Underrated Provinces for Golf in Canada

Underrated and underappreciated golf in Canada.

The simple fact is there is not a Cabot Cliffs or a Banff Springs in every province in Canada.  With respect to the quantity and quality of golf options, provinces across Canada are simply not the same.  The PGA of Canada and Golf Canada co-authored a report, Golf Facilities in Canada 2017, which provides data and information on golf facilities and development in Canada.  One thing that is interesting to this report is their provincial breakdown on the quantity and type of courses available – 6, 9, 12 and 18 hole courses, including resorts, public and private clubs.  http://golfcanada.ca/article/golf-canada-and-the-pga-of-canada-publish-golf-facilities-in-canada-2017-report

In late 2017 I had set up a Twitter poll asking followers to identify the province they feel is most underrated and underappreciated in terms of the quality of public golf available.  Results were modest and by no means provide any scientific data, but do provide insight to the hunch I had that a valid case can be made for all four of these provinces as being underrated and underappreciated.



With about 10% of Canada’s course offerings there is considerably more to choose here than one might think.  Saskatchewan is only second behind Ontario in 9-hole courses and the ratio is courses to the population base is quite high.  But add a qualitative component to it and only Dakota Dunes appears as a consensus top 100 course in the country.  Perhaps this just proves the point though, as courses like Waskesiu, Kenosee and Moon Lake (among others) are admired by those who play them.  I have a business trip this spring in Regina and will aim to get 2-3 rounds, so look for more insight.  I’ve played Waskesiu and as a Stanley Thompson design, it’s a sensational golfing experience.  Dakota Dunes is rightfully situated well within the country’s top 100 courses, it is fantastic.  It’s a region I would love to spend more time playing.

Lobstick Tree

Lobstick Tree at Waskesiu in the first fairway

Newfoundland and Labrador

Not exactly top of mind when one thinks golf in Canada and that alone can sway opinion.  But what they lack in terms of quantity they more than make up for in terms of quality.  With only 22 courses/facilities available in the province a focus on two will help make the case for those who voted NL.  Canadian Golf Magazine, in 2015, voted Humber Valley Resort as the 37th best course in the country.  Located on the western side of Newfoundland, south of Deer Lake and north of Corner Brook, this course is a must play for visitors to the Island. The course website has some of the most incredible visual images of the course which will make you want to book your travel for next year.  Within St. John’s, Graham Cooke designed Clovelly Golf Club has two courses but it is the Osprey Course which players will want to experience (likely more than once).  In a pinch for time in St. John’s?  Try Pippy Park which has 27 holes.  Admiral’s Green is their 18-hole course and the view from the par 3 7th is worth the green’s fees alone.  A long fall season will allow players chances to often play well into November.  But to me, Newfoundland will always be an underrated province for golf.  With a few strong, quality options it is certainly underappreciated.


Minutes from the airport, Admiral’s Green at Pippy Park will give you some incredible views of St. John’s


New Brunswick

Here, the challenges seem to be the rather large shadow cast from the quality of golf in Nova Scotia (the Cabot courses alone are driving a boom) and the marketing machine and marriage of value and quality of golf in Prince Edward Island.  Yet that aside, New Brunswick with a population just over 750,000 has over 50 golf facilities available (54 to be exact).  The provinces geography is such that courses are likely no more than an hour away for anyone.  Algonquin holds the mantle of the best course in the province and rightfully so in my opinion.  Rated 77th in Canada in 2015 by CGM (and underrated at that), like Saskatchewan this is the only course cracking the top 100.  But other courses like Royal Oaks, Kingswood, Gowan Brae and unique Herring Cove all add merit to New Brunswick being high on this list.  Worthy of its own accolades, New Brunswick complements the quality of golf in the Maritimes and in so many ways merit its own unique praise.


The signature hole at Algonquin is their par 3 12th.  Sensational and part of a fabulous stretch of golf holes.


