The Good News arrived in late spring when my wife, Fernanda, dropped a white stick on our nightstand and let out a yelp: baby on the way. A few months later, more exhilarating intel: a boy. While the Good News has produced a litany of tasks to complete, items to purchase, physicians to consult, classes to take, and (best of all) celebrations to stage, the last several months have been a blur. I'm told that life only speeds up as your family expands. The Ritters are on the fast track to Mach 5.
In a final, futile attempt to slow things down before our son arrives, Fer and I plotted one last vacation: a serene and sun-drenched "babymoon" to Bermuda, the oceanic island 900 miles due east of North Carolina that is encircled by aqua-blue water and shaped vaguely like a shrimp, of which we consumed in abundance.
As a New Yorker, it's disorienting to reach a vibrant, tropical locale after such a short flight — less than two hours from the Big Apple and, for that matter, most of the Eastern seaboard. It hit us immediately upon our arrival in mid-October: turquoise sea, lush palms, and pink sand beaches dotted by bright pastel-colored homes. On the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, we began chatting with a friendly couple of a certain age. Annie's husband passed away more than eight years ago; Jack's wife died of cancer earlier this year. They met on a dating website, clicked immediately, and here they were in Bermuda three months later, beaching it and plotting a life together back home in Myrtle Beach. "I've never slept more, drank more or had more fun!" Jack gushed. "I've also never been happier." Jack's also a golf guy, like many who visit the island, but Annie is getting him into tennis. We didn't see them on the links.
Bermuda appears to be having a babymoon moment of its own. While the Caribbean and Latin America continue to be flagged for Zika, Bermuda — and its tourism industry — is far enough north to have escaped the virus. The Bermuda Tourism Authority reports that leisure visits from the U.S. are up nearly 10% this year. The bureau doesn't specifically track expectant couples, but it says here that they're the ones driving it. On our getaway babymooners seemed to be around every corner. At the bar one night, we chatted up Tibby and Janice from Queens (due Jan. 5) and Tammy from Alberta (Jan. 15). On a beach day we bumped into Dave and Sabrina from New Jersey (Dec. 25). It was like a Buy Buy Baby convention was in town.
Our first hotel, the Fairmont Southampton, is tucked into the island's south-central section, near a popular spot called Horseshoe Beach. The Fairmont spans more than 100 acres and is flanked by tall palms. Shuttles from the lobby whisk guests to the beach, restaurants and city bus stop below. Fer and I squeezed in a little golf. The Turtle Hill Golf Club, adjacent to the hotel, is an 18-hole par-3 course with Atlantic views on 17 holes (on the one hole that's obscured, the 17th, there's a water hazard). A new sports bar was set to open above the pro shop shortly after our visit. "Turtle" is an apt description of the greens, which were tricky, and also the terrain, which has considerable elevation changes and requires a cart to navigate. A few holes also checked in at more than 200 yards. I'm not going to portray a round at Turtle Hill as anything strenuous (I played in shades and no socks), but it was real golf. Fer hit a few full shots and some nice putts. The breeze blew in from the ocean. The sun sparkled. It was exactly what we were looking for.
After a few nights we cabbed over to the East side of the island. I played a dew-sweeper round at Mid Ocean Club, a C.B. Macdonald design that opened in 1921, recently hosted the PGA Tour's Grand Slam of Golf and remains the crown jewel of Bermuda's golf scene. Even under gloomy morning skies, the ocean view from the opening tee still knocks you out.
Mid Ocean is stunning, but it also packs a serious punch. "You can get screwed in many different ways — it's brilliant," said Paul Adams, director of golf at Turtle Hill and my partner for this round. "Macdonald wasn't into the fairness of golf — he liked the unfairness. He wanted you to have to come back and play this course several times."
With multiple blind shots and difficult angles, the course quickly chewed me up. I made a snowman on the opening par 4 and more or less forgot about my scorecard. The par-4 5th, known as the Cape Hole, with an elevated tee, undulating green and Mangrove Lake lurking to the left, is a beautiful brute. Legend has it that Babe Ruth, on a visit in the 1930s, rinsed a box of balls in the lake while attempting to drive the green. (He was a lefty and played a slice, a bad combo for this hole.) I found the fairway but three-putted for a 5.
Mid Ocean's spectacular finishing hole runs between the clubhouse and the Atlantic, and you can cap your round in the elegant dining room with white tablecloths and cedar trimmings. I walked off the course feeling sufficiently pummeled. "If you like to see the ball land, Mid Ocean would be tough," Adams said. "But when you go to a seafood restaurant, you know there will be fish, right? This kind of golf is similar. It's supposed to be hard."
From there Fer and and I checked into the nearby Rosewood at Tuckers Point for the rest of our stay, and we spun a quick nine at the adjacent course at Tucker's Point. Fairways were narrow, greens were elevated, and once again the wind whipped off the ocean. I quickly stopped keeping score and enjoyed the setting. Here's the view on the 17th tee.
Back at the hotel, Fer had a massage designed for expectant mothers, which she deemed "glorious." We dined on flaky fish dishes, flopped on the beach and listened to the waves. First class all the way.
It was a perfect cap to an idyllic trip. Our last vacation without a child served as one of the last pages in a wonderful chapter of life, with the climax of the story still to come.