Set on the northeastern tip of Bermuda in weathly Tucker's Town, is one of the world’s finest golf courses. The “Father of Golf Architecture”, Charles Blair Macdonald, originally laid out the Mid Ocean Club in 1921 adjacent to the Atlantic.
Mid Ocean is totally unique with much of the course routed across glorious undulating ground. The Atlantic Ocean does not play a major part in the design of Mid Ocean it merely provides a beautiful backdrop to a number of holes, the majority of which are set back a little further inland amongst the stately pines, the pretty glades and the dramatic valleys.
The layout was modified by Robert Trent Jones, in the 1950s and today’s layout is a stern test, especially when the trade winds are freshening, but with numerous tees to choose from it’s also a very enjoyable course for the handicap golfer. Perhaps Mid Ocean's most notable and most treacherous hole is the 433-yard par four 5th, with its elevated tee atop a hill with a glorious view across the shimmering Mangrove Lake.
If you are only remotely interested in golf, a walk round Mid Ocean is a joy and naturally you must wear the mandatory Bermuda length shorts. Contrary to Mark Twain, Mid Ocean is most definitely not “a good walk spoiled”, we tend to agree with Mr Twain’s alternative saying, "you die and go to heaven, I'll stay here in Bermuda".
For today’s young gun, there’s nothing that approaches a par 5; the bombers can easily reach its longest holes in two comfortable shots. So there’s an air of cultured restraint about the place, like a suburban Surrey course, where hitting a ball too far might be regarded as a bit infra dig; not quite sporting, perhaps. It’s a course where you place the ball (if you’re good enough) where it needs to be placed to open up the second shot – for to score well you will have to be near the hole to avoid three-putting. The greens can be very difficult. It’s a fine collection of holes, a couple of relatively weak ones being overwhelmed by three terrific examples – the great 5th and 17th, and the very challenging 12th The 5th is a “Cape” hole, the 1st at Machrahanish re-visited, except that the tee is 100 feet above the distant fairway. A drawing drive, biting off what you think you can chew of the pond’s shoreline, leaves you an approach to a raised, large, sloping green tucked back towards the pond but guarded by a massive bunker. The green is lighting fast, and many a good player has putted off it, misjudging both its slopes and its pace.
The 17th is a classic Redan. You stand on the back tee about 200 yards away, taking in the view as the ocean has reappeared for the first time since the 3rd. Ahead and slightly downhill lies the green, set into a steep bank on its right side, and sloping gently away from you from front right to back left. The left side of the green is all steep bunkers. The prevailing wind is into your face. It is a classic hole, surely one of the world’s great par three holes (and streets ahead of the famous 16th at Port Royal, which is similar in concept, but too tarted-up). Good luck.
The 12th is also a very fine hole. A precise, blind drive is necessary, into an area that leaves at least a long iron to an uphill, sloping green. A very difficult shot, and I watched Zach Johnson, playing in the first Grand Slam at MOC, hitting a three wood from a steeply hanging lie, 220 yards on the fly, stopping dead, 1 foot from the pin, the best shot I’ve seen played in person in my life.
The rest of the course is pleasantly challenging, and a great day’s golf. MOC’s condition is always immaculate, and it’s, by some way in my opinion, Bermuda’s best. Scenically, Tucker’s Point and Port Royal, outmatch it. But the golfer will love MOC. It’s a private club, but visitors can access the course at certain times with an introduction from a member or a one of the Islands hotels. Carts are available, but at MOC, unlike the other two is eminently walkable, except on the warmest days. Caddies are also available. There is a fine old-fashioned clubhouse and a friendly staff. It is costly, not as anus-clenchingly expensive as Tucker’s Point perhaps, but still well up there. Probably $300 a head, with cart rental. Caddies might be more, I’ve never used one. But as a special treat, for no golfer can visit Bermuda and not play MOC, well worth it.