I must confess, I have never golfed in Friendly Manitoba.  And while this is about to change this summer with a visit to Winnipeg.  No one better to connect with on this then Jeremy Kehler of Prairie Golf Magazine.  He was quick to point out that the omission of Granite Hills from top Canadian course rankings is confusing.  Just over an hour outside of Winnipeg it seems he is not underselling this based on my conversations and preliminary research on this course.  Other courses identified, like Minnewasta and Falcon Lake show a level of quality which should not be surprising given the province boasts 130 golf facilities.  Included in this is the country’s only 6-hole course!  After the summer is complete I will have an informed opinion to share but for now I will let Jeremy and others beat the drum for Manitoba.  Fact is it was tied for first with 30% of responses citing Manitoba most underrated and underappreciated.

The winner of this debate is the public player.  Shining a light on the provinces (and great courses within) that don’t get enough golf love provide us chances to get off the beaten path and identify our own golf destinations and courses which we want to play.

Let me know if there is a course you know in any of these four provinces which should be on players and visitors radar.

Bucket List Review – Part 3 – New Brunswick

Bucket List Review – Part 3 – New Brunswick


The stunning 12th hole at Algonquin

This is the third 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 PlayedAlgonquin

Bucket List Courses Remaining – none.

Other Courses PlayedMactaquac, Kingswood (quite some time ago for both)

Bucket List ContendersGowan Brae; Fox Creek; Royal Oaks;

Other Courses of NoteHerring Cove


Opening hole at Algonquin



There may be no other place in Canada more underrated in terms of golf then New Brunswick.  I can appreciate people arguing otherwise.  And while a it is a strong statement it is really meant to shine a light on the richness of golf in this beautiful Maritime province.  My experiences in New Brunswick are diverse and go back many years but one common thread emerged as I reflect back, and it is that I need to get back there and explore more of it.  Same can be true in terms of NB golf.  Over the years I have played three of New Brunswick’s finer courses; Algonquin (a perennial Top 100 course in Canada); Kingswood (a course Golf Digest once placed as a Top 100 play outside of the US) and Mactaquac (a tree-lined, tranquil course set outside of Fredericton within a provincial park).


Algonquin, set in picturesque St. Andrews-by-the-Sea and so close to the border of the United States you can see it from the 12th tee, receives the most accolades.  Canadian Golf Magazine placed it as their 77th best course in Canada in their 2015 Top 100 list.  An historic course, over 100 years old, Tom McBroom recently completed a redesign in the early 1990’s.  Some holes on the back nine are being redesigned today by Rod Whitman to maximize the layout and prominence of water which makes the back nine so majestic.  Wait until the 11th hole is completed in July 2017, it will give 12 a run for best hole on the course.  And perhaps it is that sense of adventure and discovery which make golf in New Brunswick so special.  From Fredericton, centrally located in the province, you’re never more than 3-4 hours away from most courses, many excellent courses considerably closer than that.


Sneak peak at the work to rebuild the 11th hole at Algonquin

Sites like SCOREGolf and Golf NB have details on courses available in all geographic areas, price ranges and ranking.  For the adventurous type, New Brunswick would make an excellent golfing destination.  Explore and play would be my choice of motto for this underrated golfing destination.


Algonquin hosts Canada’s Oldest Golf Clubhouse


Travel Notes

My first trip through New Brunswick was when I was 16.  An overnight stop enroute to Cape Breton allowed for a round of golf at the Mactaquac Golf Course.  Minutes from Fredericton and along the Saint John River, I was captivated by the area and the province itself.  New Brunswick has a population of about 750,000.  You can drive from the Quebec border to the Nova Scotia border in less than 5 hours.  The TransCanada in New Brunswick is efficient and well maintained. But I recommend you make time to get off the highway, explore a local course, try the Covered Bridge potato chips, maybe a pint or two of Picaroons, enjoy the scenic drives throughout the province and as I am always apt to do when in the Maritimes, enjoy the seafood.  In the summer, make time for a nice swim in the waters along the Northumberland Strait; it’s surprisingly warm.


St. Andrews by-the-Sea

My most recent trip to New Brunswick had me rent a car and drive from Fredericton to St. Andrews.  The drive was quicker and easier than expected and the seafood in town better than I hoped.  The remarkable Bay of Fundy tides over my 24 hour stay had ample time to show itself and a cool, sunny round of golf at Algonquin capped off a great stay in a part of the country I simply need to get back to more regularly.  I regret not being able to have the time to visit and play Herring Cove which from all accounts is a stunning 9-hole course nearby.


