Bermuda is like the Bahamas with a dress code: a mix of Caribbean flair with a splash of British formality. But for golfers only one fact really matters this fishhook-shaped island, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary, boasts the highest concentration of golf courses per square mile in the world, with nine courses draped over its 21 square miles, several of them the beneficiaries of recent major makeovers. It's also an easy hop for East Coast folks it's just 650 miles east of the Carolinas. Here's what you need to know to set up a perfect golf getaway in Bermuda.
NEW AND IMPROVED: Port Royal Golf Club reopened in late July following a $14 million makeover, in anticipation of playing host to 2009's major winners in the Grand Slam of golf, which will be played October 20-21. Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the government-owned layout in 1970, and the signature moment occurs at the par-3 16th, the island's most scenic hole, which plays over a gaping chasm and the Atlantic Ocean. $225; 441-234-4653, portroyalgolf.bm
MUST-PLAY: The exclusive Mid Ocean Club counts New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Michael Douglas among its moneyed members, but guest play is permitted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Concierges at the top hotels are adept at finagling these coveted tee times.
It's worth the effort to tackle this 1921 C.B. Macdonald design. The fabled 433-yard, par-4 5th hole, called "Cape" it features a bite-off-as-much-as-you-dare elevated tee shot over a lake is one of golf's greatest holes. $250-$280; 441-293-1215, themidoceanclubbermuda.com
BEST GOLF PACKAGE: Fairmont's 400th Anniversary Ultimate Tee Time Package includes lodging, unlimited golf at The Fairmont Southampton (or one round per person each day at Riddell's Bay) and a resort credit valued at $200-$400 depending on length of stay. The Fairmont Southampton has a delightful 2,600-yard, 18-hole par-3 course, with stunning views of the Atlantic. Riddell's Bay is the island's oldest course, a Devereux Emmet design dating to 1922. It's laid out on a peninsula that's only 600 yards across at its widest point, and at 5,854 yards, par 70, it won't wear out your driver. Rates at The Fairmont Southampton or at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess start at $579 per person per night for $449. 800-441-1414, fairmont.com
MOST EXCLUSIVE RESORT: Tucker's Point Club has a storied history, with an 18-hole track designed in 1931 by Charles Banks. Several makeovers later, the current version of the hilly layout is a 2002 product of Roger Rulewich, who increased the playability with wider fairways and softer greens, but retained the wow factor, notably at the 425-yard 13th, which overlooks Harrington Sound and the Royal Naval Dockyard. New in April is Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa, the centerpiece of which is an 88-room hotel that commands outstanding views from its hilltop location. Other enticements include gourmet dining at The Point, a 10,000-square-foot spa and a water sports center. October rates start at $460 per room, per night, double occupancy. Golf rates are $250-$280. 866-604-3764, tuckerspoint.com
COMING ATTRACTION: St. George's Golf Course, a scenic executive track on Bermuda's northernmost point, is closed indefinitely. Sir Nick Faldo is slated to craft a new regulation-size design that will perhaps be accompanied by a swank Park Hyatt hotel, but the reality is probably still several years away.
APRES GOLF: Bermuda's beaches are legendary, none more so than its most popular swimming spot, Elbow Beach. Its prime hotel access, mile-long expanse of pink sand and line of coral reefs that calms the waters make it a must-do. For a quieter respite, search out Astwood Cove. Nestled among the steep cliffs of Warwick Parish, it's the perfect escape. For cheap, quality eats, try Hamilton's Hog Penny Pub (441-292-2534, hogpennypub.com), which dishes out bangers and mash and fish and chips in style. For local fare, it's hard to beat the Black Horse Tavern (441-297-1991), well off the beaten path in St. David's. Curried conch stew with rice, amberjack and lobster are favorites. For special occasions, the nautical-themed Newport Room in the Fairmont Southampton (441-239-6964, fairmont.com) is cause for celebration.