Bucket List Review – Part 2 – Nova Scotia

Bucket List Review – Part 2 – Nova Scotia

This is the second of 10 posts that will look back on the current status of my bucket list.  Focusing on all 10 provinces, I’ll share links to courses played and remaining on my list, along with some new courses for consideration.  I’ll share some pictures, stories and wishes for future travel.  Canada is an amazing country for public golf, go play (once the snow is melted, of course).

Bucket List Courses PlayedCabot Links, Highlands Links, The Lakes

Bucket List Courses RemainingGlen Arbour, Bell Bay, Cabot Cliffs, The Links at Brunello, Fox Harb’r

Other Courses PlayedOsprey Shores

Bucket List ContendersDigby Pines, Penn Hills

Other Courses of NoteLe Portage, Northumberland Links, Bluenose

capebreton

 

Overview

Nova Scotia hosts some of the greatest golf courses in Canada and the World.  Yes, they’re that good.  The development of the two Cabot courses in Inverness has placed Nova Scotia at the epicenter of the golfing world with global media reports praising the courses, the resort and the community.  And while Cabot holds its rightful place as a powerful magnet for golf in eastern Canada one needs to look well beyond the their seaside courses – Links and Cliffs – to see other golf offerings which together make Nova Scotia a cherished golf destination for all golfers.  To me, this is one reason why Nova Scotia makes for such great golf; there is something for everyone.

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You may recognize this picture if you’re a regular to my blog.  The 6th tee at The Lakes course.  An incredibly tempting risk-reward par 4. (photo credit – Andrew Stoakley)

Acknowledging the grandeur of Cabot, I’ll start with a focus on fun and value.  Osprey Shores may be the most fun I have ever had golfing, be it as a single seeking to play as many loops of 9 as I could in a day, or, part of a group of 12 on a five day getaway (golfing in a kilt was a memorable experience, too).  Osprey brings breathtaking views, sensational maritime hospitality and an unpretentious nature which all golfers will appreciate.  A 9 hole course, I would recommend it for players to get their legs under them before heading north to tackle the wonderful courses of Cape Breton.  My experience golfing in Nova Scotia is focused mostly on Cape Breton.  So with apologies to courses on the mainland (and there are several on my bucket list) I will focus for now on Cape Breton.  Highlands Links is my favourite course in Canada.  Designed by Stanley Thompson, this course carved from the forests of the Highlands, with some seaside meandering, takes me back in time.  I love everything about it.  It hosts the greatest par 5 I’ve ever played and if I could only play one more round of golf it would be there.  Contrast to this is the beauty of The Lakes at Ben Eoin.  Set along Bras D’or Lake this course is cut along the hillside; creating stunning vistas on many holes.  Well designed and framed, this championship course has hosted the Mackenzie Tour Cape Breton Open (then Celtic Classic).

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Highlands Links – the 15th hole

This is not to forget the golfing perfection that is Cabot.  Links is the best course I’ve played and Cliffs is tops on my bucket list now.  I would advocate for a shoulder season trip to Cabot to get the full experience in terms of weather (could be amazing or raw…and either would make for a great story).  Fact is, the fall season stretches nicely in the Maritimes and can combine beauty and value.  Links is a course where the superlatives just don’t do it justice, though I tried in one of my first reviews on my blog.

Cabot, Highlands Links and The Lakes made for a great golf loop in a 2014 golf trip.  But with Bell Bay and Le Portage as options and a new course at Cabot, you can (and should) stretch your trip out to Nova Scotia longer than I did.

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Osprey Shores

Travel Notes

Researching your options for travel and play are very easy using Golf Nova Scotia or Golf Cape Breton.  The two offer excellent access to course information and links to additional details to help plan a trip.  But Nova Scotia is the kind of place you almost want to get lost and explore.  The TransCanada highway provides great access from PEI (via ferry) or New Brunswick and runs efficiently to Halifax and north to Cape Breton.  But sometimes the journey is just as fun as the destination.  Unlike PEI, where you can play days and days of 36 a day (trust me on that one), the distances between courses allow for a relaxed pace and some beautiful drives between communities.  Distractions abound with hiking, food, wildlife, culture, spirits.  It’s all there…not to dismiss the golfing of course.

