The Port Royal Clubhouse (left) and Practice Range (right) sit high above the Atlantic in the background.
If the Mid Ocean Club defines vintage golf in Bermuda, the Port Royal Golf Course certainly epitomizes the modern look.
Originally fashioned by the hand of Robert Trent Jones Sr., the Port Royal Golf Course is both an exciting test of golf as well as visually spectacular. Known as the “Father of Modern Golf Course Architecture,” Jones produced the look and shaping of the course that reflects the bold sculptured bunkering and bulldozer grazed fairways that we’ve become accustomed to for courses opening over the last fifty years.
Port Royal is really a wonderful course and probably a bit underrated in the scheme of things. Though it has received more notoriety lately having hosted several PGA Grand Slam events, most anyone not familiar with Bermuda will likely have never heard of it. That’s unfortunate for it possesses a wonderful pacing and ebb and flow, not to mention some truly idyllic views. Built in 1970, it was reworked by Jones’ chief designer Roger Rulewich. As Rulewich was part of the original design team and did much of Jones’ onsite construction for many years, the more recent work was in keeping with the original theme and involved clearing much of the internal trees and brush to open up the gorgeous vistas. New lakes were constructed to assist with a new state-of-the-art irrigation system, and the course was lengthened by nearly 300 yards to its current 6,842 yards making it the longest course in Bermuda.
Port Royal really fits the theme of being a “great resort golf course.” The fairways are generous, but not without enough hazards to command your attention. The views are sublimely relaxing and match the relaxed yet refined ambiance that is Bermuda, while the conditioning is excellent. The course is quite versatile with no extended or unfair forced carries, but should the wind pick up, it can, of course, become much more challenging for all. The point is that the layout is not designed to embarrass anyone’s skills and it qualifies as a “wonderful walk in the park.”
As might be expected from Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Roger Rulewich, bold bunkering is always part of the challenge at Port Royal. Shown above is the par-four 6th hole.
Like most of the courses on the island, the layout plays over hilly terrain. As you climb the driveway toward the summit, Port Royal’s classic colored modern Bermuda clubhouse and practice area greet you though your eyes are naturally drawn to the expanse of Atlantic below you to the right. The routing instead begins your course journey in the opposite direction for the first third of the course. From the elevated first tee, you head down into a valley bowl away from the ocean. Lakes, bold bunkering, and semi-tropical foliage become your companion as you contemplate your return to the water. That said, you had better keep your mind on the task at hand. There is nothing easy or routine about the stretch. Right away, as you approach the first green, you are greeted by a greenside pond to catch anything short or left of your target. Nevertheless, you will likely anticipate the climb back to the ocean to see how the course interacts marries its proximity with the Atlantic.
A view back from the first green shows the elevations changes at Port Royal.
You are again treated to the magnificent ocean views as you step onto the par-five 7th green. With the 213-yard 8th, you fire right at an infinity green perched upon the ocean cliff. From that point on, you will enjoy an ocean view from at least part of every hole that follows. The course begins to peak with the 412-yard 15th holes with the approach to its long narrow putting surface with the ocean as a backdrop, but even better follows. Adjacent to it, is the much-photographed 16th right on the ocean cliffs with the Atlantic swirling below to your left. (It is as spectacular as any at Pebble Beach.) Ranging from 105 to 235 yards in length, there is nothing subtle about the hole – it is a world-class beauty and just as challenging! The putting surface is relatively small and fairly narrow. Catch bunkers protect the front and rear left of the green while a pot bunker and a depression catch basin form the bail-out area to the right. This is one hole that a delay is not only forgiven, but encouraged for there are few holes anywhere as spectacular and you will definitely want your camera.
The 16th at Bermuda’s Port Royal Golf Course is “All-World.”
The final two holes allow for some decompression to complete your round at what is a very enjoyable layout. From the views and versatility to the finely manicured golf course, Port Royal is a must-play golf course in Bermuda and one of the most pleasant resort golf experiences anywhere!
Below the par-four 18th concludes with an uphill climb to the clubhouse. (Photo courtesy of Wes Bolyard)