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Mid Ocean Club was founded in 1921 on courage, conviction, comradery, and a pure love of the sport of golf. (Photo: The PGA of America)

Acclaimed Mid Ocean Club one of MacDonald's best

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When Charles Blair MacDonald finished with the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda, he proclaimed it one of his finest designs. The world agreed, and the club was -- and still is -- hailed as one of the greats.

Special to PGA.com

In the early 1900s, Charles Blair MacDonald, then the foremost golf architect in the United States, hankered for an opportunity to create one of his legendary courses overseas. When the Furness Withy Steamship Company approached him about designing a golf course and a hotel on Bermuda to expand its tourism offerings, he leapt at the chance.

In 1919, Furness Withy set sail to Bermuda with MacDonald and Charles Wetmore, a leading architect of hotels. After careful analysis of the island, the two architects chose Tucker's Town as the ideal venue, and 600 acres there were eventually secured for approximately $600,000.

Despite numerous design and construction challenges posed by the terrain, the course was completed on Dec. 15, 1921. It was heralded by MacDonald as one of his greatest achievements, and he boasted of the "beauty, charm and excellence of the links." MacDonald's hubris was generally acknowledged to be as encompassing as his talent.

Fortunately, the golf world agreed with MacDonald's shining assessment, and the Mid Ocean Golf Club was an instant success.

Even a picturesque golf course set in the sea, however, can fall victim to world strife. So it was for the Mid Ocean in the rocky economic aftermath of World War II. Furness Withy, beset with refurbishment costs, was on the brink of letting the Mid Ocean go. In a fortunate twist of fate, the club's salvation was not found in Bermuda, but over a dinner table in London.

Harry D. Butterfield, Manager of the Bank of N.T. Butterfield and Son, and the future Sir Harry, was in London for business, where he joined a barrister friend for dinner. Conversation flowed as freely as the port, and the barrister let it slip that he had been consulted by Furness Withy to advise on the disposition of several assets, including the golf club in Bermuda.

Mr. Butterfield immediately set out to raise the funds needed to secure the Mid Ocean. It took months to negotiate a deal with the Furness Withy subsidiary that controlled Mid Ocean. Finally, on Sept. 17, 1951, the first shareholder's meeting was held. The Legislature had passed a bill that enabled a small group to purchase the club, golf course and beaches, approximately 180 acres, for 130,000 pounds. At last, the Mid Ocean Club was in the hands of its members.

A great work ages with dignity and grace, becoming more coveted and rare with time. So it has been with the Mid Ocean. In the 1950s, leading golf course designer Robert Trent Jones was invited to improve the course. Known for his bold, sweeping statements, his revisions to Mid Ocean were uncharacteristically understated, a reflection of his deep respect and admiration of MacDonald's enduring achievement.

Today, the course remains loyal to its noble beginnings. There have been gentle enhancements over time, and the clubhouse was completely revamped in the 1980s to enhance its comfort and refinement. The dedication to excellence, however, and the unwavering devotion of its members, remains as true today as the day the club came to be. This is a club founded on courage, conviction, comradery, and a pure love of the sport of golf. This is the heritage of the Mid Ocean Club, and this is its future.

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