Cabot Links 16th

This is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.  (photo credit – Cabot Links)

The Cabot Trail may be one of the greatest drives in the country, looping around the north and central part of Cape Breton Island.  But Nova Scotia hosts many other amazing coastal drives.  The drive from Guysborough (where Osprey Shores is located on the gorgeous shores of Chedabucto Bay) to Halifax following the Marine Drive route is stunning and underrated.  The proximity to the ocean in many cases is staggering and the small communities and hamlets which dot the coast are lovely.

Similarly, the Sunrise Trail on the north shore from Antigonish to Amherst is just as relaxed.   Stopping along the numerous beaches to dip your feet in the surprisingly warm ocean and seeking that perfect bowl of chowder are two quests to add to your own golfing bucket list.

Traveling to Nova Scotia on a number of occasions now, the consistent take away for me is that I never spent enough time and left with things I wish I had done and seen.  In closing, do your research; take your clubs; tack on a few extra days; take the scenic routes; and do, by all means, order the chowder (better yet, explore the Chowder Trail).

Penn Classic 2014 at Cabot Links

The excitement of playing Cabot with good friends at the 2014 Penn Classic.

Cabot Cliffs – Anticipating a Sequel to Golf Purity

#15+approach

I’d argue the 15th Hole at Cliffs is the real show stopper, but my sense is it’s only one of many signature holes. (Photo Credit – Integrative Golf Company)

Cabot Cliffs – Anticipating a Sequel to Golf Purity

Reading the reviews and inevitable accolades piling in it is clearly an exciting time to be affiliated with Cabot Links.  The course; correction, courses, are located in Inverness, Nova Scotia. It has quickly become the mecca of golf in Canada; a true golfing destination now with 36 holes and a completed resort facility, restaurant, and practice facilities.  And while I could argue that Cabot was the crown jewel of a pre-existing golfing destination – Cape Breton Island itself – Cabot’s 36 holes will hold allure on its own for golfers across Canada and around the world.  Both courses are well positioned within the Golf Digest Top 100 List, so there’s no arguing their quality.

But having played the Links course in 2013, it is the golfing experience which was new and so pure.  And it is these memories which stoke my anticipation about a return trip and visiting the new Cliffs course.  While I have written about my golf experience at Cabot Links, in almost three years I have never experienced a golf course like it.  I was forced to play shots I never experienced.  The course, unlike any other, seemed so well suited to the land and the sea.  Add to this, genuine maritime hospitality (and lobster sliders, I mean, c’mon) and it was the most authentic golf experience of my life.

But now there is a new course, arguably better than the original.  Building on the excellence of Links, the Cliffs course brings some unique elements – 6 par 3’s, 4’s and 5’s.  Signature holes?  The stunning 16th is getting a lot of love.  But in seeing the pictures when the course was originally shaped I can think of about 10 signature holes.  This embarrassment of riches creates a level of anticipation I have not experienced since the opening of Links.

Penn Classic 2014 at Cabot Links

A day at Cabot with good friends creates memories to last a lifetime.

I would be remised if I did not follow up on an earlier point to mention the proximity of Links/Cliffs to other outstanding experiences and golf on Cape Breton Island.  Scotch aficionados will need to make their way south to the Glenora Inn and Distillery.  There is the world class Cabot Trail, one of the country’s best driving experiences.  For an authentic seafood experience travel to Baddeck for the Baddeck Lobster Supper.  While in town get 18 in at Bell Bay Golf Club, which is hosting a Mackenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada) stop.  Cape Breton Highlands National Park hosts the iconic and perennial top 10 course in Canada, Highlands Links, a Stanley Thompson gem.  You could also visit The Lakes Golf Club and round out your golf experience.  If you’re traveling to Cape Breton, take advantage of the opportunity to experience more than just Cabot.

