Posted in Bermuda, Golf Travel by on October 19th, 2010

October 19 — With Tiger Woods major-less again in 2010, Ernie Els subbing for Masters champ Phil Mickelson, and David Toms filling in for British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, the star of this year’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf may well be Bermuda’s Port Royal Golf Course.
And, they’re off. The action is underway at Port Royal, which has hosted the year’s winners of golf’s four majors in 36-hole tilts since 2006. Mickelson opted to spend time with his family and Oosthuizen is nursing an ankle injury, so Graeme McDowell (2010 U.S. Open champ) and Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA champ) are teeing it up at Port Royal with three-time major champ Els and 2001 PGA Championship titleholder Toms.
A perennial Golf Digest “best of,” the Robert Trent Jones Sr. Port Royal GC underwent significant changes before the 2009 Grand Slam. Jones designed the course in 1970, with his protege, renowned New England architect Roger Rulewich, revamping it to the tune of $14.5 million.
RTJ protege. With the economy still in a downturn, most course architects work on renovations these days, and Rulewich is no exception. Course operators are especially drawn to Rulewich’s many years as an RTJ Sr. protege.
“I worked with [Jones Sr.] so long that I knew as much about his designs as anybody,” Rulewich told New England Golf Monthly during a recent chat.
The 73-year-old Rulewich, whose revamped Meadow Brook (Richmond, R.I.) opened to rave reviews earlier this year, worked for Jones for 34 years and was largely responsible for Alabama’s highly acclaimed RTJ Golf Trail.
Indeed, Rulewich still marvels that he and the Jones team were able to build 18 courses in three years. “We did it it all by feel,” he recalled. “We had no drawings and we did it all by sight, by eye, and by being there. I spent half of my life in Alabama at that time.”
Name change. Rulewich, who formed his own firm in 1995 and renamed it Rulewich & Fleury Golf Design earlier this year when he and long-time partner David Fleury officially joined forces, was also involved in the construction of the original Port Royal.
One of the world’s most renowend course architects, Rulewich eschews the trappings of celebrity to create his blueprints in a cozy two-room office in a log cabin, a wedge shot from the 17th green at his award-winning Crumpin-Fox Club (Bernardston, Mass.).
Among his more than 100 national and international designs and renovations, Rulewich has made over about 16 Jones courses, including Port Royal. The Bermuda beauty is an 18-hole, government-owned public track that offers 6,842 yards (from the tips) of beautifully manicured fairways and greens and spectacular views of the Atlantic ocean from almost every vantage point.
Extreme makeover: Port Royal. Rulewich took the reins in the makeover of Port Royal, which had weathered 39 years of exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.
With course officials willing to close the course in January 2008 for its dramatic re-do, Rulewich moved and reshaped some 100,000 cubic yards of earth, creating new lakes to support a state-of-the-art Watermation irrigation system fed by the course’s own reverse osmosis plant.
Rulewich’s crew removed hundreds of trees and re-lined the fairways with palms, Bermudan cedars, and other indigenous flora to establish an open, natural environment. The staff re-laid the fairways with Bermuda 419 and installed “ultra-dwarf” TifEagle greens for more consistent putting surfaces, Bill Pitt, Port Royal’s general manager, told
Rulewich oversaw the re-shaping of sand traps, which had deteriorated from years of ocean winds. Among the newly contoured bunkers are those that protect the par-3 16th hole. Four teeing areas require golfers of all abilities to hit strong shots across the ocean to an elevated peninsula green perched atop the Atlantic.
The bunkers and natural water hazard make for a small target, which prevailing breezes can shrink even more. As Port Royal’s website says, “Good luck.”
Water, water everywhere. For a location that depends on rain for its water supply, keeping the course hydrated was a major challenge.
“There wasn’t much sense in doing anything until they fixed the irrigation,” Rulewich told “Now it’s probably the first course in Bermuda to be able to water the whole course, including fairways.”
Rulewich finished the extreme makeover in 18 months, in time for the 2009 PGA Grand Slam.
What’s the score? As for this year’s contest, Toms appeared to be taking advantage of his late addition to the field. After 11 holes Tuesday, Toms was 4-under, two shots clear of Els (2-under), five up on Kaymer (+1), and six better than McDowell (+2).
You may follow the tourney on-air on TNT (Tuesday, from 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. EDT) and watch highlights online at
Click here for a hole-by-hole tour of Port Royal Golf Course.
Want to know more about Rulewich’s gem of a course in western Massachusetts?  Read how it’s all about the golf at Crumpin-Fox Club.

(Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. Check her out at the Boston Golf Examiner and National Golf Examiner websites.)

Reader Comments