Golf and Travel in Canada – Part 1

If you’re from away you may not know that Canada is the second largest country in terms of surface area (under 10 million square km).  Canada is also second in terms of the number of golf courses in the world at 2,298 (http://pgaofcanada.uberflip.com/i/834072-golf-facilities-in-canada-2017-report), impressive for a golf-mad country with over 5 million players (according to Golf Canada).

My tip for travel – in any country – is to pick a region or two and spend dedicated time; travel around, play golf and immerse yourself in the food, culture and history of the area.  If you’re not from Canada, for goodness sake, do your homework on the weather…we do extremes exceptionally well.  I pack a winter hat (toque) in my golf bag all year just do you know.  If you’re open to all that’s possible in Canada here are just a few options:

Culture

This is easy, visit Newfoundland and Labrador.  Within Canada this is one of the most unique geographic and cultural places to see and experience.  The capitol, St. John’s is a great base to start your Newfoundland adventure.  Simply some of the most honest kind-hearted people you’ll ever want to meet; the food, music and land (and sea) make this one of my favourite places to visit in Canada.  Leo’s was the most authentic fish and chips location I’ve experienced in St. John’s though Ches’s is a strong option (order the stuffing and gravy on top of the fish and chips).  If you need a quick golf fix there’s a course, Pippy Park, mere minutes from the St. John’s airport though Clovelly is another option in the city.  Worth the drive, a visit to Gros Morne National Park will take you close to Humber Valley Golf Resort.  One of the top public courses in Canada, the view on the 10th tee gets all the accolades but facts are you better have your camera ready earlier than that.  During your visit maybe you’ll get screeched in too?

Fun Fact – Twilingate, NL is the Iceberg Capital of Canada

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Minutes from St. John’s airport, Pippy Park offers this sensational view!

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Quidi Vidi, located within St. John’s, has a rich history, a fabulous brewery and a vibrant artisan community.

Wonders of the World

Niagara Falls is a spectacular sight.  Almost 175 feet in height and dropping over 28 million liters of water a second.  With over 12 million tourists a year this is a very popular destination but for golfers no fear, there are many excellent courses to enjoy too.  Golf complements Niagara’s world class wines and the natural beauty of the Falls. The Niagara Parks Commission administers two courses I’d recommend:  Oak Hall is a 9-hole course and is just over 1000 yards.  Convenient, picturesque and historic it’s fun for the whole family.  Whirlpool is set close to the Niagara gorge and was designed by one of Canada’s best known golf architects, Stanley Thompson.   My last recommendation is one of the area’s newest courses, Grand Niagara.  Developed by Rees Jones, this course is set back and west of the popular Niagara River area.  Immaculate conditioning and a stern test, this will give you some solitude after the lights, sounds and experiences of Clifton Hill (although I am more a Niagara on the Lake guy myself).

Fun Fact – The Maid of the Mist began operating in 1846 and is North America’s oldest tourist attraction.

Island Life

With a relatively season to enjoy summer weather, three of Canada’s most popular islands offer a multitude of activity to complement some of Canada’s best golf:

Cape Breton Island

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The 6th hole at The Lakes offers an incredibly view of Bras d’Or Lake

Located on Canada’s east coast this is becoming Canada’s world class golf destination, hosting three of Canada’s top 5 courses.  Add to this my favourite drive in all of Canada, the Cabot Trail, and seafood options galore, you will find yourself planning your next visit before you’ve completed the first trip.  Travelers tip – while Cabot’s two courses gets considerable love (and rightfully so) take the time to research options for other courses.  I loved playing The Lakes in Ben Eoin, just outside of Sydney.  Bell Bay in Baddeck hosts a PGA Tour Canada event but the Baddeck Lobster Supper may be the real draw.

Fun Fact – Historic Keltic Lodge in Ingonish, NS has been in operation since 1940 from June to October.

Cabot Links 16th

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

Prince Edward Island

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Anne of Green Gables attracts thousands of tourists and is conveniently adjacent to Green Gables Golf Club in Cavendish, PEI

This is simply my favourite place to play golf in Canada.  The island is barely over 200 kilometers wide yet boasts over 25 courses.  The golf is exceptional, the courses diverse in their layout.  Golf PEI supports the promotion of golf on the Island and provides travel specialists to take care of all your golf travel needs (and from experience they are exceptional).  A vibrant food scene, history, culture and incredible proximity to the sea makes this my favourite golf destination in the country.  And all that without mention of world famous Cows Ice Cream or the fabulous PEI Brewing Company.  I have written extensively about the gentle island, as my 2015 fall golf trip was legendary.