But for this Canadian Bucket List dreamer, Cabot Cliffs now assumes a rightful place on top of my list.  Anticipation is a wonderful thing and will only make the experience of eventually teeing it up at Cliffs (and Links again) as a highlight among many fabulous golf experiences across this country.

There’s just something about Cape Breton Island, the Maritimes overall really, that just does my spirit good.  Congratulations on your successful opening and continued success to Ben Cowan-Dewar and the entire team at Cabot.

Cabot Links 16th

This is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.  Will Cliffs offer a challenger to this majestic golf hole?

Interview with Golf PEI’s Mark McLane – Part 2 – Success and the Competition of Cabot Links

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Executive Director of Golf PEI, Mark McLane

4. @36aday – Mark, you’ve been with Golf PEI since 2012. What is the greatest success story you can share during your tenure?

MM – I think the online booking. And I didn’t mention this before, in February 2014 we launched an online booking engine where you can book your accommodation and your golf and pay for it online. So you can, in Prince Edward Island, you can book a 7 night package, 3 nights at one hotel, 4 nights at another, 7 or 8 rounds and you can book that from your home, at 8 o’clock at night and pay for it. We call it self-serve bookings. We were pleasantly surprised how many people use that service last year. It has real time inventories for both tee times and hotels. So again, if the standard room is not available at that hotel it will show that and if you can’t play a course it won’t show access. It has made our reservation centre so efficient. For those people who know the product they don’t need to make 10 phone calls. It’s similar to how you would price your Sunwing vacation; what if I want an oceanview room and what if I go in March? What if I go in April? And the customer can do that now and do it in less than two minutes. We have groups; we had a guy from Kingston, Ontario, 8 guys, gave us the dates, and while I’m talking to him on the phone I can actually give in a taxes in price before we get off the phone. And he said ‘that’s all I wanted to know, I didn’t know if it was $600 or $1200’ so we’re getting really efficient in that to make that golf vacation planning easy.

@36aday – It sounds to me like a real commitment to strengthening service.

MM – Definitely. And again for us as a marketing organization it helps us with origin of golfer data; we know where people are booking from. And that online booking engine again is another great source because you book the time yourself, so you put your address and credit card information and all that so we would know more accurate percentages of who’s on the first tee and where they’re from. Know your customer (laughs).

The challenging 8th hole at Dundarave - Photo Credit - Golf PEI

The challenging 8th hole at Dundarave – Photo Credit – Golf PEI

5. @36aday – Golfing in maritime Canada has enjoyed considerable growth and prominence over recent years, led recently by the development of Cabot Links and soon to be accompanied by Cabot Cliffs. How does Golf PEI view this competition and what steps, if any, are planned to address what is an increasingly competitive environment?

MM – Is Cabot Links a competitor? I would say yes it is but it’s on a different scale. From a pricing perspective, a weekend at those particular courses is probably 2 to 3 times more expensive than ours. I view it as a positive for the region, especially for the US market as people will figure out it’s not that hard to get there, the weather is better than they think it is and the quality of the courses. So what I always say, I think Cabot will get the first trip or two from the US visitor. I think we’ll get the second or third or we’ll get the family trip from that perspective so I think it’s a win-win. It’s like the car dealership model, that’s why they are all together; there are some synergies there so we’re only two hours away. We do cooperate sometimes on some media and fan opportunities in the US. It’s a positive. You have Bandon Dunes marketing machine there too. When Crowbush was built 25 years ago we had our honeymoon period so again it’s nice to have a close neighbor 2 hours away so it’s positive.

Mill River which has hosted Big Break PEI - Photo Credit - Golf PEI

Mill River which has hosted Big Break PEI – Photo Credit – Golf PEI

6. @36aday – There has been much written about Crowbush Cove Golf Links – ranging from a possible sale from the government to desired reinvestment to improve the course? What are your views on this and what role do you see for Golf PEI raising the profile of Crowbush Cove and – as critics say – bringing it back to a truly world class golf course?

