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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Bucket List Review – Part 1 – Newfoundland

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It’s not all about the golf in Newfoundland, as this picture from beautiful Quidi Vidi can attest to.

This is the first 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 PlayedHumber Valley

Bucket List Courses Remaining – none.

Other Courses PlayedPippy Park

Bucket List ContendersTwin Rivers; The Wilds at Salmonier River

Other Courses of NoteGander Golf Club; Clovelly Golf Club

 

Overview

I don’t know anyone who has traveled to Newfoundland purely for the golf.  It’s not a knock on arguably Canada’s most unique province.  A short golf season, a shorter supply of courses and a multitude of other options to occupy one’s time speak to realities of golf in the far eastern part of the country.  But in my experiences, like the land itself, the golf in Newfoundland is unique, memorable and very enjoyable.

Humber Valley Golf Resort hosts a nationally ranked golf course.  Canadian Golf Magazine placed it as their 37th best course in Canada in their 2015 Top 100 list.  In 2016, it was the 15th best public play in the country on their Top 50 Best You Can Play list.  Justifiably so, I might add.  It’s that special.  However, it is located on the west side of Newfoundland making this a tough course to access.  However, with relative proximity to stunning Gros Morne National Park it is a course well worth visiting; and certainly a course worth its high ranking.  You can find my review of this sensational course here.

I also had a chance to play a course only mere minutes from St. John’s Airport, Admirals Green at Pippy Park.  A delightfully relaxed course set on a crown of land overlooking the city and the ocean beyond to the east.  A benign layout; understated and enjoyable until you hit the 7th hole.  Then, bam, it hits you like a shot of screech after a kiss of the cod.

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Sensational view! Fortunate to get a clear day. This is one of the most underrated par 3’s I have ever played.  Get your yardage right, long is not good.

I will continue to explore unique golf options anytime I travel to Newfoundland.  Just outside of the city of St. John’s is The Wilds at Salmonier River.  Two hours west of St. John’s is Twin Rivers.  Of course, if pressed for time Clovelly Golf Club is a convenient option too, with 36 holes.  Gander Golf Club is another option, less accessible but no less desirable.

Travel Notes

My first trip to Newfoundland back in 2006 (and before I was savvy enough to know to bring my golf clubs) had me staying at The Beach House in Portgual Cove,  only 10 minutes outside of St. John’s.  It was the convenient for me to get to my meetings at Memorial U and I liked staying outside the city.  On the weekend, I enjoyed my ferry ride to Bell Island and the tour of the old iron mine.  Learning that German U Boats were seen patrolling around the bay during the Second World War was amazing to hear.  I had lunch and dinner for all three days at the Beachy Cove Café – a large bowl of the chowder.  It was so good I couldn’t bring myself to try anything else.  I walked the Island and meandered west, through someone’s backyard (sorry) and literally found the end of the Island.  I was staring at about a 100’ drop off to the ocean below (I backed away slowly and stopped to take in the breathtaking views).  My time at the Beach House had me parked on an Adirondack chair watching the whales breach in the harbour along with a good book and a glass of wine.  My first Newfoundland experience was one of wonder and bewilderment…and amazing seafood.

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Before (and) or after a round there’s always time for seafood and Newfoundland enjoys an abundance of fresh options.

A recent trip had me centred in Corner Brook.  While in close proximity I did not make time to visit Gros Morne National Park; this was a mistake and one I will not make again next time there.  I have also placed Twillingate (Iceberg alley) and Fogo Island on my must visit list when I can make the time.  And with no experiences yet on Labrador, I hope to have the opportunity to visit there.  Perhaps I can even get a round in at Tamarack Golf Club.  Golf Newfoundland has excellent information on the courses available in the province.