Fun Fact – there is no place on PEI that is more than 16 km from the Sea.

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Stanhope’s seaside views are fantastic.  It also boasts one of the best stretches of golf holes on the island, 11-16, wow.

Vancouver Island

Almost 6000km west of Prince Edward Island is Vancouver Island, set on the west coast of Canada.  Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is a smaller but vibrant city with an historic charm.  A walk along the harbourfront is a must set near the majestic Fairmont Empress hotel.  I’ve spent a long night sampling local beers at Garrick’s Head but the Bard and Banker along with Bartholomew’s are also highly recommended pubs.  The natural beauty of Vancouver Island is on full display at every corner and a visit to Tofino with its beaches, surfing and storm watching potential is a recommendation I would make to anyone visiting the region.  Golfers do not despair; the Vancouver Island Golf Trail will guide you along 250 kilometers of picturesque coastline of the eastern Island with 13 courses set to break up the drive.  Many of these courses are top rated public courses in Canada including a couple on my own Bucket List of Canadian Courses, Bear Mountain’s two courses (Mountain and Valley) and Storey Creek.

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The Mountain course has integrated it’s famous 19th hole into play and on a clear day there may not be a better view on a golf course on the Island.  (Photo Credit – https://bearmountain.ca/image-gallery/nicklaus-golf/)

Fun Fact – Vancouver Island boasts on the country’s mildest climates and provides year-round golf opportunities.

Of course, these are only a few destinations in Canada where you can easily mix in golf do a diverse agenda of travel and other leisure activity.  I’ll share more destination locations where you can pack the clubs along too and round out a Canadian adventure.  Feel free to contact me directly on Twitter (@36aday) and I’ll share any insight on golf and travel in Canada.  It’s never too early to start planning a golf travel adventure within Canada.  In 2018 I have travel planned for British Columbia (Vancouver…but not the Island), Manitoba (a new adventure for me from a golf perspective) and Saskatchewan (time to revisit this underrated part of the country and explore new highways and courses).  I’ll share my experiences and look forward to experiencing some great public courses.

 

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Impressions of the 2017 Toronto Golf and Travel Show

http://www.torontogolfshow.com/

I’m losing count but my guess would be that this is my 7th Toronto golf show in the past 8 years.  My motivation for attending has changed considerably over the years.  Gone are the days when I would show up early and line up to access the quality free golf giveaway (which still exists and creates significant buzz).  Now, I am interested in building and maintain relationships.  I have been fortunate to make friends in the golf industry in Canada and this event provides me a regular touch point to connect with key people in golf in Canada.

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Meeting golf ball inventor and legend, Dean Snell.

Let’s not kid ourselves here…there is an energy and buzz to this show which gets any golfing enthusiast excited for the season ahead.   Add to it exhibitors keen to share information on their products, courses, services and organizations and I was no different than the multitude of attendees.  So as I reflect back on the Golf and Travel Show, here are my impressions:

  1. There is something for everyone.

There really is.  Whether its discounted retail outlet shopping; numerous jurisdictions providing information on golf and travel escapes; access to local, national and international golf with strong promotional offers; chances to try new equipment; access to lessons from CPGA teaching professionals; draws and giveaways; speakers; and more.  The Toronto International Centre is sufficiently big enough to host an event of this magnitude and organizers had things clearly marked inside.

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Such a pleasure to meet and chat with Jim Burton.  For those active on Twitter, you’ll know him as The Grateful Golfer (@TheGratefulGolf)

  1. Make time to meaningfully engage.

The crowds are such that some people feel they should only spend a brief moment and gather information.  But I have learned that it is possible to strike up a conversation, ask questions and learn more about courses, organizations and golfing regions.  Carve out the experience you want from the show.  I appreciated the chance to meet The Grateful Golfer, a fellow golf blogger who does exceptional work (and possesses an exceptional golf game).  I spent time with my friends at Snell Golf Canada.  Highlighted here was the chance to meet Dean Snell, inventor of Snell golf balls and whom I most recently interviewed.  The booth got busier as the afternoon went on and I was happy to share my positive experience with these golf balls with attendees.