MM – I would disagree with the statement that it has fallen behind. Its world class conditioning and it’s a world class layout. I think the big issue; again, the provincial government is in the golf business. They entered into the business with no real exit strategy and I guess looking back they should have thought of how to get out of the business but there would be no golf industry without that initial support from the government. The courses are for sale because our provincial government has taken the position they don’t want to compete with the public on that. It’s hard to sell those investments. I would really say they are a true partner in the golf industry. They are not ultra-competitive which the industry really is right now so I think it is win-win. Crowbush has a beautiful Rodd resort built on the course. Last year it might have been 12th in Canada, I would take that any day from a ranking perspective.

@36aday – I am looking forward to playing it next fall and be able to provide an informed opinion, I mean it is in a very unique and nice location.

MM – We host journalists from time to time and this year we hosted a television commentator from China who played the course. He would be the guy who provides commentary for Chinese majors in that market. He played Crowbush and was floored by the place; he could not believe the price, the location, the beauty and the overall experience of PEI. That’s one I think as a destination, I mean I know we’re a golf destination but we’re not typically seven rounds in seven days. We’re three rounds, with lots of beaches, culinary activity, festivals, and events. And that’s our competitive advantage is that we have a really strong golf product but we have a really strong destination overall, we really do. We had 1.3 million visitors last year.

@36aday – that’s amazing, for a province of…

MM – 145,000 people. So ten times our population. So again, tourism is important. The economic impact of golf is high.

@36aday – So to follow up on that, how many rounds would be played on your member courses over a year?

MM – We do track it, we track increases and decreases, but it is about 300,000 rounds a year. From a tourism perspective, about 50% of the rounds are non-resident. Talk about all the courses we have, without the tourism driver there wouldn’t be that many. 2015 is setting up well with the US exchange rate and it will keep many Canadians in Canada this year and the US market will start to come again from that perspective.

Brudenell River Golf Course - Photo Credit - Golf PEI

Brudenell River Golf Course – Photo Credit – Golf PEI

Tomorrow – Part 3 – Challenges, Opportunities and Bucket List Options

My best 18 holes (so far)

Here’s an interesting reflection. Looking over all the courses in Canada that I have played, I’ve drawn up my favourite and some of the most memorable golf holes which correspond to where each hole can be found on its scorecard. From this I am pleased to share my best 18 – and as the title indicates – so far. Most courses have a photo gallery or video flyover and while I am lacking my own extensive photo library I invite you to check these courses and holes on my best 18. Better yet, create your own list. It’s an interesting exercise to consider the best 7th hole you’ve ever played.

1 – Waskesiu (Saskatchewan) – Par 4, The Lobstick Tree

Lobstick Tree at Waskesiu in the first fairway

You can sense the pride and the history when looking out and seeing the Lobstick tree set firmly in the first fairway. Ask the staff about it, it’s a great story.

2 – Grand Niagara (Ontario) – Par 4

The demanding second hole at Grand Niagara.

The demanding second hole at Grand Niagara. Photo Credit – Andrew Stoakley

If possible, the second hole is even tougher than the first. A demanding drive requires an equally precise long second shot. Par is a great score on this golf hole.

3 – Eagles Nest (Ontario) – Par 4
Set high on the Oak Ridges moraine, this elevated tee shot – if executed well – can lead to a short approach and a birdie opportunity. Make it count; there aren’t many birdie holes out there.

4 – Dakota Dunes (Saskatchewan)– Par 4
This is a very tough golf hole. A somewhat blind tee shot gives way to a generous landing area. The approach shot is the real test. Like Hole 2, above, par is a great score on this solid golf hole.

5 – Humber Valley (Newfoundland) – Par 3
Don’t get distracted by the riverside and mountain views, this is a demanding tee shot. If you miss the green you’re facing a tough up and down. Better get it too; the next few holes at Humber Valley are all uphill.  Humber Valley may have the best course photo gallery I’ve seen.  Here’s their fifth hole here.