The Algonquin Resort

All three of the courses I’ve played over the years had unique elements and a real underrated nature to them.  Learning more about the scope of quality golf options in the province, it only piques my interest to get back, explore and play.  I expect there are hidden golfing gems set throughout the province.  If you know of any please do pass them along to me.  From shore to shore to shore, New Brunswick is a unique mix of natural beauty, hospitality and surprisingly golf quality.



The view over the harbour is amazing.  So are their Fish and Chips.





Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise

Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise

Course Reviews – Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise



A beautiful sunny day greeted me for my round at Salmon Arm Golf Club. 


Of my three-course B.C. adventure, this course is the one that piqued my interest the most.  And having played it now, it stands out as one of the more challenging, unique and enjoyable courses I have played in some time.  I don’t recall ever playing a course where I performed so poorly yet had so much fun.  Salmon Arm is a top Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 course in Canada and rightfully so, it combines superb conditioning with stunning natural surroundings and a venerable, tree-lined course design which places an emphasis on accuracy over length.


The drive off 14 before a sharp dog leg right.  A stunning and somewhat intimidating tee shot!

The course is located in the south-east portion of Salmon Arm, and for travelers it is easy to access off the Trans-Canada Highway.  It is a 27-hole facility with a 9-hole Heritage course east of the highway and the 18-hole Champions course.  It is easy to get to from town or from away with clear directions located on their excellent website.  With a peak greens fee of $85.00 there are many opportunities for excellent value throughout the year.

The first hole is set off the club house with a dramatic drop off before a strong dog leg left.  Conditions were immaculate and the staff advised me of groups playing ahead so as to manage expectations around pace of play which was appreciated, though I will say the few groups I encountered were gracious to let me play though being a single.  Offered a cart, I took it and appreciated it as it is a stout walk.  The terrain is very undulating and this makes for interesting and dramatic holes throughout.  The course is walkable but it would serve as a significant workout.  Having played 18 earlier that morning, I appreciated the chance for a more relaxed experience.


Green complexes were in outstanding condition including immaculate bunkers.

The course opened in 1928 and Salmon Arm GC has a proud heritage.  History lovers will enjoy the website which provides details on the development of the course from its inception, along with pictures and images.  Les Furber redesigned the course and did a masterful job in allowing the terrain to dictate the layout.  The course does not loop out and in; it is a more a meandering design.  A halfway house (actually after the 8th hole) is extremely well stocked and has very courteous staff working there.

But the course, well, that is real star.  The greens rolled very fast but true and are some of the best I have experienced in some time.  Bunkering is strategic, not too penal and of a quality and consistency that other courses should strive to achieve.  The tee boxes (and I love the Salmon tee markers!) were well maintained.   But the minute you tee up your ball you need to be mindful of the challenges; the course is tree-lined and tight in most places.  Players will really need to think there way around and focus on getting in the fairways versus a more aggressive bombers approach to the game.   The course also uses water very effectively.  Ponds on 5 and 18 serve as strategic hazards but also frame golf holes exceptionally well.  The 4th hole is a challenging, tight par 5 but my favourite may be the 14th, another par 5.  With tees set back, the drive will demand your attention.  I imagined I was on the 18th at Augusta, needing to thread the needle to get the ball deep in play to manage the dog leg right.  I loved it.


Some of the most cleverly designed tee markers I have ever seen

Fact is, Furber created amazing diversity and subtle design elements that create unique challenge.  The par 3 17th is a shorter par 3 but the green has a false crown as anything right and long propels balls off a slope to adjacent OB.  It is a course you could play over and over again and never get bored.  It will demand great shot making and reward those who do.

Add to the beauty of the course design the natural setting.  Mount Ida looms in the distance; you will play adjacent to the local airstrip which services smaller planes.  There is no development or housing to speak of around the course.  And with the tall boreal forests, it creates a sense you have the course to yourself.