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It’s an annual tradition for me to head over and visit my good friends at Golf PEI.  Appreciated that Mark McLane could take time to talk and share insight on new initiatives.

I spent some time talking with my friend Mark McLane from Golf PEI and learned about some of the new golf initiatives happening on the gentle island.  It was a pleasure to meet Graham Hudson from Highlands Links who was at the Golf North booth.  Graham was excited to share some of the great developments happening on the course.  I met an old friend from grade school who heads up the On The Tee magazine.  And I had a chance to connect briefly with Jay from the 36 Golf Company, an amazing golf apparel company based in Canada.

I met and networked with many others.

  1. Grab now, read later.

I like to learn about new getaway destinations but I also like to learn about what courses in my area – the western part of the Greater Toronto Area – offer in terms of early season specials and promotions.  This approach of gathering as much information as possible truly helped me plan for my 2015 PEI golf trip and I find that once I am back in the quiet of my own home I can sift through the materials I have gathered and identify new courses to play, destinations to consider and products to learn about.  Along with making a direct connection with someone, I love this part of the golf show.

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As with any trophy, it’s only to be touched when you win it.  The base of the RBC Canadian Open trophy is being extended to allow for more winners to be added.

4. Shopping for Golf Gear

This part appeals to me less than others listed above.  The Golf and Travel Show has expanded over the years to include retailers offering discount product.  Often models which are older, there is value to be had but people need to be discerning in looking at product.  And if you can imagine it, they sell it.  Carts, bags, training aids, clubs, balls and apparel are all available.  I counted three separate discount retailers this year.  I grabbed a new putter grip but that was all.

  1. Education and Youth Engagement

This part excites me as the Golf and Travel Show works to engage junior golfers.  Being there on a Friday I did not see many kids (as they’d be in school) but understand that allowing kids to enter free and offering a real hands on experience in terms of contests, trying clubs, lessons and more, will provide people (kids of all ages) with a great opportunity to learn about the game and engage more within it.

I attended the Dean Snell talk and he provided a true master class on ball fitting which contradicts many approaches companies utilize today.  I learned a great deal from Dean during his 30 minute talk, including Q & A.   The speakers line up was diverse and impressive.

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Crowds were large and lineups long.  It moved steadily fortunately.  Great to see this kind of excitement.

The timing of this show is perfect, as it happens late enough in winter and before the Masters to truly pique the interest of golfers.  Based on the lineups and the large crowds on the first day, this is an event that just keeps growing and getting better and better.

2016 in Review – Top 5 Posts

2016 in Review – Top 5 Posts

I want to thank everyone who follows and supports my blog.  Three years now and I am still enjoying the opportunity to share reviews and travel information on interesting and wonderful public golf courses in Canada.  Expect more of the same in 2017.  It was a great year of golf for me, with chances to play in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario.  I was able to play some amazing courses, meet great people and see parts of the country I have never experienced.  As is often the case there were some hidden gems and I tried hard to make a commitment to improve my photography skills and share more of these experiences with you.

Meeting and playing golf with fellow bloggers, venturing back into competitive golf after a brief absence and being able to maintain a single digit handicap are all things I look back on fondly.  Canada really is an amazing country to play golf in.  I find it so rich in golf courses that I recently increased my Bucket List of Canadian public courses from 74 to just fewer than 100.  Canada has well over 2000 courses so I have done some research, listened to Twitter followers and went with my gut in a few cases but added over 20 courses to my list.

In 2016, my top 5 posts all have an eastern Canada connection.  My 2015 PEI trip was legendary and I have written extensively on it.  Four of the top five posts were course reviews from this trip which I staggered as new blog entries over the winter of 2016.

#1. Stanhope Golf Club

Easy to walk, relaxed in nature and offering an incredible underrated and stunning back nine, Stanhope offers high marks for fun.  A benign opening nine gives way to an amazing stretch of golf holes on the back that are both challenging and awe inspiring.  Playing on an afternoon following a tough weather morning at demanding Crowbush Cove; Stanhope was a perfect course to cap off an epic day of 36.

