Bermuda A grand slice of golf heaven

By Rex HoggardNovember 30, 2010, 8:01 pm
mid ocean club golf

“Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer at sea-change
Into something rich and strange”
-Act I, Scene 2; The Tempest

TUCKER’S TOWN, Bermuda – Dredged from the dark recesses of an aged mind, the line from William Shakespeare’s classic scrolls through the subconscious like a nagging CNN news feed as the uninitiated steps to the elevated fifth tee at venerable Mid Ocean Golf Club.

Mid Oceaners call the 402-yard par 4 the “Cape Hole.” With a three-club right-to-left wind and nothing but watery gloom as far as the eye can see, they may as well have dubbed it, “Hit and Hope.”

In 1609 captain Christopher Newport ran the “Sea Venture” aground not far from the cliff that Mid Ocean now occupies to save his crew from a violent storm. The doomed ship was bound for Virginia and some scholars say it was the muse behind Shakespeare’s “Tempest.” As the wind raged and Mid Ocean’s fifth awaited, the thought occurs: maybe Newport was onto something.

If chamber-of-commerce-perfect snapshots of blue-green vistas and pink-sanded beaches are what come to mind when the conversation turns to Bermuda, the truth came by way of a tempest by any measure on the eve of this year’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Three days, three golf courses, three surprisingly strong winds.

But then if fact doesn’t dovetail with perceived fiction then welcome to Bermuda.

Mid Ocean Club
How to get there
15 minutes from the Bermuda airport in Harrington Sound on South Road.

How to play
Although Mid Ocean is a private club, limited tee times are available. Call 441-293-0330 for details.

Don’t miss
Mid Ocean is a C.B. Macdonald gem, complete with Redan (No. 17) and Biarritz (No. 13) holes as well as a picturesque Eden hole (No. 3) hard on the shores of the Atlantic.

Port Royal Golf Course
How to get there
45 minutes from the airport and 20 minutes from Hamilton.

How to play
Greens fees are a tad high ($125), but the uninterrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean are worth the added expense. Call 441-234-0974 for details.

Don’t miss
Port Royal starts slow with a series of relatively benign holes and the first ocean view doesn’t come until the seventh hole, but the finish is challenging and visually pleasing. The par-3 16th gets all the attention, but the tee shot on the par-4 15th may be even more intimidating.

Tucker’s Point Club
How to get there
Across the street from Mid Ocean, Tucker’s Point is centrally located for those staying in Hamilton (15 minutes) or St. George (15 minutes).

How to play
Stunning views and an intriguing mix of short par 4s and demanding par 3s make Tucker’s Point worth a visit, but the tariff may not fit the takeaway. Green fees range from $215 in April to November, to $195 from December to March. Call 441-298-6970 for details.

Don’t miss
Although well conditioned with sweeping views of Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound, Tucker’s Point is comfort golf compared to its high-profile neighbor Mid Ocean.

Eighteen miles from tip to windblown tip and just 22 square miles, the sliver of coral and coquina is the geographic and cultural collision of American and English culture.

Cars – of which there are an estimated 32,000 – that seem to begrudgingly share narrow roads with ubiquitous mopeds, drive on the left side of the road and are limited to a blazing 20 mph which seems perfectly appropriate since there are just three main byways – North, Middle and South.

Not only do the bars and restaurants of Hamilton – referred to by locals as “The City” – have a New York feel to them, they’re made even more poignant by the fact that the Bermuda dollar is pegged to its American counterpart and the two currencies are easily interchangeable.

The collision of cultures is ever-present. Within the confines of the recently restored Fairmont Hamilton Princess, a 125-year old gem hard on the shores of Hamilton Harbour, rests a larger-than-life portrait of Queen Elizabeth II not far from an HD television that was recently airing an NFL game.

“It’s really Americanized but it’s also very small and very quaint,” said Michael Sims, a Nationwide Tour player who was raised in Bermuda.

But then Bermuda, the slice of shell that gave us curiously-cut shorts and heat-tolerant grasses, is anything but predictable, particularly as a golf destination.

Shakespeare could have just as easily penned “The Tempest” as an ode to the island’s embarrassment of golf riches – which begins and ends with a forecast that offers a steady diet of divergent – and often violent – wind directions.