Great vistas resulting from the terrain of the region.  This is one of my favourite tee decks, the par 4 13th.

I really appreciate the layout, design and rich sense of history which exists at Salmon Arm.  If a top 100 course in the country can be underrated, Salmon Arm certainly is.

Aura – 7 out of 10 – Even for a top 100 course, Salmon Arm is somewhat understated.  Geography may play a role somewhat.  And while I respect its modesty, allow me to work to move this score up significantly.


The guidebook speaks the truth.  The par 4 11th hole is indeed the toughest on the course.  Here’s the view on my approach to an elevated green.  Beautiful.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – The experience was unique, outstanding and to do it all over again, I’d gladly pay the peak fee.  But there are value options on their website.  Afternoon play is less, membership options provide exceptional value.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – This was a tough course for me, as a player who tends to hit it far and occasionally straight.  And while I didn’t play well, I really appreciated this classic layout with strong natural design elements.  The forests and terrain provide 18 truly unique golf holes.  But add to it greens which are some of the best I’ve played and a commitment to quality throughout the course.  And I suspect the more I would play here the more I would love it.



Finding the fairway is a must.  The par 5 4th hole requires accuracy on your first and second shots.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This course provided solitude and a golfing challenge which I have not experienced in some time.  And while relaxed, this is a golfer’s course.  The course, from tee to green, demanded my attention in strategy, shot making and scrambling.  But it was subtle; it did not beat me up.  More so, it served as a challenge and tested part of my game which I had not considered before.  Would I return?  You better believe I would.  – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – 18 unique, beautiful and challenging golf holes.  But add to it the value, the staff that was friendly, professional and helpful for a traveler new to the course and area.  There is also the natural setting, vistas which overlook the hole but the surrounding area – all of which come together to create a great golfing experience.  The greatness of this course is really a tapestry of several factors which are unique and captivating.  After the round, enjoy the patio and make time to reflect back on strokes lost and memories made.


The approach on 18 at SAGC.



My 2016 B.C. Golfing Adventure

My 2016 B.C. Golfing Adventure

My 2016 B.C. Golfing Adventure

Vancouver – Kamloops – Surrey – Chase – Salmon Arm – Vancouver

Total Mileage – 1660 km

Rounds Played 3 – Tobiano, Talking Rock, Salmon Arm GC


The Fraser River alongside the Trans Canada Highway

Sandwiched around a conference, a presentation and two meetings, were two days of golf and travel to the Thompson/Okanagan golf region of BC.  A peppy 2016 Nissan Altima would prove to be a comfortable and spacious way to travel.  As itineraries go, this is not going to be my most efficient but it would certainly rank high around its enjoyment and scenery.  The route was a new one for me; I have not ventured outside of Vancouver by car before.  My only BC driving adventures were in my early 20’s as a tree planter in and around the Prince George and Smithers areas of BC, and most recently, on a long weekend away with my wife from Victoria to Tofino.  This recent drive is one I hope to experience again one day, I loved it.

With my work commitments set, I had a one-day window which I used to travel west of Kamloops to play what Canadian Golf Magazine cites as a national top 10 course, Tobiano.  A full review of all courses will be forthcoming but safe to say this course lived up to its billing as a top course in the country.  The natural setting, layout, and conditioning were all spectacular and if there was one thing that topped it was the passion, commitment and friendliness of staff.  Simply put, it is one of the best courses I have ever played.  In less than ideal weather, the dramatic backdrop of Lake Kamloops and an emerging weather system was incredible to experience.  I made an impulsive decision to take the longer route along the Trans Canada which followed the Fraser River Valley to Cache Creek before taking a sharp right toward Kamloops.  I am very glad I did.  I had the time; my rental vehicle was processed quickly and my ability to get on the highway early and avoid early morning traffic outside of the airport allowed for this altered plan.  The route moved from the Fraser River to the Thompson River and views were no less spectacular.  As for the round itself, it was a good day to have a good day.  I hit the ball exceptionally well and enjoyed a solitary spectator; a bald eagle watching me from overhead.  Wow.  Tom McBroom did outstanding work designing a course which is truly world class.  It was an experience and a day I won’t soon forget.  My drive back was more direct but no less dramatic along Highway 5.  Driving downhill for 19km reflects the incredible elevation changes.