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Not everyone gets to play golf with their best friend but at Stanhope it’s encouraged.

Click here to read the full post

#2 Oh, The Places You Will Go

Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson is someone I am proud to call a friend.  She also brings this amazing marriage of golf enthusiasm with unbridled passion for the game (making my own passion for the same seem pedestrian).  The opportunity to meet my Twitter friend in person, over a round of golf, came in July when we were fortunate to be hosted for a round at the incredible Ladies Club in Thornhill, ON.  The Ladies Club has a rich history and an amazing story of its inception that both Tiffany and I wanted to learn about.  Head Professional, Paddy Kelly hosted us and joined us for a round at this Stanley Thompson design which is a shorter course, but long on beauty and challenge.

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Ladies Club Head Professional, Paddy Kelly; Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson; and me!

Click here to read the full post

#3 Green Gables Golf Club

Sticking to Stanley Thompson, his work in Cavendish, in PEI, was my third most popular post in 2016.  Recent renovations by Tom McBroom helped bring this course back to its original lustre and an early morning fall tee time helped show off all its beauty.  The iconic Anne of Green Gables home, Oceanside views, classic Thompson design…it was there to enjoy.

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Anne’s house.

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#4 Eagles Glenn Golf Club

Practically within walking distance from Green Gables, still in Cavendish, is a more recent design.  Eagles Glenn, as I look back, is an outstanding golf course which is well framed by the rolling countryside and the design brilliance of Graham Cooke.  Superbly conditioned and on a stunning fall morning, this was a consensus favourite by our entire group.

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The Cartners won the last hole and were ready to tee it up.

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#5 Glasgow Hills Golf Club

This club of all the 10 played on our trip to PEI invoked the most discussion.  Stunning, immaculate in its conditioning and incredibly demanding, it presents a back nine which I really enjoyed.  With the most elevation changes of any course on the Island it demands accuracy and length.  But spend time before and after the round in their amazing clubhouse and restaurant and you’ll only focus on the great shots and the great views.

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This view from the patio of the clubhouse at Glasgow Hills is the best.

Click here to read the full post.

Bucket List Overview – Part 4 – Prince Edward Island

This is the fourth 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 PlayedLinks at Crowbush Cove, Brudenell River, Dundarave, Mill River, Stanhope, Fox Meadow, Green Gables, Eagles Glenn, Glasgow Hills, Andersons Creek

Bucket List Courses Remaining

Other Courses Played

Bucket List Contenders

Other Courses of Note – Belfast Highland Greens

 

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The iconic Anne of Green Gables home is set close to the 11th hole of Green Gables Golf Club

Overview

PEI is a unique golfing destination in Canada.  It is also brings together exceptional golfing quality, value, convenience, hospitality and interests to complement time away from the course.  I have written extensively about my golf experience in Fall 2015 on the Gentle Island and it remains my favourite place to play golf in Canada.  With courses set within the top 100 in Canada you get access to quality courses like Crowbush Cove and Dundarave.  You can play courses built by designers like Stanley Thompson, Graham Cooke, Dr. Michael Hurdzen / Dana Fry, and Robbie Robinson among others.  If you’re fortunate to play the top courses on the Island you may find – as I did – that there are other courses which deserve strong consideration to be on that list, notably Green Gables and Mill River.  This bucket list trip allowed me to play all 10 of my PEI courses in a 6 day span.  I have ranked these 10 courses on the Island and invite you to share your feedback on this list, acknowledging all ranking lists are highly subjective.

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Carr’s. If you’re going to be near Stanley Bridge it’s well worth a visit.

There are four courses which the province of PEI owns and operates; Crowbush, Mill River, Dundarave and Brudenell.  Arguably four of the top courses on the Island, they represent the diversity of golf available on PEI.  Close to Cavendish is a cluster of excellent golf, mere minutes away from each other: Green Gables, Eagles Glenn, Glasgow Hills and Andersons Creek are all in close proximity.  For travelers, the course closest to the Charlottetown airport which we played was Fox Meadow.  If you can only squeeze in a round this would be your choice.  And the most relaxed location?  That goes to Stanhope.  Don’t let it’s benign from nine fool you.  The back nine is simply breathtaking and offers a stretch of golf holes which are arguably the most scenic on the Island.

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There’s a 6-hole stretch on the back nine of Stanhope which is simply heavenly.

