Bucket List Review – Part 3 – New Brunswick

Bucket List Review – Part 3 – New Brunswick

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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

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Opening hole at Algonquin

 

Overview

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

Course Reviews – Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

http://algonquinresort.com/golf/

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Arriving at sunrise and anticipating a great golfing experience

The drive in from Fredericton was scenic and easy; very consistent with my experiences in maritime Canada.  Traveling a little over 90 minutes to the resort town of St. Andrews By-the-Sea I was fortunate to have time to enjoy this town before and after my round at Algonquin.  The drive along the Bay of Fundy shore was quicker than I anticipated but I was excited to arrive so I welcomed the efficiency.  A quiet seafood dinner at a local pub set along the water stirred my excitement for the early morning round.

 

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The seaside views in town can complement your golfing experience.

 

I had the pleasure of teeing it up with Assistant Professional, Ryan O’Connell.  Being first group off on a cool and sunny day, my expectations were high.  After all, the drive into the course and the views from the clubhouse set the tone – the views were spectacular.  The course offers five tee decks, and as a resort course this helps to accommodate players of all skill levels.  Ryan and I chose a relaxed round off tees just under 6100 yards (Silver).  Ryan was a great host, sharing great insights on the course and layout, its history and details on current renovations which are focused on the back nine.  We walked the course in just under 4 hours, playing at a leisurely pace and allowing me time for questions and pictures.  Being mid-September it was no longer peak travel season and after my round I took time for lunch at the clubhouse.  They offered a limited menu given the time of year but their soup and sandwich were outstanding.  Add to it the views over Passamaquoddy Bay and it was a great way to celebrate a great round of golf.

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The beauty of the first hole set the tone for a relaxed round at Algonquin.

The back nine gets considerable accolades, and rightfully so, as all holes after the 10th offer a water view.  The renovation efforts led by Rod Whitman (of Cabot and Sagebrush fame) were well underway and Head Professional Jason Porter shared that they expect a launch of the renovated course for July 2017.  That said, despite the full renovation efforts, the impact on play was minimal.  The 11th is where the most significant change will take place and based on the construction and green placement, the signature hole on 12 will have a stout competitor.  I predict 11 will become many peoples favourite.  Also, work is planned on 13, a par 5, which will see work move the tee box alongside the water.  Ryan said it well; that Rod is seeking to create an Amen Corner feel.  Using the assets of the Bay and its stunning views, this will be one of the strongest three hole stretches in Atlantic Canada.  The par 3 12th is a downhill par 3 and wind is a great protector for this hole.  But I really like the intelligent design of the par 4 15th, which doglegs left and demands two great shots to reach in regulation.  Beyond the 15th is a unique landmark and reflects the rich and long history of Algonquin; Canada’s oldest Clubhouse.

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Conditions were ideal, as evident from this view from behind the 5th.

Those who appreciate golf history will love Algonquin.  The course was first built in the 1890’s and in the 1920’s Donald Ross designed an expanded course layout.  Canadian, Tom McBroom was brought in during the 1990’s to renovate the course.  Evidence of the history of Algonquin is present throughout the course, including evidence of an early tee box complete with an old stone retaining wall.  The course provides historical information on their site but like other courses in Canada, I feel they could bolster this greatly with more images, stories and detail of the changes over the years.

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Evidence of the rich history at Algonquin Golf Club with this old stone retaining wall to support an original tee deck. no longer in play but still prominent.

The front nine routes inland and is, in my opinion, a very strong nine.  I felt holes 5, 6 and 7 all provided great scoring opportunity and intelligent design features with the tee shot on 5, a risk-reward par 4 6th and a beautiful and challenging approach on 7.  Ryan shared that the course has been hard at work over several years to remove trees to open up the holes off the tee and provide a more generous landing area for players.  On 5, a par 5, he shared evidence of an expanded fairway and new rough on the right side off the tee.  The par 3 8th is an underrated golf hole, while lacking the water view of 12, brings the natural beauty of the area prominently into play.  The course played firm and fast and reflects an emerging commitment of some courses to not commit to over watering and allow for a more natural playing experience.  But make no mistake; conditions for late season were consistently great.

