Mid Ocean Club is a classic Golden Age golf course designed by the great Charles Blair MacDonald in 1921. Located in Tucker Town, Bermuda, the course is situated on some of the most scenic property on the entire island, featuring famous design elements such as the Biarritz, Redan, Cape and Eden. C.B. MacDonald showed his mastery, routing these holes in a manner that makes use of both the natural lay of the land as well as the strong prevailing wind off the Atlantic.
Right out of the gate, the golfer is faced with a challenging tee shot on the first hole to a well protected fairway and an approach to an elevated green that is exposed to strong winds coming off the Atlantic (which MacDonald fittingly named the hole). Easily one of the best opening holes I’ve ever played, the first ranks up there with some of the hardest opening holes in golf. The fast pace continues on the next few holes with the challenging dogleg left par-5 second, Long, which follows the natural lay of the land and puts a huge premium on the tee shot and approach. Two good shots will allow for a good look, but the difficult green makes an approach from any distance difficult. The dramatic undulations and back to front slope can make even the shortest of putts difficult. The third, Eden, is a par three that closely borders Atlantic on the left and is well protected with strategic bunkering. The green is wide but shallow from front to back, with the left side of the green closely bordering the steep cliffs. A left hole location brings the Ocean into play, and the strong prevailing wind adds to the difficulty as it is left to right and into the golfer.
The fourth, Mangrove, is what MacDonald referred to as a connector hole, which is used to connect two great holes without sacrificing design quality. In this case, it absolutely doesn’t. If fact, it may be one of my favorite holes on the course. It’s a short par four straight uphill to a dramatic back to front sloping green. The ideal drive leaves about 115-120 yards, which leaves a blind uphill approach, a strategic design element of MacDonald’s. A drive further back allows the player to see the flag but the distance makes the shot much more difficult. The only reference I had on my 110 yard approach was to pick a cloud in the sky that was on line with the pin (thankfully there were a few clouds that day) which made the shot hard to commit to. Mangrove is a tremendous short par-4 that is by no means a birdie hole despite the short yardage.
The fifth is the famous Cape hole, one of the most photographed and replicated holes in all of golf. Cape features an elevated tee shot to a fairway cutting in from right to left with the Mangrove lake on the left. The golfer must decide how much to cut off on his tee shot, keeping in mind that the flattest lie and best approach are from the left side of the fairway, closest to the lake. The green slopes dramatically from right to left and is easily one of the most difficult greens I’ve played. An approach landing on the right side of the green can easily end up in the left green-side bunker.
It doesn’t stop there, as the seventh features the famous “Short” design, which is a par-3 no more than 140 yards from an elevated tee to a dramatically sloping, horseshoe contoured green. The flattest part of the green is in the right center, but a left hole location (which we faced the day I played) is nearly impossible to get close to from the right side of the green. The best look at birdie is from below the hole, which coincidentally brings the water hazard short of the green into play.
Rounding out the front nine is the short par-4 eighth, Valley, and the challenging uphill par-4 ninth, Sound. Valley features a built up green complex which must have been quite the undertaking back in the 20’s, which makes the green hard to hit and tough to get up and down. Sound is a hard hole to finish off the nine as it’s straight uphill to a difficult green featuring a large ridge running through it’s center.
The back nine at Mid Ocean picks right up where the front nine left off with some of the most difficult holes on the course. The tenth, Mercer Hill, is a straight away par-4 slightly downhill to a well protected green. Off to the right is a 50 ft. drop down to the 9th fairway and left is heavy vegetation, so a straight drive is essential. The fairway slopes downhill left to right making for a tough approach to a small target.
The eleventh hole, Trotts, is a par-5 similar to the second with a sharp left dogleg. A drive down the right center of the fairway gives the best look at going for it in two, and a birdie here is certainly not out of the question after two good shots.
The twelfth, Hillside, is a slight dogleg left with a blind tee shot, making it difficult to commit to an important tee shot. Positioning off of the tee is everything if you want to have a good look at hitting the green in regulation. Anything right lengthens the approach, and the further right you go the more trouble. The further you are to the left, the better the angle, but characteristic of a C.B. MacDonald Design, the more trouble there is if you happen to miss left. This beast of a par four can make or break a good round.
The thirteenth is the famous Biarritz, a classic MacDonald design featuring a large swail in the center of the green. Typically the green surface is on both sides of the swail making for varying yardages from the tee. But at Mid Ocean, only the back part of the Biarritz is green making for a long par 3 with a small target. Par here will surely help you gain some strokes on the field, and getting through these first four holes on the back nine at even or 1-over is an impressive feat.
The fourteenth, Leven, is a short drivable par-4 with a well protected green. This slight dogleg right can be a birdie hole as long and you are well positioned off of the tee. Short approaches are common, but the dramatic bunkering in front of the green makes depth perception difficult. The ideal approach is from the left side of the fairway with a full shot into the green.
Fifteen, Punchbowl, is a par-5 up the hill to another famous MacDonald design feature – the Punchbowl green. It’s a straightforward uphill par-5 that takes two good shots in order to leave a manageable approach. With such a severe green, it’s best to have a full shot from short yardage in order to get it close.
The sixteenth, Lookout, is another great connector hole with a blind tee shot straight uphill. The approach is to a an elevated green sloping from back to front with nothing on the horizon but ocean. It’s a beautiful hole and one of the more interesting tee shots I’ve ever faced.
Seventeen, Redan, is one of MacDonald’s most famous design feature, the Redan par-3. Redan features a dramatic right to left sloping hole with a green sloping away from the golfer. (I can proudly say that I hit a 3-iron straight into the wind to 15 feet and made the putt for birdie.) This hole is without a doubt the signature hole at Mid-Ocean, and I’m not just saying that because I made birdie! The tee is right next to the clubhouse with the ocean in the backdrop, making it one of the most scenic holes on the course.
The eighteenth, Home, is a challenging finisher that borders the Atlantic. Strategic bunkering down the left side forces the golfer to take it down the right center, bringing the steep cliffs of the Atlantic into play. The view of the clear blue ocean from the tee is breathtaking, easily one of the most scenic holes in all of golf and a hole that makes closing out a championship difficult.
Mid Ocean Club is a world class golf course that captures the interest of golfers of all skill levels. The routing utilizes the unique landscape to perfection, making the round action packed and enjoyable. If you are ever in Bermuda, I highly recommend making time for a round at Mid Ocean. Be sure to check out our review of Chicago Golf Club (one of C.B. MacDonald’s best) and the Fox Chapel Golf Club (designed by MacDonald’s partner Seth Raynor which many similar design elements).