Course Reviews – Green Gables – An Iconic Thompson Design
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.
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.
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.
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.