Course Review – Mill River – Your Big Break to Western PEI Golf
The drive from Stanley Bridge to Woodstock is a relaxed one, as most drives on Prince Edward Island tend to be, and this allowed our group time to get excited for what lay ahead. Mill River did not disappoint. From the moment we arrived, the experience was first class. Friendly and helpful staff, some of the best practice facilities on the Island and the opportunity to play the course which hosted Big Break PEI on a sunny, mild fall day made for pure enjoyment.
The course has, in my opinion, the strongest opening nine on the Island. There is no weak hole; from the beautiful layout of the first hole that dog legs left into carved forest that will make you think you’re in the Carolinas if not for the spectacular fall colours which are sprinkled within the predominant pines, to the breathtaking par 3 downhill 5th, or maybe the challenging 7th which gives players an option to play left or right of the spring which cuts across the hole. The halfway house is stunning, just beautiful, and allows several options to refuel for a more demanding back nine. The 10th hole reminds me of Stanley Thompson designed Waskesiu course in Saskatchewan, with a solitary tree prominent in the fairway. The course meanders in elevation and I found it increasingly challenging as it progresses. Strategic play is increasingly important as elevation change and doglegs demand precision in thinking and ball striking
The conditioning is superb, consistent with the quality set by all provincially owned courses, but Mill River sets the bar extremely high. The green complexes may be some of the most challenging on the Island with undulations and speed serving as stout defences. The bunkers were exceptional, playing consistent and not too penal being a resort course. The tee boxes for late in season were fabulous and framed the holes well. Players have several options off the tee on many holes and if you have a chance to play this course multiple times you are likely to learn where to play aggressively and where to be more conservative. Many holes are protected by the forest, creating a tight feel.
The consensus of our group was that this was the best conditioned of the Island-operated courses and, as mentioned, have the most challenging greens. The front nine is very strong and the closing hole is excellent in its challenge and opportunity to score. The views on your approach shot in on 18 are worth a panoramic look. Of the ten courses on the Island, this was one I enjoyed a great deal and rated high on my list of favourites; the quality of the golf experience surprised me. The tree-lined fairways and changes in elevation were visually appealing. Add to it world class service and outstanding conditioning and it is a golfing experience that visitors to PEI should make the time for.
Aura – 8 out of 10 – This course lacks the profile of other courses on the Island such as Crowbush Cove or Dundarave which are perennial top 100 courses in Canada. But the exposure this course received on Big Break and its affiliation as one of the four provincially owned and operated courses more than offsets this. More importantly, it is an exceptional course. This rating will only improve over time.
Value (cost / experience) – 9.5 out of 10. With rates ranging from $35 to $65 dollars, the value to play Mill River is exceptional. Or, if you live or vacation in the area you can join Mill River for $880 + taxes/fees for the season. And that is not a misprint.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – The course layout is outstanding and its conditioning for late season was fantastic. The course suffered none of the winter damage on its greens which a few of the courses further east on the Island experienced. The greens are undulating and fast, a couple of which had me and my playing partners grinding to avoid three-putting. The bunkering is sensational. The conditioning, for me, was a real strength of this course.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out of 10 – The people, as with its course, are outstanding. From check in, to the first tee shot, to the halfway house and the view on your approach on 18, you will find the experience at Mill River to be first class, quality and very enjoyable. This is a course I’d be proud to be a member at.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – The first tee shot is framed so beautifully. The large Mill River sign off to the right and the slightly elevated tee shot creates excitement which continues throughout the round. As mentioned, the front nine at Mill River is outstanding. Utilize the practice facilities well and be ready; it’s a great test of golf.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – As a resort course, the slope on a couple of the greens on the back would be extremely challenging for the recreational player. Heck, it was challenging for four single digit handicappers. Nothing that detracted from my golf experience, I’ll emphasize.