6 – The Lakes (Nova Scotia) – Par 4
The signature hole on this course is not my favourite golf hole, but it’s high on the list. You’ll see this image as the header image of this golf blog. It really is a stunning golf hole. If you’re far from home, driver all day.

The view of the Bras D'Or Lakes from the sixth tee.  Photo Credit - Andrew Stoakley

The view of the Bras D’Or Lakes from the sixth tee. Photo Credit – Andrew Stoakley

 

7 – Highlands Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 5
From a beauty to a beast – this is the toughest par 5 I’ve ever played. The demanding par 5 has a double dog leg and from the tips is over 590 yards. Good luck.

8 – South Muskoka (Ontario) – Par 3
This downhill par 3 is not the most difficult hole but does require your attention off the tee. A pond short of the green will happily accept your ball if mishit or if you don’t judge the wind properly. Still, par can be expected here.

9 – Lowville (Ontario) – Par 4
I always try to play this local course for me in the fall season. Set along the Niagara Escarpment, this is one of my most beautiful tee shots in golf when set against the red, orange and yellow leaves of the fall season.

10 – Humber Valley (Newfoundland) – Par 4
An almost 200 foot drop? Wow, what an experience. Hit it straight and you’ll be rewarded. If not, as I found out, then you’ll be pleased with bogey (and I was). Have your camera ready, but really, the course photo album will be what you should show your friends, it’s spectacular.

11 – Cabot Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 5
This is an underrated golf hole. Set along MacIsaac’s pond, the design features of this golf hole make it a truly special par 5 to experience.

12 – South Muskoka (Ontario) – Par 5
Can’t make it to Waskesiu Lake? Get to Bracebridge where their 12th hole features a mature pine which is a great aiming point…unless you’re hitting it really straight that day. Clip the tree and getting home in two is out of the question.

13 – Dakota Dunes – Par 4
This is a risk/reward dream. Only 270 yards, but a massive putting green you will be thinking birdie all the way but don’t be surprised if you walk off that hole with a bogey. A fun golf hole.

14 – Bear Mountain (British Columbia) – Par 3
Course designers moved this ‘19th hole’ into the course rotation. On a clear day you can see the city of Victoria, it’s simply a gorgeous golf hole. Demanding tee shot, but very pretty.

15 – Highlands Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 5
This is the signature hole at Highlands Links and when facing your approach shot you can see the ocean and Ingonish Island. I can’t imagine how many pictures have been taken on this golf hole but make sure you’re one of many who capture one, especially when the sun is out.

16 – Cabot Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 4

This is simply my all-time favourite golf hole. I’ve written about my near birdie here but as the last oceanfront hole before turning inland, you feel like you’re on a private course. To me, it’s a perfect golf hole.

This is my favourite golf hole I've ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.

This is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links. Photo Credit – Cabot Links

 

17 – Black Bear Ridge (Ontario) – Par 4
Slightly elevated, the demanding tee shot can set up a good approach opportunity. But trees left and right require precision and confidence. It’s a well-designed golf hole and to me looks great from the tee box. Playing there, I always look forward to the 17th tee shot.

18 – Timber Ridge (Ontario) – Par 4
The greatest aspect of this shot is the uphill approach shot. Up high, you may see fellow golfers staring down at you ready to make their own assessment of your game and chances to convert for birdie on a very challenging green to putt on. Still, it’s a great way to end a round on an course which is underrated for its conditioning and layout.

All together, my best 18 plays as a Par 73 with 11 par 4’s, 4 par 5’s, and 3 par 3’s.  I look forward to the debates with friends, chances to edit and amend and learn from others about how to complement this great collection of golf holes.

Cabot Links versus Highlands Links

Cabot Links versus Highlands Links

I’m always fascinated by the search queries which bring people to this blog. Recently, I noticed someone arrived after typing in ‘Cabot Links versus Highland Links’ and it made me pause and reflect that is a fantastic query. I have been fortunate to have played them both, most recently Summer 2013. I have course reviews for Cabot Links and for Highlands Links and have also developed a regional review of golfing on Cape Breton Island. Most publications place both courses high in their top 10 publicly accessible courses in Canada. Canadian Golf Magazine has Cabot Links as #1 and Highlands Links as #3.