Utilizing Golf PEI, I was able to secure Island Green Cards for our foursome, allowing us the chance to play all 17 of their member courses.  While our itinerary only allowed us time for 10, at $399 (+taxes) you can understand why PEI provides such great value for golfers.  To find so much great golf, most of it only an hour from where we stayed, PEI continues to be one of Canada’s leading golf destinations.

Travel Notes

Golf PEI operates as a central marketing office for golf courses and the golf industry on PEI.  In conjunction with the four government owned courses via PEI’s Finest Golf, it excels at service, offering technology, print materials and access to people who can help with all aspects of golf trip planning.  For example, I wanted to surprise my group upon our arrival at our rental home (5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, hot tub, pool table, modern kitchen – $1400  +taxes for the week) with ingredients for a seafood feast.  Golf PEI staff connected me to a small seafood shop 2 minutes from our home and I was able to place an order and simply pick it up when I arrived; they actually offered to coordinate with our rental agency to have it all in the fridge for us.  Amazing.

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A nice way to end the trip. The tour was informative and enjoyable. Conveniently located downtown Charlottetown, the PEI Brewing Company is a great side trip.

In addition to 10 rounds of golf, we enjoyed 2 meals at New Glasgow Lobster Supper and created great value from the all-you-can-eat mussels.  We booked a tour at the PEI Brewing Company and took some time to wander downtown and try some Cows Ice Cream.  While that trip was all about the golf I can share from experience that PEI beaches are sensational, the coastal drives are relaxing and there are growing and diverse options for foodies.  The west coast offers some of the most spectacular seaside driving views on the Island.  But check for yourself.  My new map to bucket list courses will show, if you zoom in on PEI, how close all these courses are to each other and how easy it is to tour around the entire Island.

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Early morning light provides the only filter needed at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish.

While I’ve managed to complete my entire bucket list for this province in one trip, it is a destination I would welcome coming back to and look forward to when I can make a return trip.

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My favourite picture of Mill River is the par 3, downhill 5th hole. Stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Meadow – PEI’s Best Golfing Secret

Fox Meadow – The Islands Best Golfing Secret

www.foxmeadow.pe.ca

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The signature 7th hole.  This short par 3 will demand your attention.

When I made my before and after list, ranking PEI Island courses before even playing them, I placed Fox Meadow low on my list.  I had not heard of it and did not get any sense of any significant wow factor.  Well, having played 10 of the top courses on PEI, this course was the greatest surprise and moved up my rankings afterward more than any other on the Island.  Wow factor?  You won’t even get to the first tee before seeing the quality of this course.  Pro Shop? Clubhouse?  Yes, all superb.  Convenient too given it is so close to Charlottetown.  Add what is likely the best practice facilities on the Island and the impressions for a first time player are extremely high.  What about the course?  Well, it follows suit and provides a stern and very enjoyable test of golf within an excellent layout.

The course is mere minutes east of Charlottetown and for business travelers seeking to squeeze in a round, I would highly recommend it.  As was the case with most of the courses we played on PEI, the late season conditions were sensational.  It was a cool, breezy but sunny morning when we teed off in October and the starter was fantastic, offering us a chance to play ahead of two other groups.  The staff are all friendly and professional which only adds to the appeal.

The course enjoys some subtle elevation change which is used very well to create vistas off the tee.  The course has good diversity in that some holes are quite open but others require a premium on accuracy.  The designer uses doglegs very effectively to create diversity amongst the holes.  The par 3’s are exceptionally strong, I especially liked the 7th hole, the signature hole at Fox Meadow, which is a short par 3 guarded to the left by a pond.  We found a crew of divers gathering balls (fortunately the four of us did not make any contributions to their multiple bags full of balls).

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The fall colours only add to the splendour of this course.  You wouldn’t think you were 10 minutes from Charlottetown.

The course enjoys an exceptional strong stretch of closing holes which only builds on the positive experience at Fox Meadow.  The tee markers did not always align to the centre of the fairway; a clever move to have us thinking throughout the round.  I liked that actually.  Truth is players really need to think their way around Fox Meadow.  It is a fair test of golf and all four of us left stating we’d be honoured to be members at that course.

