GOLF TRAVEL: Ready to jump on a plane? Try Bermuda – Toronto Sun

Author of the article:

Jon McCarthy

Mid Ocean Golf Club is a stunning as they come. There are seven golf course on the beautiful island of Bermuda.
Mid Ocean Golf Club is a stunning as they come. There are seven golf course on the beautiful island of Bermuda. Photo by Jon McCarthy /Toronto Sun

The golfer across from me on the ferry was sporting a Toronto Raptors hat but didn’t sound like he was from Toronto.


It was Thursday evening following a very eventful opening round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course and eventual champion Lucas Herbert was enjoying the boat ride back to the Hamilton Princess hotel after shooting a one-under-par 70 in tough conditions.

I eventually asked the Australian golfer the story behind his Raptors hat and he said, “I thought it looked cool.”

It’s not every PGA Tour event that players are whisked back to their hotel on a ferry alongside spectators and fellow guests, but it’s part of the intimate charm of the Bermuda Championship, and the island of Bermuda. I was pondering this thought as I noticed that Herbert’s caddie Nick Pugh had a golf pencil hidden amidst his rather incredible beard.


With travel around much of the world cautiously returning, I was invited by the Bermuda Tourism Authority to hop on a less than three-hour, direct Air Canada flight from Toronto to attend the tournament and check out the local golf scene. I jumped at the chance to spend some vacation days trading my notepad and pre-pandemic Airbnb stays for a golf trip and luxury accommodations. We docked at the Hamilton Princess, our home for the week, and walked past a lively outdoor patio as the Rum Swizzles and Dark ‘n’ Stormies of an island night erased guests’ memories of the morning storm.

The Hamilton Princess Beach Club is a private beach for hotel guests and has lots to explore. Above, You can’t rent a car in Bermuda, but you can rent a Twizy.
The Hamilton Princess Beach Club is a private beach for hotel guests and has lots to explore. Above, You can’t rent a car in Bermuda, but you can rent a Twizy. Photo by Jon McCarthy /Toronto Sun

The Hamilton Princess, or simply ‘The Princess’ as locals call it, is a stunning Fairmont managed hotel that not only exudes luxury but maintains the history, charm, and culture of Bermuda. The dramatic pastel pink hotel which opened in 1885 and was named after Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, was purchased in 2012 by a Bermudian family and recently underwent a $100-million update. The hotel is just a five-minute walk from the main streets and shops of Hamilton, the country’s capital. You can’t rent a car in Bermuda; with 60,000 residents on the small island there is simply no room. Instead, you can rent a Twizy, a two-seat, tandem-style microcar. Think road-worthy electric golf cart but smaller, and yes, you can fit yourself and a golf bag in one.


As one would expect the Princess has gorgeous pools, a spa, a yoga studio that numerous tour wives frequented, and great restaurants. One thing I don’t advise is leaving young daughters at home and then telling them you’re staying in a pink hotel named The Princess.

Even as someone with much more of an eye for fine golf courses than fine art, I noticed the walls throughout the hotel were covered in very, um, non-hotel looking paintings and art installations. Upon closer examination I saw names including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Rene Magritte as I dragged my golf travel bag through the hallways. Turns out, the modern art collection belongs to the Green family, the hotel’s Bermudian owners, and the Princess offers weekend walkthroughs to art-lovers staying elsewhere on the island.


Nobody brings a golf writer to Bermuda to talk about art though, so getting back on track one of the great things about this 34 km long, less than two km wide island is that you are never far from a golf course. With seven to choose from, Bermuda boasts it has more courses per square km than anywhere else in the world. I managed to check out four of them over the week and can confidently say none lack in great vistas and dramatic scenery.

My first stop after securing my COVID SafeKey (more on that below) was Tucker’s Point Golf Club at Rosewood Bermuda, another luxury resort on the island. Originally designed in 1932, the course features great conditions, fun holes, and wonderful elevation changes that expose you to the island wind and make you feel like part golfer, part explorer. The undulating fairways lined by lush tropical (sub-tropical for you weather sticklers) vegetation would be a sign of things to come throughout the week. The greens had been recently aerated but were still running quick thanks in part to the TifEagle hybrid Bermuda-grass.


