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The Links at Crowbush Cove on Prince Edward Island in Canada: A tale of beauty and the breeze

Wes GilbertsonBy Wes Gilbertson,
The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 5
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No. 5 at The Links at Crowbush Cove on PEI delivers a postcard-worthy peek at the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Wes Gilbertson/TravelGolf)

MORELL, Prince Edward Island, Canada -- The regulars, usually with a crooked grin, refer to it as being "Bush-wacked."

After four ho-hum holes through a parkland setting, the test on the fifth hole at The Links at Crowbush Cove on Prince Edward Island's northern shores finally delivers what most vacationing golfers have been waiting for -- a postcard-worthy peek at the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Awesome, right?

Well ... it's certainly great to look at, but the snapshots might not reflect how hard the wind is howling. Your scorecard will likely tell the entire story.

"I would just tell people that they will be struck by the beauty of it and always to expect a gentle island breeze," said Terry Hamilton, general manager at The Links at Crowbush Cove. "There's always a breeze, let's put it that way. There are very few days that you play in benign conditions, which can make it tough.

"You're coming up to the fifth green and you hit what you think is a pretty good shot and it falls short in the water and, all of a sudden, you realize you're playing into the wind."

PEI's provincial government enlisted Ontario-based architect Thomas McBroom in the early 1990s to tackle a tough assignment -- building a course that would put a place previously known for its small-town feel and farm-fresh potatoes on the world golf map.

Although some locals are still debating the merits of government involvement in the links game, the "Field of Dreams" approach seems to be a success story.

McBroom built it. And golfers continue to come in droves to Canada's most petite and least-populated province, usually making the 6,903-yard seaside setup near Morell the can't-miss item on their itinerary.

If there's a downside to all the hype, it's that pin-seekers see photos of Crowbush Cove and then show up at Charlottetown's sleepy airport figuring they'll find ocean views at every course in the province. No such luck, but you'll get your fill at this place.

Golfers can catch a glimpse of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from half the holes at Crowbush Cove. On three of them, the salty water hazard threatens to swallow your golf ball.

That includes the eighth hole, a 219-yard par-3 that is set among the sand dunes and requires a delicate shot over a tidal pond.

From the tee at No. 11, you can see miles of shoreline and choppy water, making it a shame that you are hitting your first shot inland. Then again, with an elevated launch pad and the ocean gusts at your back, it could be the longest drive of your life.

Enjoy it while it lasts because more often than not, it feels like the strong breeze is cleaning the plaque off your teeth.

You'll even get an eyeful of ocean from the driving range and practice facility at Crowbush Cove, a welcome sight that is accompanied by an early indication of how quickly the prevailing winds can gobble up a good shot. If you need some advice on keeping your ball out of the breeze, instruction is available.

"Just standing at our counter in the golf shop, you look out the windows over the 15th fairway and you can see sand dunes and ocean and fescue blowing in the breeze," Hamilton said. "People are in awe just standing and paying to go out. They get the wow factor before they even step out on the course.

"One of the major things that we hear is that it's such a peaceful place. There are no airplanes flying over. You're not hearing highway traffic or anything like that. You can just hear the ocean. You can see the ocean. You can smell the ocean. It's pretty neat for a lot of people."

The Links at Crowbush Cove: The verdict

Although several championship-length golf courses have opened since they cut the first pins in 1994, Crowbush Cove remains the crown jewel of PEI's golf scene and a worthy centerpiece to any golf vacation.

Some will argue it's not a true links experience, but with knee-deep fescue grass, authentic pot bunkers and those 'gentle' breezes, it's as close as you'll get in this area.

"It now has a reputation of if you're going to be on Prince Edward Island, you'd better play Crowbush," Hamilton said. "It's like if you're going to Scotland, you should play the Old Course. That's maybe an over-simplification, but it has that cache about it. It's so widely known and people look forward to it. It's become a destination."

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The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 8The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 9The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 16The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 7The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 6The Links at Crowbush Cove - hole 11

Wes Gilbertson covers the NHL’s Calgary Flames and writes golf features for Postmedia in Calgary, Alta. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @WesGilbertson.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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