Aura – 6.5 out of 10 – I had not heard much about this course and learning about it – and in typical PEI fashion – it was a humble, understated write up which undersells the strengths of this course.  Added to this the quality of the course and its staff and it truly over delivered…and that is not a bad thing!

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – Consistent with other courses on the Island, the real value is in membership ($1350 is exceptional).  For anyone traveling to the Island, peak fees are $79 but if you’re able to coordinate a few rounds throughout the Island take advantage of the card program of Golf PEI.  Even at $79, the experience of playing Fox Meadow would be worthwhile.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – I really appreciated the diversity of this layout.  There was nothing mundane about this course.  As mentioned, the par 3’s are exceptional and the closing three holes were strong.  My only critique was a few of the tee boxes were uneven but it was nothing that detracted from the round.  Greens were generous in size and rolled at a consistent speed all morning.  Add the fall colours we were able to experience and it only added to the beauty of this course.  The opening hole, the beautiful dog leg, downhill par 4, reflects the challenge and beauty of this course.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8 out of 10 – The experience was an enjoyable and pleasant surprise and not is meant to be disparaging.  Simply put, I did not know what to expect and from dropping off the clubs to post-round purchases at the pro shop, the golfing experience at Fox Meadow was first class.  With an abundance of quality golf on PEI, Fox Meadow holds a rightful place as one of the better courses on the Island.

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The fairway on 18 with the clubhouse in the distance.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The one aspect we utilized but that I’d enjoy more as a member are the practice facilities.  They are outstanding and allow players the space to work on all aspects of their game.  As for the course, the layout was natural and followed the contours of the land.  The course meandered well throughout the property with no holes that felt forced, cramped or out of place.  Add the fact that staff were professional and courteous and Fox Meadow is a course people should add to their must play list on the Island.

Best Shot – Fox Meadow our last of a 10 course trip in fall 2015.  And while I struggled to score well the entire trip, I saved my best for last.  My approach on 17 hit the flag and dropped to about 2 feet.  Then, on 18, my third shot was all over the pin and left me 4 feet for back to back birdies.  It salvaged my score and capped off a memorable round and one of the greatest golf trips I will ever experience.  Finishing strong had two meanings – the quality of course, and closing birdies on holes 179 and 180!

Green Gables – PEI’s Iconic Thompson Design

Green Gables – PEI’s Iconic Thompson Design

Course Reviews – Green Gables – An Iconic Thompson Design

http://www.greengablesgolf.com/

 

Located in Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada in Cavendish, PEI, Green Gables Golf Club is the second Stanley Thompson designed course our foursome has played located within a National park, the first being Highlands Links in Nova Scotia.  The experience led one of my playing partners to state, “every national park in Canada needs a Stanley Thompson golf course”.

My bias of Thompson designs is well known to many, I simply love the look and playability of the natural, rugged design.  Green Gables is no exception.  This is my favourite course in the Cavendish area and reflects, once again, the incredible diversity of golf courses for players on the Island.  While properly billed as a seaside course, I found Green Gables to be a tale of two nines.  The opening nine is carved from forest and moves inland from the opening tee.  In fact, the course changes significantly on the back nine with a move seaside.  From the iconic Anne of Green Gables home off to the left off the 11th fairway to the first view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence beyond the 13th green, the back nine is certainly the more scenic of the two nines.

The front nine opens with a straightaway par 5 carved out of the forest.  But don’t assume here forest means tight.  The forest frames the holes on the front exceptionally well.  At Green Gables, the landing areas off the tee are fair and in many cases generous.  As is consistent with Thompson designs, the course fits the land extremely well.  There were no holes which seemed out of place or gimmicky.  There is enough diversity in the front nine to avoid the course feeling mundane.  Bunkering, a strength of Thompson, was brought back to its original glory through excellent renovations in 2008 by Canadian architect Thomas McBroom.  My favourite hole on the front was the par 4 2nd hole, with one of the most well protected greens I have experienced.  Bunkering all around except for a narrow opening requires focus on a seemingly small target.  Going long is not an option with OB just right and forest set behind the bunkers.  A stern test early in the round, but given the hole is 326 from the tips it does allow for players to ensure they can control their approach.  Reflecting back, this need for course management and thoughtful play is one reason I love this course.

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Anne’s house, situated off the 13th hole.

