Mid Ocean Club - Bermuda

The Mid Ocean Club,

  • +1 441 293 0330

  • Austen Gravestock

  • Charles Blair Macdonald and Robert Trent Jones

  • Kevin Benevides

Set on the northeastern tip of Bermuda in wealthy Tucker's Town, is one of the world’s finest golf courses. The “Father of Golf Architecture”, Charles Blair Macdonald and his associate, Seth Raynor, originally laid out the Mid Ocean Club course and it opened for play in 1924 adjacent to the Atlantic.

In The Evangelist of Golf, George Bahto commented as follows: “Macdonald and Raynor traveled to the island and drew up several possible routings from relief maps of the area, finally settling on one. Once the planning stages were complete, Macdonald left Raynor to attend to the actual construction, assisted by Charles Banks and Ralph Barton, a construction supervisor. It was Banks who later built the Castle Harbour course on the adjoining property.”

“When the course opened in 1924, Mid Ocean set a new standard as the finest inland course in the world. Rather than succumb to the temptation of forcing scenic cliff-top holes at the expense of good golf, Macdonald and Raynor showed great restraint by skilfully routing Mid Ocean to take full advantage – first and foremost – of the natural contours of the site.”

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 among 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".

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Description: The “Father of Golf Architecture”, Charles Blair Macdonald and his associate, Seth Raynor, originally laid out the Mid Ocean Club course and it opened for play in 1924 adjacent to the Atlantic. Rating: 5.6 out of 6 Reviews: 5

Fantastic layout, challenging greens. Good strategy course. Well maintained

5 / 6
Mid Ocean Club
November 15, 2018

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The voyage begins to an isolated island 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The journey brings you to the brilliant blue waters of balmy Bermuda. Fortunately for my 3 days on the island, the weather was not ‘Dark & Stormy’ like the island’s signature cocktail drink.

Harbour from St George's village

Today’s golf course is approximately 400 yards longer than the course that Macdonald completed in 1921. The new tees are necessary to accommodate today’s technology and longer players. The added length, the passing of time, the growth of population and the evolution of the motorcar has all touched the presentation of this golf course. I went around the course 3 days in a row, and on one occasion, I simply walked the course without clubs to get a feel of different angles, land formations and how a hole played from different tees. Before I get into describing my experience of playing the course, I wanted to share a few observations from studying this special layout:

  • A number of the current back tees were not there in 1921 (eg: 1st, 17th).
  • Many of the bunkers have seriously steep faces. This summer MOC conducted a major bunker restoration program, which was a wonderful investment. Once the roots are deep enough the club have a plan in place to cut down the fuzzy grass so that balls will roll back into the bunker.
  • The bunkers that are now grass bunkers on 16 were installed by Robert Trent Jones in the mid 1950’s. They were not CBM bunkers.
  • Numerous characteristics from the ‘home of golf’ at St. Andrews were impressively incorporated into the design at MOC, emphasizing Macdonald’s homage to the Scottish masterpiece. In 1872 at age 16, he was sent to St Andrews University and while there he took up playing golf with a vengeance. To this day, residents of Bermuda benefit
  • The interpretation and preservation of the classic template holes is a never ending evolution

Mid Ocean Club 1st hole

1st hole – Atlantic – breathtaking view, steep climb to the diagonal fairway, a string of bunkers running down the right hand side of the fairway all the way up to the elevated infinity green. The angles, hazards and jaw dropping setting have few peers in this neck of the woods - rendering this one of the greatest opening holes around. With a handful of bunkers on the inside of the dogleg, the number of Dark & Stormy’s you have running through your system may influence how aggressive you want to be

2nd hole – Long – although just 471 yards from the back tee, this par 5 has a downhill tee shot, a tight landing area at the dogleg before climbing steeply up to the green. The steep slope adds at least 40 yards to the hole. Most strong players will catch a tailwind and quickly turn this into a par 4

3rd hole – Eden – mid range benign par 3 along the water with a generous green. The template bunkers are not too challenging except when the pin is on the right side of the green

4th hole – Mangrove – short par 4, but plays steeply uphill which makes it a tough walk and even tougher to pick a club for your uphill approach shot. Watch out for the massive bunker that sits below the green. Another example of a fabulous short par 4 that plays so much longer

Mid Ocean Club 5th hole

5th hole – Cape – widely regarded as the best Cape hole in the world. The current blue tees are not original to Macdonald, but clearly are necessary in today’s day and age. I really hope the club finds a way to remove all the mangrove bushes that now suffocate the edge of the water all the way up and around the green. They are not original either. Watch out for the steep contour on the right side of the green, as if you get stuck on top of it, you’ll struggle mightily with your next shot.