It’s why Charles Blair Macdonald took more than a year to complete the routing for Mid Ocean in 1920. It’s why the legendary architect built his house facing the famed “Cape Hole” instead of the majestic Atlantic Ocean to the south (to view nature’s wrath and his own handiwork, we can only surmise). And why few rounds of golf in Bermuda ever feel the same.

There are just seven golf courses on Bermuda – including the sneaky enjoyable Fairmont Southhampton par-3 course – yet rarely do holes play the same from day to day, or hour to hour for that matter.

“I remember playing (the 16th hole at Port Royal) as a kid. I had pitching wedge one day and 3-iron the next,” Sims said of the 235-yard cliff-side par 3. “It’s absolutely perfect.”

Port Royal, site of last month’s Grand Slam, underwent a dramatic facelift in 2008, the kind of overhaul that involves more tree removal than dirt moving and produces uninterrupted vistas and seaside winds that defy direction.

At the 2009 Grand Slam eventual winner Lucas Glover said of Port Royal’s 16th, “Man, I’ve never been so nervous on a shot.” While last month the 2010 champion Ernie Els welcomed a favorable forecast, “I don't think we would have reached (the 16th green) if the wind was blowing the other way.”

When it comes to Bermuda golf it’s always about Shakespeare’s Tempest. Well, that and sensory-overload panoramas of endless Technicolor ocean.

“I’m always taken aback every time I’ve gone home.” Sims said. “The 17th at Mid Ocean, first thing in the morning. Or at Port Royal, it just feels like you’re standing in the ocean.” And, more often than not, a wind tunnel.

Tucker’s Point Golf Club, adjacent Mid Ocean on the east end of the island, has also undergone a transformation in recent years. The course may be a tad scruffy for this neighborhood, but the layout is enjoyable with the short par-4 17th hole (315 yards from the tips) providing a compelling finish.

“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
-Act II, Scene 2

On Bermuda, however, golf is more pastime than passion. Most rounds are proceeded, or pacified, by a round of Dark n’ Stormys, the national cocktail which is a concoction of dark rum and ginger beer. It is, of course, an ode to Shakespeare’s Tempest.

Hamilton is every bit a metropolitan setting with a vast collection of upscale eateries and lively pubs. For true local fare the Black Horse Tavern, located on the east end of the island in St. George, is a seafood lover’s lottery, and the Frog and Onion on the west end is every bit an English pub complete with Arsenal banners and Fish ‘n Chips, a U.K. staple.

Cabs are the preferred mode of transportation since tourists are wisely not allowed to rent cars, but the enclave may have the best public transportation this side of Portland, Ore., complete with a high-speed ferry that whisks passengers from the converted Royal Naval Dockyard to Hamilton in a fraction of the time (15 minutes) and cost ($4 per passenger) of a taxi.

But for the golfer it is the island’s undisputed gems, Mid Ocean and Port Royal, which beckon. Let the scholars debate whether “Sea Venture” was the basis for the Shakespearean classic. Anyone who has ever stood on Mid Ocean’s fifth tee gazing into a gale knows the truth. Dark n’ Stormy, indeed.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep.”
-The Tempest

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”

 

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Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 7:12 pm

Aaron Wise received plenty of perks with his title Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the victory also brought with it a healthy bump in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The 21-year-old notched his maiden win at Trinity Forest in impressive fashion, holding off Marc Leishman in near-darkness. After starting the week at No. 46 in the points race for Paris, Wise is now all the way up to 12th with the top eight players after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically for the team.

Jimmy Walker moved from 18th to 15th with a top-10 finish in Dallas, while an idle Tiger Woods dropped one position to No. 32.

Here's a look at the updated standings, as the top 11 names remained in order this week:

1. Patrick Reed

2. Justin Thomas

3. Dustin Johnson

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Bubba Watson

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Brooks Koepka

8. Phil Mickelson

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Matt Kuchar

11. Brian Harman

12. Aaron Wise

It was also a quiet week on the European side of the race, where the top four from both the European Points and World Points list in August will join a roster rounded out by four selections from captain Thomas Bjorn.

Here's a look at the latest European standings:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Jon Rahm

4. Ross Fisher

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Rory McIlroy

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Alex Noren

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5. Ian Poulter