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 celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2009, boasts the highest concentration of golf courses per square mile in the world, with seven 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.
MOST IMPROVED: Port Royal Golf Club reopened in late July 2009 following a $14 million makeover, in anticipation of playing host to 2009's major winners in the Grand Slam of Golf. Lucas Glover took the title that year, followed by Ernie Els in 2010. In 2011, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke provided plenty of color and excitement, but it was PGA Champion Keegan Bradley who stole the show, edging Masters winner Charl Schwartzel by one.
This year's Grand Slam event at Port Royal takes place October 22-24, with Bradley filling in for McIlroy, and joining Masters champ Bubba Watson, U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson and Els, who broke a long major victory drought when he won the British Open in July.
Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed this government-owned layout in 1970 and his protégé, Roger Rulewich, was responsible for the redesign. The signature moment occurs at the 235-yard, par-3 16th, the island's most scenic hole, which plays over a gaping chasm and the Atlantic Ocean. $110-$180; 441-234-0974, 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 and Shore Excursion directors on cruise ships 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. Babe Ruth once smacked eleven balls into the lake before reaching safely with his 12th. $250-$280; 441-293-1215, themidoceanclubbermuda.com
MOST EXCLUSIVE RESORT: Tucker's Point Club has a storied history, with an 18-hole track designed in 1931 by Seth Raynor protégé 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, par-4 13th, which overlooks Harrington Sound and the Royal Naval Dockyard.
In the spring of 2009, Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa debuted (now known as Rosewood Tucker's Point), 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 watersports center — as well as access to tee times at nearby Mid Ocean Club. September rates from $625. Green fees: $215-$250. 441-298-4000, tuckerspoint.com
HIDDEN GEMS: At the height of his powers, Johnny Miller could do no better than a three-over-par 57 at Fairmont Southampton's stellar and scenic par-3 layout crafted by Ted Robinson in 1964. $86; 866-540-4497, fairmont.com/southampton
Riddell's Bay is one of the island's genuine old-time charmers, 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. Most memorable are the holes around the turn, which bring the surf into play. $155; 441-238-1060, riddellsbay.com
Belmont Hills is another venerable Devereux Emmet creation, debuting in 1924. In 2002, California-based architect Algie Pulley re-did a handful of holes, along with adding significant character via added length, mounding, new grasses and improved irrigation. Views of Hamilton Harbour and the Great Sound are bonuses. $120; 441-236-6060, newsteadbelmonthills.com
If you've only got time for nine, Ocean View Golf Course may very well suffice. In typical Bermuda breeze, this 2,940-yard, par-35 track offers plenty of golf — in half the time. This handsome, government-owned layout is the closest golf to Hamilton, Bermuda's capital, making it especially accessible no matter where you're roosting on the island. $54-$89; 441-295-9092, oceanviewgolf.bm
BEST GOLF PACKAGE: Fairmont Southampton's Golf Around Getaway Package includes luxury accommodations with a private balcony, daily breakfast, golf at Port Royal, Tucker's Point, Riddell's Bay, Belmont Hills, the Fairmont Southampton and Ocean View. All of these courses are available on the five-night stay option, while on the three-or four-day options, you may pick and choose. Also included are golf carts at each course and 50 percent off on golf club rentals at each course. The resort will provide complimentary shuttle service to Riddell's Bay. Rates from $649 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. 866-540-4497, fairmont.com/southampton
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 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 historic Waterlot Inn at the Fairmont Southampton (866-540-4497, fairmont.com/southampton) is cause for celebration.