6th hole – Brow – another short blind par 4 where club selection off the tee plays a big part to how you play the hole. Lay up to the exposed plateau, or open your shoulders to get over the brow of the hill. Both strategies have benefits, but it’s all about how comfortable you are playing into the elevated green. Huge change in elevation!

Mid Ocean Club 7th hole

7th – Short – this is the longest “Short” hole I’ve ever played from approximately 180 yard back tees. Again, the blue and white tees are not original. The hole also is unique with how the hazards in front of the green are essentially ponds instead of being bunkers. The green slopes sharply from back to front – as to many of the greens on the front. Very tough downhill with swirling winds.

8th – Valley – downhill tee shot, steep slope down the right hand side, slight dogleg right playing to a steep elevated green heavily protected with deep bunkers. Toughest 310 yards on the course.

9th – Sound – the uphill holes are relentless, this 406 yard par 4 could visually be mistaken for a par 5 in length. Fabulous bunkering offering depth perception challenges bring you up the hill to the green that sits above the Sound. The front nine is a tough walk and you change direction at least 6 times

10th – Mercer Hill – Players face a blind tee shot over a hill which plays towards a green that is a mirror image of the Road hole green at St. Andrews. A tough green to hit in regulation as your approach shot will undoubtedly be from a hanging lie

11th – Trotts – a brilliant par 5 which doglegs to the left. With less than driver off the tee, the turbulent land prevents you from seeing the landing area. Upon reaching the dogleg, it’s a gentle rise which starts 250 yards out. Birdies will be hard earned given the dome shape contour of the green and the fact that most of the time wind makes that hole very tricky.

12th – Hillside – unquestionably the toughest hole on the course. Another blind tee shot over a hill to a dogleg left. From 200 yards out, the approach shot to the steeply elevated green is on the short list of the hardest shots on the course. Hitting the Hillside green in regulation is an epic feat.

Mid Ocean Club 13th hole

13th – Biarritz – the original Biarritz hole was the 3rd hole at Biarritz GC in France, which is a golf course that sadly no longer exists. I personally consider the loss of Lido GC and the original Biarritz green in France, among the greatest losses in our game due to the continued influence they have on today’s architecture. Opinions suggest that the original Biarritz green had an inlet next to the ocean (eg: 16th at Cabot Cliffs), which may surprise today’s golfers playing an interpretation by Macdonald/Raynor. I support the theory that CBM designed Biarritz holes as an interpretation of the original in France next to the water, with the dip that we see today symbolizing the inlet. The downhill 13th at Mid Ocean Green displays a “fairway-dip-green” configuration. Other’s around North America still display a “green-dip-green” configuration (eg: Yale). In general with any of today’s Biarritz greens, the front plateau being fairway appears to be the best representation of the original construct. Top marks to Mid-Ocean.

14th – Leven – par 4 dogleg right with a sprawling bunker complex unlike previous straight-edge bunkers. The fairway bunkers in this part of the property visually differ from elsewhere. You may have a short iron into the green, but the slope from left to right will catch you off guard

15th – Punchbowl – a challenging par 5 that raises up to the iconic template green. The road running in front of the green is a factor for your second shot – but with a good drive, players will be tempted to go for the green. As you cross the road, the flag is barely visible due to the elevated bowl, but standing at the front of the green does not feel like you’re in a bowl. The turn for home is the beginning of a tough stretch

Mid Ocean Club 16th hole

16th – Lookout – blind tee shot over the road to a raised plateau fairway. At the crest, you’ll see the depressions down below you to your right referenced above. The hole feels tight off the tee, but once you reach your ball, it’s just a short iron to the green. The views of the ocean return for the first time since the half-way house.

