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|Belmont Hills Golf Club is one of Bermuda's best courses. (Courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)|
WARWICK, Bermuda -- Akin to the taut, skinny streets weaving through the island of Bermuda, the tight fairways at engaging Belmont Hills Golf Club are best navigated by the accurate and prudent.
Tipping at a mere 6,017 yards, Algie Pulley's 2002 par-70 design (a complete renovation from the original Devereux Emmet course drawn in the 1920s) usurps the need for tee bombing in lieu of necessary ball control and an adroit short game.
"You will find that Belmont Hills is one of the courses in Bermuda that is very defined and also tight in a lot of areas; more so on the front nine than the back," says Darren Swan, golf professional at Belmont Hills.
"The front requires a lot of accuracy off the tee, and you can club down a little bit; you don't always have to use your driver. And approach shots on the front are key, as the greens are very undulated."
Though getable on a myriad of holes, the mainly inland routing indeed expresses teeth across its diminutive distance.
"One of the professional tournaments we host, the players call it, 'the toughest short course they've ever played,'" Swan said. "They look at the yardage and think, 'Man, I'm going to shoot 10-under every day,' and they end up shooting even par."
Success with lofted clubs proves paramount for scoring, as does a studied flatstick upon greens that prove both testy and skinny.
"If you're a good wedge player then you can definitely play Belmont well," Swan added. "And I think our greens, which are fast, are also the most undulated on the island. That combination makes for a good ingredient."
After a cush opener, Belmont's claustrophobia becomes well evident on the 386-yard, par-4 second, which asks for clubbing-down for a right side play to avoid water on the left.
"On no. 2, we definitely squeeze you in and tighten it up," Swan said of the front's top-handicap hole, sporting an elevated, three-tier green. "It looks like a runway looking down the fairway."
A benign run ensues before the short, 329-yard eighth grabs the Bermuda shorts.
"The eighth has a bit of water to the right, and it's kind of a straightforward hole, but it requires a great tee shot to get to the fairway, and then you've got a pitching wedge if you set yourself up," Swan said.
The slightly longer back side presents enhanced allure, starting with Belmont's longest hole, the attractive, 533-yard 12th, a downhill, dogleg left with some excellent views of surrounding homes.
Following a fun, par-4 mini run on nos. 13 and 14 (just 694 combined yards), Belmont closes with aplomb.
"The two closing holes are probably the best finishers I've seen in a long time," Swan said. "For most tournaments that we host, they definitely decide the outcome."
Conditions help determine the play on the penultimate hole.
"The 17th is a downhill par 3 that's about 170 (from the tips); a lot is dependent on where the wind is, but it requires a great tee shot," described Swan. "You choose the wrong club, and you're in a bunker, or you're long, or your short, and you just don't make par."
The home hole presents a final salvo of Belmont's slender demands.
"On no. 18, a long par 4 (at 412 yards), there's no forgiveness left or right," Swan concluded. "You've got to be straight down the middle, and it requires a great tee shot to get you out there. The vistas are great with the water and Hamilton in the background; it's very beautiful and lush, but the hole definitely gets you to fear a little bit. But if you hold back, you're going to have a 5-iron in your hand into a tight, small green."
One of seven golf courses on Bermuda, the tight fairways and elevated, undulating greens across the short grounds of Belmont make for a continually entertaining and worthy play.
Skeptics will take pause in the lack of vistas (which are, if nothing else, in abundance at the finish), but rest assured that both Bermuda locals and longtime visitors regularly pencil Belmont onto their tee sheets.
Post round, be sure to take in the excellent, on-site dining at Blu Bar & Grill, aptly reputed among the island's top restaurants for steak, fresh seafood and brick oven pizzas.
February 5, 2015
Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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