July 13, 2008

Travel: Good neighbors

Mid Ocean, Tucker's Point clubs make a strong one-two combo in Bermuda

Water views: The 17th hole at Tucker's Point (top) and the first at Mid Ocean (inset). Photos: Courtesy of Tucker's Point (top); Evan Schiller (inset)

Water views: The 17th hole at Tucker's Point (top) and the first at Mid Ocean (inset). Photos: Courtesy of Tucker's Point (top); Evan Schiller (inset)

The Mid Ocean Club casts a long shadow. Designed in 1921 by the legendary Charles Blair Macdonald, architect of National GL, Yale GC and Chicago GC, Mid Ocean is universally recognized as the finest course in Bermuda. Far less famous is its immediate neighbor, Tucker's Point Club, which traces its roots to the 1930s and was known for most of its history as Castle Harbour.

Ed Trippe is determined to change that. The son of Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, who bought control of the 200-acre property in the 1950s (and is portrayed by Alec Baldwin in "The Aviator"), Trippe imagines Tucker's Point as the focal point of Bermuda's most luxurious resort and residential community. So far he has built a passel of multimillion-dollar homes and a just-opened clubhouse, and his plans call for a 104-room hotel and spa, to begin construction later this year.

To help get golfers excited about the course, he hired Roger Rulewich--a longtime Robert Trent Jones protégé--to rework it thoroughly. Rulewich added five new holes, 17 new tees, 20 new bunkers, and Tif Eagle Bermuda grass for the greens. How did it turn out? Well, Tucker's Point is no Mid Ocean Club, but then not many are. It is a fine complement to that course, and visitors to Bermuda should make every effort to play them both.

The Tucker's Point course, which plays to 6,361 yards and par 70 from its back tees, is not overly difficult. The fairways tend to funnel balls toward their center, and many of its greens are surrounded by gentle bowls that catch errant approach shots and keep them in play. What you will remember most after a round at Tucker's Point is the views. Hilly in the extreme--locals call it "The Goat Hill Course"--it gives you a great look at the island and the surrounding bright blue water. One of the most dramatic vistas comes at the 13th tee, where you can gaze out across Harrington Sound all the way down to the island's tip, the Royal Navy Dockyard, some 20 miles away.

That's what makes Tucker's Point such a good match with Mid Ocean. At Tucker's Point you get the big picture from on high; Mid Ocean takes you right down to the roiling surf--at least for the first three holes and the dramatic 18th. While Tucker's Point is friendly to first-time guests, Mid Ocean is more of a mystery. It includes a handful of blind shots, and several greens are fronted by large mounds that reject balls not hit all the way to the hole. "Forgiving" is one word you would not use to describe Mid Ocean.

Both courses are private, though neither is difficult to get on. Eager to have visitors check out its property (and possibly drop $370,000 on a one-tenth share of a three-bedroom villa), Tucker's Point will let you play any day of the week. Mid Ocean allows unaccompanied guests on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. In both cases you will need to be sponsored by a member, but any of the island's major hotels should be able to make that connection for you.

Mid Ocean Club. Green fee: $200 ($35 per bag, plus tip, for caddie); 441-293-0330, themidoceanclubbermuda.com Tucker's Point Club. Green fee: $200 including cart; 441-298-6970, tuckerspoint.com


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