Water is a subtle feature on the front nine, with a carry over a creek on the par 3 5th hole, but on the back nine water is a more prominent feature.  As the course moves toward the ocean, the creek, ponds and the Gulf of St. Lawrence all present themselves, creating diversity of play and in scenery.  The stretch of holes from 13 to 17 are arguably the most beautiful stretch of golf holes on the Island.  The par 4 13th is a dogleg left with the Gulf visible on the background; it’s a stunning golf hole.  But the green is superbly guarded with bunkers and very little room for shots going long.  My favourite hole is the beautiful par 3 16th but also boasts one of the toughest greens on the course.   The course ends like it began, with a par 5, the last one arguably more challenging.

Overall, the golf at Green Gables was thoroughly enjoyable.  We were the dew sweepers on the beautiful fall morning and staff worked hard to make sure we were able to access the range and get to the first tee in advance of our morning tee time.  The opportunity to experience another Stanley Thompson design was a highlight of my trip.  Green Gables is an iconic Thompson design, with its commitment to natural ruggedness where the land, not the architect, is the true focus.  Add to it exceptional service and tremendous course conditioning and Green Gables will need to be on any travelers must play list when going to Prince Edward Island.

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Another beautiful view on the back nine.

Aura –8 out of 10 – Built in 1939 and renovated in 2008 Green Gables is an important stop on the Stanley Thompson golf trail, his only work on PEI.  Located within the National Park and within the most popular tourist region of the province as well as close to other championship courses, Green Gables has its own unique history and style to complement the great golf on the Island.

Value (cost / experience) –8 out of 10.   Hard to argue a full membership of $1050 which also allows players access to Anderson’s Creek course, which is literally minutes away.  Peak rates in the summer are $100, not ideal value, but they do offer a weekly rate of $300.  For vacationers in the area who are looking to get a convenient daily round in, this is a great alternative.

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Our view as we stepped onto the second tee.  Loved how the sun and the mist helped frame this beautiful golf hole.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 –As was found throughout the Island, the overall condition of the course was exceptional.  Greens were firm and quick, consistent and well maintained.  The tee boxes provided excellent views of the landing areas.  Bunkering, as to be expected, is stout.  Critically, they were a little firm but performed their role exceptionally in penalizing errant shots.  Nothing unfair, just tough.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out of 10 – My sense of this course is I could play it 100 times over a season and still feel I had things I could learn about positioning off the tee, approaches, breaks on the greens and generally just how to score better.  I’d never get bored playing here and would welcome the chance to return.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – While many will point to the proximity of the Anne of Green Gables home or the seaside holes and their beauty, I like the fact for me that the opening nine stands well on its own as a strong nine holes of golf with ruggedness and a beauty of its own.  It was likely one of the most tranquil golf experiences I have ever had, playing the opening three holes as the sun was rising.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – Aside from moving to Cavendish, I am not sure what I would change.  While other Stanley Thompson courses get considerably love, such as Highlands Links, Banff Springs and Jasper Park (rightfully so), this course too provides an incredible complement of championship golf and natural beauty.  I would urge golf enthusiasts to check this course and a local Thompson design and let me know of your experience.

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One of my favourite holes on the course is the par 3 16th.  Stunning.

Glasgow Hills – The Gentle Island’s Formidable Beauty

Glasgow Hills – The Gentle Island’s Formidable Beauty

http://glasgowhills.com/

Video courtesy of Eat Sleep Golf.  To view hole by hole video for Glasgow Hills click here

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The view from the clubhouse patio is impressive, as it overlooks the practice green and first fairway

My first trip to Glasgow Hills was three years before I was able to tee it up. The drive up to the clubhouse is majestic; with views of the River Clyde, the surrounding countryside and the spectacularly maintained Les Furber designed layout. It was a long wait and there was much anticipation from my first visit with my daughter for a lovely dinner date to a stunning fall afternoon in 2015 where I could actually tee it up and play this beautiful course. And make no mistake, Glasgow Hills is beautiful. On a clear, sunny day the views from the clubhouse patio are some of the best on the Island. Looking over the perfectly manicured course, I was ready to play this course.

