matches the land so impossibly it seems timeless. The tee shot on #11 - Trott's (Named for a very prominent Bermudian family as is the pond) played straight away is too short for current driver technology, so a layup or a shot over the corner is in order. I love the fall off over the green. Hillside has long been a favorite of mine and just barely begins to describe it - very aptly named original hole. Being a coral reef island series, there are some varied landforms on the main island and at various points in the routing of Mid-Ocean. Hillside has a large half-dome that obscures a fair amount of the landing area of this dog-leg left. The green is also on a little plateau and never fails to thrill. The fact that it is followed by one of the finest Biarritz in Golf is a lovely bonus. However, now just the putting surface past the swale post renovation is maintained as such. It used to be that the entire front portion and swale were also putting surface, but not now.
The aptly named Lookout plays wonderfully uphill and ends the trip back to the clubhouse. The Redan and Home play on the lovely sloping plateau below the clubhouse in full view of the club.
Mid-Ocean is one of Golf's Happiest Places on the planet as it is relaxed and stimulating simultaneously. It is a beautiful spot to sit and have a drink, it is simply on Bermuda's finest land.
16 One of the Triumvirates most uphill holes
17 is a fine Redan - rescued from the trees
Routing - A wonderful walkabout and decent exercise. thrilling views constantly unfold
par 3's - a very good set with a great Biarritz even if only the back is green
par 4's - great variety, short 4th to long 9th, everything in between
par 5's - technology rears its head, but design-wise worthy of study
Cohesion of the course - Never do you feel out of place
Green Complexes - very well-done but new cultivar colour difference can be jarring
Bunkering schema - simple shapes well-placed, ideal for site
Conditioning - excellent playing surface, greens can be taken up to sub-ridiculous speed if that's what you're into.
Useful trees and avoidance of horticultural decoration - some complaints at the club about danger, but they do have a ton of visitors. Stark beauty of land is stupendous at places such as 1, 16-18
Ideality - pretty close to perfect except hills can be tough for newbies
The rest of the club - Didn't even ask for Kummel, but draft Foster's tastes no better anywhere else in this hemisphere. Plenty of libations and an excellent kitchen. I'll sign up anytime. Right at the top of my choices of places to play.
Milieu It is THE place away in a very comfortable way. The perfection of the new turf on the greens is not what I would have done had they asked me as it is noticeable. Mid Ocean is best when just a little scruffy here and there, like a favorite Blue Blazer with a threadbare area or small hole in the sleeve with a great story behind it. That's a comment, not a complaint.