Following a day of work back in Surrey I was up early and off again, this time further north than Kamloops to an unheralded and underrated Talking Rock Golf Course at Quaaout Lodge north of Chase BC.  The drive was a relaxed and easy one; there is very little traffic along the way on a Friday early in the morning.  The course is a relaxed, meandering route which moves away from Little Shuswap Lake.  The conditioning was superb and it provided an enjoyable morning round and golf experience.  The tranquility of my morning was broken by a deer which ran across the 7th fairway following my tee shot; certainly nothing which kept me out of a relaxed rhythm of play.  The course is spacious off the tee despite it being carved out of tall forest.  The dramatic views off 14 and 15 are further accentuated by the awe and beauty of 18, a par 4 which runs along Little Shuswap Lake.  I made time for lunch at the resort and was very glad I did, as it my seafood clubhouse sandwich was outstanding and fuelled me along for about 45 minutes further north and east to Salmon Arm.  Talking Rock was the most underrated course of my loop and was a more than adequate replacement for Sagebrush which was yet to be opened under their new management of Troon Golf.  I was the beneficiary of this circumstance and eagerly await a chance to return to Talking Rock.


Talking Rock Golf Course.

My last round of this trip was a mature beauty, Salmon Arm Golf Club.  The staff were helpful and accommodating in allowing me to tee off early.  On a beautiful, sunny day I played the first few holes in solitude, seemingly having this venerable course to myself.  There were three quick observations which provided consistent throughout my experience at Salmon Arm; first, this is a challenging course off the tee.  It is tight and tree lined and requires exceptional ball striking.  Second, the elevation changes are utilized exceptionally well to create stunning vistas and challenge with approaches.  And lastly, the greens are simply exceptional and cap off the quality of the condition of this mature course.  The round was a leisurely, relaxed experience and despite an offer to pass a group in front of me I wanted time to take pictures and savour the experience.  The course provided challenge and beauty at every turn and I hope to get back so I can use my newfound course knowledge to good use.


Clever tee markers at Salmon Arm Golf Club.

A quiet night in Salmon Arm allowed me a nice early morning drive back to Vancouver.  GPS helped me get the car back quickly and stress free.  My work schedule did not allow me more than three rounds and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about this itinerary.  The spring in BC brought summer-like conditions to the courses I played.  The Friday round was sunshine and mid 20’s.  Golfing in BC has a unique and spectacular awe to it and with three courses of this quality and unique character to it, it has only whet the appetite to get back there and build a new itinerary, adding new courses to this impressive list.  The chance to strike off two bucket list courses, and really, add a third which I can also check off is a treat.  Course reviews forthcoming; and additional pictures!

This country offers such great golf.  BC, which boasts itself as ‘Super, Natural, British Columbia’ may as well have been talking about its golf.  Thanks for great golf and great golfing memories.


Thompson River Canyon

Happy 2nd Birthday, 36aday


After today I will be entering my third year as a golf writer.  This blog has taken off beyond my expectations and I’m sincerely grateful for the support received by other bloggers, golf journalists, family and friends – both old and new.  This blog has also allowed me a chance to connect with other golfers from across Canada, the USA and all around the world.

I’ve been fortunate to join the Golf Journalists Association of Canada and feature my course reviews on Canadian Golf Magazine, a national online golf publication.  I’ve been able to travel and play great courses all across the country.   I participate regularly on #GolfChat – a weekly Twitter Chat about golf.  I was pleased, and a little surprised, to be awarded the 2015 Blog of the Year on GolfChat.  I’ve also created new friendships with other golf enthusiasts and writers.  I started a Facebook page this year as another means of engagement beyond Twitter and the blog.  I’ve experienced my first viral post which – my review of the impressive Stanhope golf course – shared on over 50 different Facebook pages.  Of course, the Stanhope review was part of an amazing bucket list golf experience in 2015.  Playing 10 of the top courses in Prince Edward Island is something I’ll never forget and hope I can experience again.