I’m resisting the urge to take this post on a different tact and avoid the ‘versus’ and implore people to consider them both as options for an extended golf experience on Cape Breton Island. After all, you’re only about 2 hours from the 18th green of one course to the 1st tee of the other. And that drive along the northwest portion of the Cabot Trail is absolutely sensational, one of the best in the country I’d contend. But no, I will address the query as is.

Cabot Links is the best course I have ever played golf on. It is the most unique golf experience I have ever had and is quite possibly Canada’s only true links course. The 16th hole which runs along the ocean is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played. That said; if I could only play one course for the rest of my life it would be Highlands Links. There is no other layout I have experienced which brings the natural features of the land, and its’ incredible diversity, so close to a player. I’ve cited often my love for Stanley Thompson designed courses and this is beyond a doubt his crown jewel.

I do not mean to firmly place myself on the fence here. I’m not trying to avoid the question. I sincerely feel I am providing you with unique answers that are grounded in important context. The character of Cabot Links despite being less than five years old will not allow one to view these courses around a ‘new’ versus ‘old’ argument. Cabot looks like it’s been around for ages and in some ways it really has as the manipulation of the land to create this course was relatively minimal, in my understanding. In fact, with recent renovations which are aimed to bring Highlands Links back to its former glory, one could argue that Highlands is a newer design. Removing trees along some holes on the back nine and working hard to support the oceanfront holes which have historically been susceptible to flooding has really improved the play and the look of Highlands.

Perhaps one needs to view these courses as one would two boxers with a ‘tale of the tape’ but numbers truly belie the character, beauty and absolute uniqueness of them both. The fact that both have ‘Links’ in their title is also cause for possible confusion; Highlands Links was originally meant to be titled The Mountains and Ocean Course. That, to me, is more accurate a representation of the course.

Character? Cabot has an active caddy program and the greatest sound you’ll ever hear when your ball falls into the cup, as it hits a metal plate below with a hole in for the flag (which is also now the tone I get when receiving text messages). The 10th and 11th holes run adjacent to MacIsaac’s Pond and are stunning in their own right. Highlands Links has each hole named in Gaelic and the Clyburn river is a prominent early in the back nine and this gives way to the impressive views of the ocean on the par 5 15th. The 7th hole, Killiecrankie, may be the greatest par 5 I’ve ever played. I won’t even try sharing pictures of my own. The pictures available on the Cabot and Highlands site will provide breathtaking images that may have you booking flights to Sydney or Halifax tomorrow morning.

I hope you’re able to experience both courses for yourself at some point. To me, with my limited experience golfing throughout Canada, these are my top two courses in the country…by a wide margin.

The Stunning Cabot Trail

The Stunning Cabot Trail

Embracing Fall Golf in Canada

OK, so I’ve been a little quiet of late. But I have to admit that the fall is my favourite time of year for golf. Temperatures are a little more comfortable for someone like myself who prefers walking. The colours in Ontario in October are spectacular and on a dry day, the course conditions are often some of the best they will have been all season long. Let’s not even talk about value because this is hands down the ideal time for a value conscientious golfer (this is where GolfNow provides its real value). Carlisle Golf Club, Carlise, ON

As days get shorter and the window of the golf season across Canada (with the exception of some areas of British Columbia) is coming to a close I have a heightened appreciation for the limited opportunities to play. The fall tends to attract the more avid of golfer as well; fair weather players have long but their clubs away in the garage for the season. As someone who plays more than my fair share of rounds as a single, the solitude of a course on a crisp fall day is one of the highlights of the golf season.

Another reason to embrace fall golf is it is likely you’re playing your best golf of the season. The rust of the spring is long gone and the hard work in the summer to refine and re-find your game has come to a peak. My handicap has dropped a full stroke in the past 4 weeks with some outstanding play. And while my putting remains as mysterious as ever there is confidence and consistency with ball striking which means I am less likely to lose balls in the fall leaves.