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Renovations led by Rod Whitman make the 11th look like it may rival the signature 12th

The course is walkable and allows players time to fully appreciate the beauty of the course and area.  The tee boxes were well kept and course conditions, as stated, were consistent and very good.  The greens were consistent and the effect of the Bay on balls was noticeable (balls on the green break toward the water).  The bunkers were in great condition, allowing for consistent shot making.  The course prides itself on excellent service and ensuring the playing experience is enjoyable.  With five tee decks it is course which you could play over and over again and not get bored with.

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Ryan O’Connell on the 12th tee.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – The 12th hole is an iconic par 3 with views of Maine off to your right and the water all around.  It reflects well the enjoyment which players will have at Algonquin.  The strength of design in the front allows for a transition to wind swept sea views throughout the back nine.  The course markets itself well and does not oversell itself.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10.  With a peak season fee over $90 this is a bucket list experience but value enhances in the fall where fees range from $45-65.  Add to this the fall colours and fewer tourists, and the value in the fall is sensational.  For me, to have what amounted to a guided tour of the course including an update on the renovations and a history lesson on Algonquin and I can’t believe my good fortune.

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More evidence of the historical assets at Algonquin Golf Club

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10.  – The layout of the course is a true strength.  I appreciated the intelligent design of the front nine and it complemented the jaw-dropping beauty of the back nine.  The course transitioned on the back to more expansive feel but not once did I feel that holes were on top of one another.  The greens were in very good condition, bunkers were flawless and the tee boxes and fairways consistent and strong.  Again, I applaud Algonquin for a firm and fast approach to the course.

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The par 3 8th hole.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – If it is possible for a top 100 course in Canada to be underrated, this may be it.  The course leverages its assets exceptionally well – both people and property.  I felt a genuine welcome and experienced a course which brought a pleasant and relaxed layout with intelligent design.  I’d be proud to be a member here.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Just stand on the tee of 12 and you’ll understand what is great about this course.  But then, talk to any member or staff person and you will know another thing that is great about Algonquin.  The people are amazing; very friendly and passionate about their course.

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Two eagle chances on 13!

 

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – this is emerging as a theme for me in my experiences playing golf across the country but many courses do not leverage the history and the stories of their course and community as well as they could.  I would love to see Algonquin build a more robust section on their website about the history of this course complete with pictures and stories.

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Made time to visit the resort, only minutes away, after my round.

My Best Shot – My approach on the par 5 13th was only from 165 yards.  But with a slight breeze in my face and the ball below my feet I put a smooth swing with a 6 hybrid and the ball looked like it may hit the pin.  It ended up about 4 feet from the pin.  And sadly no, I missed the eagle putt.  But I will never apologize for tap in birdies.  This helped me to an even par 36 on the back and a sub 80 round.  A great score on a great course!041

Business Travel and Golf

 

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It’s under two hours to get from Fredericton, NB to the beautiful shores on the Bay of Fundy in St. Andrews By the Sea, NB.

Business Travel and Golf

It is now customary for me to tag along a day or two when traveling for business to get in some golf and tick another great course off my Canadian golf bucket list.  My approach is consistent.  I’ve done this already this year in British Columbia and Alberta.  Here is my itinerary from a recent trip to New Brunswick to share my planning process:

Finishing work at 4:00 pm gave me 28 hours before flying home.  This window of time allowed me to get to the airport, rent my car, drive to my destination, check into my hotel, eat dinner, sleep, wake up, grab breakfast and get to the course.  After the round, I would grab lunch, quickly tour town and drive 90 minutes back to the airport.  28 hours created some purposefulness but the trip never felt rushed.  Besides, it’s hard not to relax when you’re in maritime Canada.

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The famous 12th hole (as seen up from the left of the green) at the Algonquin Resort Golf Club.  If this won’t help you relax after two days of business then nothing will.

Here are my tips and golf travel essentials to help you make the most of your next trip.

  1. Golf course access – the focus of your pre/post trip is golf so make sure you can access the course(s) you’d like to play before committing further. Easiest thing to do is to contact the course and ask if there is tee time availability on the date/window of time you’re planning to play.  Stating you’re from away and coming in as a single helps them understand your situation and can avoid surprises for you (perhaps the day you plan to arrive is the day after aeration of the greens, or worse, they are hosting some charity event and while there are tee times the first one is too late for you).  In some cases it may open up access you may not otherwise get access to.  Calling Algonquin resort in advance allowed me to access the earliest tee time available on my day of play which helped considerably.