2016 holds a lot of promise with planned trips to BC, AB and NB (all of which will have golf involved and allow me to cross more courses off my bucket list).  I am excited about the prospects of teeing it up with Josh Strukoff, writer of the very informative golf blog, Golf Is Mental.  I have plans to re-brand; creating a custom logo to help advance the blog and my golf writing efforts.

To all of you who read and support my writing, thank you.  I’m going to celebrate this achievement with a cold pint of my favourite golf beer, TripleBogey.   In the meantime, keep it in the short grass and here’s to a great 2016.

In friendship, Mike


Another highlight from the past year, my first ace.


Angus Glen South – Pan Am Renovations Completed are Golden



My full review for this course can be located on Canadian Golf Magazine. With an opportunity to play Angus Glen South Course one week before the start of the Pan Am Games this was a unique chance to see a championship course ready for some of the world’s best. The results are impressive.

The renovation work – for those familiar with the course – reduced the number of bunkers, reshaped greens, added vistas off the tee and strengthened ongoing water management making the course even more environmentally friendly than before. Jeff Brooke features the environmental stewardship very well in his recent article for SCOREGolf. 024

The facilities are world class and the layout is impressive with the course meandering north and south of Major Mackenzie Drive in Markham, Ontario. With excellent conditioning, subtle elevation changes and generous landing areas the course is uniquely positioned to provide an appropriate challenge for the championship player while remaining playable for the public player. Four tee boxes provide an appropriate test for all golfers.

The greens are the best I have experienced in some time. While generous in size, they are fair in their slope and definitely were rolling at a championship speed. Most holes have a very generous landing but require thought off the tee with trouble lurking on one side on many holes.

021Each hole has strong visual appeal and provides opportunity for scoring but is quick to penalize errant shots with rough, environmental areas and bunkering which will challenge.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – Playing a course which has hosted the Canadian Open and was prepared to host many of the world’s best following a massive and aggressive renovation effort creates excitement.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10. It is a public course, but not inexpensive. But the experience was sensational and for those seeking a bucket list experience that combines quality golf with a top quality experience this is worthy of consideration.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – The greens were the best I had played all year. The course was in championship condition and the detail around bunkering and fairway conditioning was superb.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Angus Glen is a quality, championship golf facility. The south course renovations will afford a playable experience for the public player and a strong test of golf for the championship golfer. I love the opportunity to play where the pros play. – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – I really enjoyed the far stretches of the course on the back nine. Personal favourites of mine were the par 4, 13th hole and the par 5 14th hole which play at the northwest portion of the property. Both holes provide an exceptional look off the tee and well played tee shots can offer scoring opportunities. Once away from Major Mackenzie Drive and set along rural fields, the feeling of isolation and solitude set alongside a championship course was a treat.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I acknowledge this is not a muni seeking to cram players onto its courses but one idea I have is The Canadian Open Experience Pass. Basically, it would be a day-long experience with play on both courses, lunch, swag and course materials which outline their history and highlights. The marketing department can thank me.

So You Know – The South Course hosted the Canadian Open in 2002. Not to be outdone, the North Course hosted the Open in 2007.


Toronto as a golf destination?

Toronto as a golf destination?

I recently wrote on Canadian Golf Magazine and made an argument for Toronto as a golf destination. I feel strongly that it is, and can be, a true golf destination in this country.

At the heart of my argument is an assumption that we would need to look at Toronto more in terms of the Greater Toronto Area. Simply put, while Toronto has great golf courses many of them are private and this places some limitations around the options for the public player traveling to the city. Within a 60 or 90 minute drive (and I contend that is fair if you’re going to destinations like Cape Breton, Vancouver Island or Banff/Canmore) there are a multitude of great public courses for consideration.

While I’m not the first to consider Toronto as a golf destination I feel it could be marketed effectively, especially when connected to a whole host of arts, cultural, recreational and culinary assets which the city has to offer.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

PS – for the entrepreneurial spirit, there’s an opportunity there.  So far, only the City’s tourism office has a site promoting golf in and around Toronto…and I find it thin.