We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

The first round on any golf trip — if you’re in the right place — is full of wonder as your golfer’s mind files away the agronomy and topography of the region while your conscious mind soaks in the new surroundings. The natural beauty of Bermuda is everything you’d expect with incredible beaches, turquoise water, palm trees, and lush vegetation — all of it on display from the course. What I didn’t expect was the local architecture and how much it adds to the experience. The traditional Bermudian house is low and square with a white stone roof and pastel coloured walls. Near the golf courses, many of the houses are slightly more sprawling structures but keep with the traditional architecture and pastel colour palette you’ll quickly come to recognize on the island. The white roofs were originally made out of limestone from the cap of the underwater volcano that formed Bermuda. The stark contrast between the lush tropical foliage and the gleaming white stone rooftops offers a tropical elegance that will stay with you long after the trip.


We were talking about golf, right?

After two days in sunny paradise I awoke for a Tuesday morning tee time at nearby Belmont Hills Golf Resort and found an epic storm. It was still dark outside but rain and wind were battering the hotel room window. The forecast said 25-30 mm of rain, 49 km/h wind with gusts reaching 74 km/h, and no sun; but hey, it was 25C and I’d already checked out the hotel art, so I hopped in a cab and headed for the course.

They were quite surprised to see us when we arrived at the pro shop, even beckoning us over to look at the disastrous radar forecast. Finally, understanding that we were not to be dissuaded, we were let out on the course after being told at least ten times to stay on the cart paths.

It was hard to get a proper gauge of Belmont Hills other than to say it’s tighter than the other courses we played and most certainly drains extremely well. We played 18 holes in two hours flat, running from cart to ball and back, and I had the unique experience of getting water up my nose during the follow-through of a golf shot. First time for that.


Wednesday was going to be a big day as I was set to play in the Bermuda Championship Pro-Am with Patrick Rodgers and Seung yul-Noh. Waking up once again at dark-o’clock, things didn’t look good. Tuesday’s storm had dragged into Wednesday morning and tee times at Port Royal were delayed once, twice, and finally cancelled.

Bermudians are warm, proud people and, in my experience, as charming as the island itself. Judging by how many locals apologized for the past 36 hours of weather, it was quite obvious that prolonged storms are not common in Bermuda. I mean, have you ever heard anyone apologize for the weather in Scotland? Rain in Bermuda usually blows in and out very quickly and entire days are rarely washed out, so outdoor activities are safe to count on. I was told before the trip that if you don’t like Bermuda weather, just wait 15 minutes. The island sees a tropical storm on average just once every six or seven years.


Things cleared up Wednesday afternoon and the Pro-Am cancellation turned out to be a blessing as we secured a tee time at Mid Ocean Club, a course I feared I would miss during the trip.

Glad I didn’t.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

For the surprise round at Mid Ocean I was to be paired with another would-be pro-am participant whose name looked very familiar. Turns out, I missed the pro-am but still played with a pro as four-time Grey Cup-winning champion quarterback Damon Allen joined our group. Allen, 58, is an avid golfer and was able to maintain his focus despite being pestered by a golf writer about his CFL career and recent stint as a coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. (Yes, he’ll be in Hamilton for the Grey Cup; yes, the 2004 Argos championship was probably the sweetest of them all; yes, he has the itch to coach now; and no, he doesn’t want to talk about Jon Gruden.)


Once again, back to golf.

Mid Ocean is a bucket-list level course and an absolute must-play if you’re in Bermuda. It was originally designed in 1921 by Charles Blair Macdonald With Seth Raynor before undergoing a Robert Trent Jones redesign in 1953. Mid Ocean has got it all: Stunning landscapes, impeccable conditions, wonderful design, great risk-reward holes, it’s an elite course anywhere in the world. The par-3s on the back nine are named Biarritz and Redan and all day you are constantly torn between taking photos and concentrating on your game. The first tee is the most exposed spot on the course, so the wind has your attention from the jump.

And if you’re like me and realize you’ve left your A-game at home, don’t worry, the best thing about golf in Bermuda is it’s incredibly easy to forget a bad shot.



For anyone thinking of travelling to Bermuda, the COVID protocol is very well done and the island felt safe in my experience. You must apply and be approved for travel authorization from the Bermuda government before you travel. You are tested at the airport upon arrival, given a red wristband and told to stay at your hotel until the results come back. My results came back in eight hours at which point I was emailed a SafeKey barcode to enter most restaurants, the tournament, and other attractions. You are then automatically scheduled for a Day 4 test (mine was at my hotel) to update your SafeKey, and then a Day 10 test if you are lucky enough to be there 10 days. It’s highly recommended you are double vaccinated before you go or else you must quarantine for 14 days before travelling around the island.

opening envelope

Your Midday Sun

From our newsroom to your inbox at noon, the latest headlines, stories, opinion and photos from the Toronto Sun.

By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300