 

  1. Know the fixed variables – Being clear on when work ends and when the flight home are the two most critical factors. I seek to ensure I have a window of time that is realistic.  Car rental agencies are generally much more flexible than airlines (Unless you’re willing to pay) but any significant changes to the itinerary could help you by calling them in advance.  As for variables beyond your control, do give consideration to the weather forecast on the day you want to play and pack accordingly.  And always have a toque in the golf bag.

 

  1. Accommodation – My philosophy on accommodation revolves around convenience and price, (with a caveat of some standard of cleanliness and user satisfaction). I like researching prices on an aggregator site and tend to use the same one to accumulate frequent user rewards (after using the site 10 times I get a free stay).  I like reputable chains but am willing to try a quaint place that receives great reviews.

 

  1. Golf Clubs – There are two camps here – to rent or to travel with your clubs. I personally prefer to travel with my clubs and as a result there are three golden rules: lock your golf travel bag; use a Club Glove stiff arm (or reasonable facsimile) and don’t skimp on your golf travel bag.  If you’re comfortable renting then consider these three rules: bring your own golf shoes, glove and a small bag of balls, tees, etc.; research in advance about the rental club options as some courses have two levels of rentals; and lastly, be accepting.  You chose not to bring your new driver so don’t get frustrated when you get a model of club you don’t prefer.

 

  1. Transportation – for me, it’s usually a vehicle rental. I love driving and find it relaxing.  Here, again, loyalty can pay off with rewards offered at most outlets.  Airport rentals are generally processed faster and their vehicles are newer.  One important item is to map your route and budget for some extra time in the event of unexpected traffic issues.  My buddies swear by an app called Waze to get you somewhere as quick as possible.  Last, sure you’re in a rush to leave and get to the course but take the time to get the seat and mirrors properly adjusted…and if possible to sync up your smartphone so you can enjoy some travel tunes.
  2. Keepsakes – I’ve practically walked from the rental car to the first tee (with a quick check in) but I always try to make some time afterward to check the pro shop. I love pin flags and also collect golf balls and markers with the course emblem on them.  Of course, the sale rack can unlock some great value too.   Here is a good alternative to airport shopping for those at home (especially if they like golf)

 

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Took a break from my pint of Picaroons and my Lobster Roll to capture this fiery sky.

 

  1. Food – this is one area I stretch the budget. My affinity for seafood and a          willingness to ask and try local favourites means I avoid fast food and seek out local flavours.  Trip Advisor and Yelp allows me to filter user satisfaction with food types.  Sometimes it’s a pub, other times finer dining.  Food is often part of the experience for me.  I’ve traveled with people who would eat on the cheap and spend more for accommodation (meaning they’re comfortable eating McDonalds but want the assurance of a high end place to stay).  Make your own determination and know what’s important.  It is always ideal when you can get both.  When I have time, I actually like to eat at the course before or after a round.  Many courses create a dining experience that rivals their golf experience.

 

  1. Pictures – As a rule I get to a course with close to 100% battery power on my phone to allow me to take pictures. I advise playing partners I’ll be taking some pictures for my blog so as to manage their expectation.  I keep the phone in my left pocket for easy access as I seek to minimize the impact on pace of play.

 

  1. Manage expectation – The number one goal of golf while traveling on business should be fun; you’re playing a course you may not otherwise access to. Shooting a high score, especially if you’re using rental clubs, should be irrelevant and not keep you from having fun.  Besides, maybe the rental putter is the magic club you’ve been seeking for years (take a picture and note the make and model…that’s why e-Bay was created!).  Smile and enjoy the fact you’re on the course.

 

  1. Be a good visitor – I always seek business cards from the courses I play. In many cases, upon learning I am a blogger with journalist accreditation they welcome the chance to host a guest reviewer.  I like to extend thanks to courses for allowing me access to their course.  My philosophy is simple: the currency of my blog is the relationships I am able to cultivate.  I sincerely appreciate the chance to experience their home course and want to let them know that.

 

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A most appropriate place to eat in St. Andrews.  The Lobster Roll did not disappoint.

Lastly, and perhaps most important, is to budget for the side trip.  I set funds aside throughout the year to allow me to tack on the day or two and enjoy a guilt-free and pleasurable experience without impacting the bottom line.  With a flight covered from work, the additional expenses create value, help me experience great golf across Canada and help make a significant dent in my bucket list.

 

The chance to have played golf in 8 provinces now has taught me a few things about business travel and golf.  I know I am not alone.  I’d welcome hearing your tips for maximizing golf experiences on business.