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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Angus Glen South – Pan Am Renovations Completed are Golden

http://www.angusglen.com/

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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.

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Riled Up Over Golf Course Rankings?

There is nothing like a golf course ranking list to get golf people all worked up. OK, maybe slow play and the state of the game of golf are topics to engage and enrage but I digress. On January 6, Golf Digest came up with a top 100 list of golf courses in the United States and a Top 30 list in Canada. Based on twitter traffic which ensued from people in the industry such as Gary Williams, Matt Ginella and Ashley Mayo, there was some ‘spirited’ responses. I have already written about my feelings on golf lists; I love them. But perhaps Robert Thompson is correct in that we’ve reached a saturation point around course ranking lists.

This list, in comparison to a list I regularly watch for, the Canadian SCORE Golf list, sees notable differences emerge from spots 5-10. One variable I want to emphasize is these lists focus on courses which are publicly accessible. Golf Digest’s list identified 12 public courses in Canada. I took their top 10 and contrast that to the 2014 SCORE Golf top public courses. Lastly I share my own list – a top 10 list. It’s limited and based on courses I’ve played. In making my choices I focused on which course would l like to play if it was the only one I could ever play.

2015 Golf Digest                          2014 SCORE Golf                                36aday’s List
Cabot Links                                    Cabot Links                                            Highlands Links
Banff Springs                                 Jasper Park                                            Cabot Links
Jasper Park                                    Banff Springs                                         Humber Valley
Highlands Links                            Highlands Links                                   Dakota Dunes
Muskoka Bay                                 Sagebrush                                               Black Bear Ridge
Bigwin Island                                 Tobiano                                                   The Lakes
Sagebrush                                       Links at Crowbush Cove                      Grand Niagara
Links at Crowbush Cove              Humber Valley                                       Tarandowah
Tobiano                                           Muskoka Bay                                          Bear Mountain – Mtn
Big Sky                                            Greywolf                                                   Batteaux Creek

The obvious distinction is I cannot make a determination around courses I have not played (yet); there are several on the Golf Digest and SCORE Golf list I have yet to play. But it does demonstrate to me that opulence does not always correlate to playability for me. I have omitted courses like Glen Abbey, Eagles Nest and Copper Creek, all of which are on SCORE Golf’s Top 100. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. But I don’t love them and they’re not on a top 10 list for me…and I suspect once I’ve played my bucket list they may not make the top 20 or 25.
What are your favourite public courses in Canada? Are there any I need to add to my bucket list? Are there some on my top 10 list which have you scratching your head? Are you tired of these lists? Are they way off base? I love debating golf but like Ashley Mayo mentioned to me:

Ashley Mayo ‏@AshleyKMayo
@36aday I, too, LOVE the debate. I don’t love it when people trash each other simply because they don’t share the same opinion.

The Passionate Imperfection of a National Top 100 Courses List

I’m a lists guy. I have them everywhere. There’s my bucket list (which now requires a serious update). And there are the mundane day to day lists but talking great golf courses of Canada is anything but mundane. Sports lend themselves well to arguing greatness. I have friends that will argue every chance we get who are the best baseball and hockey players of all time. Comparing stats across generations creates apples to oranges arguments for some. Do we have the same issue when discussing great golf courses in Canada? There are modern designs versus historic or classic tracks. And unless you’re Robert Thompson it’s likely you have not played a significantly large number of courses on the list. I’ve played 11 of the SCOREGolf Top 100 and really need to step up my game here.

I love the fact that Grand Niagara made the list. My review of that course from earlier this year is woefully inadequate having played there two times since. The more I play it the more I love it; there are subtleties to the course which make it a tough test. And while it lacks the jaw dropping beauty of ocean or mountain courses, the conditioning is flawless. Then there’s the immaculate and value-winner Black Bear Ridge in Belleville. It’s a great course, but to see it at 100 only whets the appetite for me to get out and play others on the list. Humber Valley in Newfoundland was a pleasant surprise to be ranked so high. But it is breathtaking and backed up with one of the best layouts I’ve experienced. I didn’t love Bear Mountain’s Mountain course but feel it deserves top 100 rankings. Dakota Dunes deserves its spot on the list, maybe a higher ranking too.

Some courses will be disappointed to miss out. The marketing opportunity of being on the list is not insignificant. Stunning courses like The Lakes in Ben Eoin, Nova Scotia complement the stout top 10 courses also on Cape Breton Island, Cabot Links and Highlands Links. And while I could kick up a fuss and argue that The Lakes was robbed of a rightful place on this list, I see the imperfection of a national list of the top 100 courses. My advice, market yourself as #101 and play up the convenience of being so close to such great courses like Cabot Links and Highlands Links.

As for us players, let’s respectfully engage in the dialogue. Let’s share the omissions, question the courses which made it which are not as great as your favorite and then let’s do ourselves a favour and get out and play some of these gems…let’s make informed decisions.
I will pour myself a Triple Bogey, review the list again and later this week chime in on twitter using #SGTop100. As for the baseball and hockey players…that’s easy, it’s Ruth and Orr. Now the bigger question, will Cabot Cliffs break Cabot Links record for a debut high when the 2016 list comes out?