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|No. 16 is Port Royal Golf Course's signature test. (Courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority)|
SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda -- In preparation for hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal Golf Course in 2009, $14.5 million was pumped into the government-owned grounds, resulting in what serves as the island's finest daily-rate play.
Port Royal's five-year run as Grand Slam host concluded in '14. During that stretch, the world's best golfers (Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott were among the winners) experienced what Bermuda visitors and locals readily and regularly enjoy: A meaty, view-laden opportunity to take on one of the most memorable public courses around.
"There's a commitment here to have a world-class public course," says Kim Swan, teaching professional at Port Royal. "Any hole can be your nemesis and any hole can be your friend. It's a fair golf course that allows for versatility and any number of shots to be executed."
Bermuda's longest track at 6,842 yards, said nemeses will come in abundance for high-handicappers. This beatific, but oft-demanding course will dock the wayward player with distance demands (five par 4s of 410 yards or more), elevated green structures and a susceptibility to wind, which will give pause on a gusty day.
For the 25-plus-stroke crowd, prepare to pack a lunch -- along with a few other touring tools.
"You can be fooled by the great views here, and there are oftentimes we see persons here that have Port Royal on the 'bucket list' who spend more time with the camera than actually playing golf," Swan says with a laugh. "And I say to them, 'Did you have any great shots?' and they say, 'Yeah, I got shots of the Great Sound, the fishing boats and of Pompano Beach.'"
The links-style feel at Port Royal since its '09 redesign gives rise to a rolling fine time for the focused player with a strong recovery game.
"Having grown up here, the course being designed and redesigned by the same person essentially -- Mr. Roger Rulewich, who initially worked for Robert Trent Jones Sr. -- has made good use of the natural, hilly topography that exists here, along with the beautiful coastline that he captured very well," Swan says.
While highlights define the back nine, the grounds' strength is apparent from the outset.
"The first hole is beautiful, winding down the hill with water in front of the green," Swan says. "It's a great start and a challenging hole. A lot of opening holes give you a gift. This is no gift. This makes you focus, as we say in Bermuda, 'from the get go.' And if the wind is coming out of the north, God help you, as it becomes a long drive."
On the 370-yard sixth, bunkering guards the deep fairway before a raised, sloping green protects birdie chances.
The 517-yard seventh ensues with a downhill tee shot preceding a false-fronted, uphill approach, which rewards players with a sudden (and astounding) debut ocean view.
The vista carries to the par-3 eighth, where wind direction translates directly to club selection.
Across the back, brilliant use of the land is found at nearly every turn, but no more so than upon Port Royal's signature test, playing nature vs. nurture over the deep blue.
"When it comes to talking holes at Port Royal, you have to start with no. 16," Swan says. "It's our long par 3 on the coast that was designed to test the best players in the world, with a plaque there to testify how scary and tough this hole is."
Should your bag still hold a few balls after 16, muscle up for the par-5 17th with water left and bunkering right. The 410-yard final hole demands mettle across a rising fairway and massively false-fronted putting surface.
Scratch players will find an excellent test of premier play at Port Royal, while high-handicappers should arrive with the attitude of enjoying the experience.
Demands are in abundance for all levels, ranging from wind study to navigating elevated greens, which require a fine recovery game to avoid blow-ups.
Full practice facility and instruction are on site; newcomers with some pamper to spare may very well want to employ the use of a forecaddie to assist with steering around blind shots, understanding wind direction and studying the beautiful (but burly) raised greens.
February 11, 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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