My expectations were exceptionally high – based on anticipation and the stunning drive in to what is a beautiful clubhouse. It was quiet on this fall afternoon and staff were able to get us set up and on our way quickly and easily. New Glasgow is very close to the popular tourist area near Cavendish, and for golfers, very close to other championship courses. However, despite this proximity, Glasgow Hills has uniqueness to it and design elements which make this course extremely challenging.

The front nine is expansive and enjoyable in its routing, diversity of golf holes and how it routes back past the clubhouse to a relatively flat area west of the clubhouse. This tree-lined section of the course is well designed and very fun to play. Make your score count on the front because the back begins a challenge that reflects the real teeth of this course and makes the 134 slope rating from the tips very honest. Being new to the course, we played the downhill 10th very conservatively and the approach on this par 4 is a beautiful shot to carry over a valley to the green. But it was the par 3 13th which starts a stretch of holes which will challenge golfers of all skill level, and it is here we realized we may have been better off playing one tee forward. 3 woods and strong hybrids all failed to reach this long par 3. While a straight forward golf hole it was the start of a challenging stretch. Actually, 13-16 may be on the most challenging stretches of golf holes on the Island, showing the tightness of the back nine as it runs down and back up the hillside. After an awkward uphill 17th, the course finishes strong with a great closing hole that sets you up at the clubhouse and a chance to gather at the 19th hole to reflect on an enjoyable round of golf and a memorable golfing experience.

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The opening nine is as relaxed and enjoyable as the views!

Reflecting back, the two nines are truly different. The back nine demands more accuracy tee to green. Overall, the course conditioning was excellent. The views from the clubhouse patio over the course reflect the consistency of conditioning throughout Glasgow Hills. From past experience, the food at the course is exceptional but with it being late in the season the dining room was closed. Quick thinking allowed us to enjoy a very short drive to New Glasgow Lobster Supper for a sensational seafood meal (again). It capped off a great afternoon and a wonderful experience at Glasgow Hills, which truly is one of the more formidable, beautiful courses on the Island.

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Aura – 7.5 out of 10 – Visiting this course in 2012, it really whet my appetite for PEI golf. I was well aware of perennial national favourites, Crowbush and Dundarave, but to find a course like this with its strong visual appeal, I knew when I was able to travel to PEI this course was on my must play list.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10 – This course, perhaps more than any other we played on the Island, brought strong diversity of opinion. I felt it was a strong and fair test of golf with great diversity of golf holes bound together by exceptional quality and design elements from Furber which make the greenside areas all fair and approachable. The costs were exceptional and I left feeling satisfied about my golfing experience.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – Furber’s ability to effectively use lands west of the clubhouse from holes 6-9 reduce the tightness throughout the course and provide some nice diversity from the elevation change, which Furber was able to mitigate in most cases and utilize effectively for the most part. The conditioning was exceptional. All aspects – tee boxes, fariways, bunkers, and greens – were exceptional. The holes present themselves clearly with regard to possible trouble. A strong finishing hole created a good feeling after the round.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 7.5 out of 10 – I had a fun golfing experience at Glasgow Hills. The course challenged my game and provided me some of the best scenery on the Island. The staff are very nice; helpful and professional. The course provides strong diversity of golf holes. I feel we picked the wrong tee box and this may have made the golf experience a little more challenging than I really wanted on a golf vacation. The blue tees were a challenge for a series of 10 handicappers, but maybe it was that this was our 7th round of golf in 4 days? Still, I’d like to return. Course knowledge can go a long way here.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The location is ideal. The conditioning is among the best on the Island. And the people were outstanding. I really liked the diversity of golf holes and welcomed the challenge which the tougher back nine brought in terms of design and playability. Proximity to New Glasgow Lobster Supper was a bonus and one we took advantage of given the dining room was closed. That said, I have experienced their dining room and it is its own highlight.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – There is no denying that the 17th tee shot is spectacular. Sitting high over the landing area, it is impressive. But it is a golf hole that I would – as the question asked – change if I had a magic wand. The slope uphill afterward is significant and makes for three target-type shots. It just felt to me this hole could benefit from some design tweaks. Following such a strong stretch from 13-16, and between what I felt was one of the better closing holes on the Island, 17 seemed a little out of place to me. It did not detract from my enjoyment at Glasgow Hills, in fact, I look forward to the chance to tackle this hole and this course again.

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The very beautiful and very challenging par 3 13th hole.