OK, fall golf has its draw backs. It’s not perfect. But taking a page from the Morning Drive relaxed rules of golf, proposed earlier this year; I drop a ball where I felt I should have found it and play on…no penalty. Leaves are bothersome and not all courses take care to blow leaves away regularly. But me, I liken myself to a squirrel who is preparing for winter. I’ll get out and play as often as I can during this season. I know there will be an extended stretch where I’m hitting into a net or a dome and putting on my basement carpet and not into the sweet sound of a cup (and I do encourage you to listen to this great cup sound which Cabot Links have, with a metal plate on the bottom to make that drained putt sound even better!).

Put on a sweater, book a tee time and enjoy the fall golf options which are out there across the country. This time of year passes far too quickly and before long courses will close for another winter. And here’s hoping it’s a kinder winter than last year, but for now layer up and get out there!  Maybe I’ll see you Friday…and Sunday!

What Makes Canada So Great? How About Golf!

Reflection is an important part of how I learn and how I act. So on Canada Day when a friend posted ‘What makes Canada so great?’ I wanted to think on this before responding. The responses she received, many from ex-pats living overseas shared themes of the land, the people and our passion for hockey. Well, they almost got it right. Two of the three anyway; don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hockey and get as passionate as the next person but the pendulum of my recreational passion has swung far to golf and I would respond today stating it is the land, the people and Canada’s passion for golf which are my three reasons why this country is so great.

Penn Classic 2013 at Cabot Links

2013 Penn Classic at Cabot Links

I’ve played golf since I was 10 years old, blogging about it for a little over 5 months. I’ve been fortunate to play some of Canada’s finest public courses having hit 5 of our 10 provinces and with firm plans for #6 in 2015 (and optimistic plans for a seventh). The diversity of our courses is only complemented by the diversity of our landscape. And golf accentuates this. When done right, it draws people to parts of Canada they may not otherwise travel to. Humber Valley, north of Corner Brook, NL, is a superb golf experience complemented by the stunning west coast of Newfoundland. Cape Breton Island is Nova Scotia is quickly becoming a premier destination for golf in Canada and is complemented by one of Canada’s most scenic driving routes, the Cabot Trail. Vancouver Island in British Columbia provides opportunity for year round golf and when the sun shines the views from Bear Mountain rival that of any course I’ve experienced. Even underrated Saskatchewan has diverse and stout golf courses to experience which will surprise and impress. My home province of Ontario is no slouch, with countless courses in golf regions like Muskoka, Niagara and others that offer numerous options for the public player. (Don’t worry other provinces, I have you targeted).

Add to this the chance to meet new and amazing people, like the gracious folks at Osprey Resort in Guysborough, NS, or at Cabot Links in Inverness, NS. Fact is, the game draws great people to it and in one the best countries of the world I get to meet the best of the best. There’s also the chance to meet people who share a similar passion for the game but are well known outside golf circles. Over the recent Canada Day weekend I had the pleasure of playing golf with Toronto Blue Jays play by play announcers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler; simply two great guys. Along with good friend Andrew Stoakley we pegged it up at Grand Niagara and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of golf. There was no dissecting the Jays’ playoff aspirations, we were focused on 8 foot par putts, finding the fairway off the tee and shared some laughs and time in the sun doing what we love to do, play golf. (and let me add, Grand Niagara is a must addition to any Canadian golfer bucket list)

Tabby, Mike and Buck

Tabby, Mike and Buck

The chance to play a round of golf with my father is one of my true pleasures and I look back with great memories of his patience and perseverance to teach me the game. I have friends whom I play regularly with and we share a deep passion for golf. I can’t compare it to any other sporting experience. With a compressed golf season as well, we take full advantage!

So as Canada celebrates its 147th birthday I would say it is the game of golf that makes this country so great. We add our own unique elements; land, people and passion and that for me is why this is the greatest country on the planet and why I feel privileged to live here.