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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Optimize your golfing off-season

“If you’re haven’t started on 2015 than you’re already behind” – @JakeCalderGolf

I’m not the first to write about the end of the 2014 golf season. Other bloggers that I enjoy reading, like The Grateful Golfer and Golf is Mental have shared their thoughts on this. And while I’m always a little sad when it’s time to clean the clubs for the winter it does not mean I have to stop focusing on the game. Here are 10 ways to help pass the golfing off-season:

1. Pause for Reflection – Golf is a game (for most of us, anyway). What was fun about it for you? What were the challenges? Why do you play the game and were your past reasons consistent today? What do you get from the game and what do you try to give back to the game?

2. Look back at highlights – Did you play any new and exciting courses? Did you reach milestones or achieve goals you’d set at the beginning of the season? Best shot? (Worst shot?). Any career rounds? Any aces?

3. Reset goals for the upcoming season – Extending from the previous two points, it is time for new goals (either loftier or more realistic)? For me, as a single digit handicapper now (8.8) I’m going to have to spend some time on this.

4. Assess your equipment needs – How are the sticks? Any need to add to your putter collection? What about apparel, shoes or even your ball (golf ball is one area I’ve struggled to match to my game for almost 2 years now). And with Black Friday almost here the time for this is perfect.

5. Fitness – a new focus for me. I’m 47 years old and well past my immortal phase. With a horrendously short swing I’ll spend the off-season seeking to increase flexibility, strength and boost my cardio. Can you still walk 36 a day?

6. Practice – For those like me locked in the Great White North or parts of the USA and Europe where there’s an extended and forced off season at home there are options to keeping the swing loose. Indoor domes, golf simulator studios and even finished basements all mean that in the off season our clubs are not necessarily banished to the garage.

7. Write (and read) – love the game? Why not write about it. Blogs are fun, easy and can connect you with a host of others who share a passion for the game.  I plan to read this winter too.  Bob Rotella and Lorne Rubenstein are on the top of my reading list.

8. Lessons – yes, I am starting with a new instructor in 2015 (it just wasn’t the big news Tiger’s move was). Developing a plan to continue to improve and address the weaknesses in my game which are primarily inside 100 yards.

9. Golf and Travel Shows – while these tend to happen in late winter, they can certainly whet the appetite and connect you to new gear, new course and vacation options and get you excited for the imminent start of the season.

10. Travel, or, plan your next golf trip – If you don’t live in the southern states or even Canada’s own Vancouver Island where you can play 12 months a year that forgo the off season and travel there to play! I’m already doing some extensive research on a fall 2015 trip to PEI with some buddies.

The off season can be a state of mind and a time to reflect and refine goals. Sure, we can’t get out and tee it up when we’d like but it does not mean we can’t take strides to improve our performance and enjoyment of the game!