17th – Redan – the hole was 190 yards long in 1921 and it is now 203 yards. The green is as expected from a design perspective, but the sprawling bunkers left of the green will certainly catch your eye. The glorious vista makes this par 3 a sight to behold

Mid Ocean Club view from the 18th tee

18th – Home – a magnificent tough par 4 to finish along the coast line. Moving from left to right, using the contours of the land up the left hand side with undoubtedly put you in the best position to hit the green. Just like at the Old Course, CBM keeps golfers on their toes from start to finish.

The evolution of the Mid Ocean Club since 1921 has been an interesting journey. While gummy Bermuda grass will never be my favourite playing surface, you can’t beat this beautiful island being just a short flight from the US east coast and offering splendid hospitality with really fun golf. I look forward to a return visit, and will no doubt continue my love affair with the venue.

5 / 6
Mid Ocean Club
January 01, 2018

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Mid Ocean Club is a private club that was designed in 1922 by Canadian born architect Charles Blair Macdonald and revised in 1953 by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones. Home of the 2007 and 2008 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, this is a true ocean Mid Ocean Club - Photo by reviewercourse that consistently ranks as one of the finest in the world. Big greens, possible 35 mph winds and six par 4’s over 400 yards will definitely test your skill and patience. The first three holes run parallel to the ocean but the 3rd hole is probably one of the most picturesque on the island, a downhill par 3 that runs perilously close to the rocky cliff ocean shoreline. The 5th hole is the toughest on the course. With Mangrove Lake in play all the way down the left side, this is a very intimidating hole. You will find there are plenty of bunkers to contend with but the sand is very consistent. Be forewarned though that the Bermuda rough or “snatch grass”, as I like to call it, will grab your ball and settle in or bury. Mid Ocean is a private course but allows guests on Monday, Wednesday and Friday only.
6 / 6
Mid Ocean Club
July 24, 2013

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Mid-Ocean Club (MOC) is the jewel in Bermuda’s golf crown. It shares with all of the Island’s serious golf courses the quirk that the ocean itself is never in play, but unlike the others, it’s only rarely that you even you see it! It’s essentially a parkland course with wide fairways; its defences are clever bunkering and (usually) fast, highly contoured putting surfaces. It’s a delight to play, with mostly gently changing elevations unlike the mountain goat demands of the adjacent Tucker’s Point. The flow is continuous, green to tee walks are only a few yards, and they do attempt to enforce pace of play standards, unlike the other main courses in Bermuda where you can grow old finishing a round. The ambience of MOC is that you’re stepping back 75 years to a time when courses were designed to be finessed rather than bludgeoned.

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.
6 / 6
Mid Ocean Club
June 14, 2011

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I can’t believe that this is the first review of Mid Ocean on this site – particularly given that it hosted the PGA’s Grand Slam over several years. The Grand Slam has now moved on to the newly rebuilt Port Royal at the other end of the island, but Mid Ocean remains for me the top dog on the Bermuda golfing ladder. As the review above says, you see less of the ocean than the club’s name might suggest, although the view down onto the water from the 4th tee has to be one of the best in the golfing world. The land rises and falls dramatically and there are lots of hanging lies even on the largely generous fairways, and although the Bermuda grass prevents a lot of roll the turf sits on firm sandy soil. If feels at least its 6,500 yard length. The course is also fairly heavily bunkered and the clever run-offs for approaches narrowly missing the green mean you are bound to have your sand wedge working overtime. There are no weak holes on the course, but the real standouts for me were: the famous 5th featuring a heart-in-mouth tee shot out over the water and difficult pitch (if you’ve been brave off the tee) up a long, raised green; the 9th which demands an almost blind drive over a crest and testing approach up a wickedly sloping green; the 12th, a long par 4 where only a cracker of a drive, avoiding the bunker on the outer apex of the dog-leg left, will leave you with a long iron in; and the 17th which must be one of the great par 3s in golf, a 200 yard hit down to another big sloping Redan-style green surrounded by deep bunkers.To make a score you have to putt well (I didn’t, twice) and you will always get some massively breaking puts – it’s one of those courses where you’re never in until you’re in, particularly for 5 foot downhillers. The clubhouse is also fantastic and has a nice feeling of being a traditional club but with that relaxed island feel; you really feel you’ve earned your beer looking down over the 18th fairway and out into the Atlantic from the huge windows in the bar. All in all, this is a top-notch golfing experience and you should crawl all over anyone who can invite you on.
6 / 6
Mid Ocean Club
July 20, 2010

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