Worldgolf Travel

Golf Gets Big in Canada's Smallest Province
by Bob Weeks, Score Magazine.

Green Gables Golf Course

FROM AWAY. It's a quaint term used by the residents of Prince Edward Island to describe anyone who doesn't happen to come from Canada's smallest province. But lately, the phrase has been amended slightly - From Away With Golf Clubs.

Islanders have needed to differentiate between vacationers and golfing vacationers who come to the land of potatoes and red soil due to the burgeoning numbers in the latter group. In the last two years, there has been a 10-per-cent increase in people coming to Prince Edward Island to play golf.

In a province which can live and die with the whims and pocket books of tourists, that expansion represents a vitally important inoculation against an increasingly competitive travel industry.

The increase of golfers flocking to Prince Edward Island did not happen by chance. New courses and improvements to existing facilities, increased marketing and a better overall awareness have put the Island at the forefront of Canadian destination golf.

So why is everyone heading to Prince Edward Island?

How about uncrowded courses offering low fees (in Canadian dollars!). And close proximity of the golf facilities enabling players to play two different places on the same day. Or maybe it's the fact that accommodation is plentiful and reasonably priced. Throw in world-class beaches, a myriad of attractions, live theatre and fine dining, and it's easy to understand the allure.

Sitting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Prince Edward Island is 139 miles long, just right to be used in comparisons for everything from forest fires to floods (as in, "a forest fire the size of PEI").

It's location gives it a balmy climate from May to the end of September and many bonus days on the cusps at both ends. Near the shore, gentle ocean breezes provide relief from the sun while helping to add to the centuries-old sand dunes.

Those same dunes help to frame the province's newest golf addition, the Links at Crowbush Cove. Designed by Thomas McBroom, Crowbush opened for play in 1993 and has received plenty of plaudits. SCORE Magazine ranked it as one of the country's best new layouts in its 1994 survey as did a major U.S. publication.

Crowbush opens with five rather unspectacular holes that can dull the senses somewhat. But when the routing reaches the six hole, the course begins in earnest. A par-three of medium length, the hole plays over a boggy marsh that provides no sympathy for anyone who is short of the green.

From there, Crowbush moves out towards the ocean and stays there for the majority of the round that remains. Players can be distracted from their putting by the noise of crashing waves, and the views - such as the one from the top of the 11th tee - are nothing short of spectacular.

The Links at Crowbush Cove

Even without the surrounding beauty, Crowbush is a great course. Every hole is fair and the flow is as smooth as syrup. No wonder the Royal Canadian Golf Association has awarded the course the 1996 Canadian Amateur Championship.

Mill River Golf Course
The provincial government owns The Links at Crowbush Cove as well as two other Island facilities, Brudenell River and Mill River. The latter, the province's westernmost course, has also been the site of national amateur competitions, and was the recipient of a new irrigation system a year ago. Not only has that allowed for lush fairways but also long, matted rough thick and deep enough to hide an elephant (most of the year it is cut back to more friendly, baby elephant length).

Tall, spindly pines and hardwood trees line most of the fairways at Mill River and elevation changes often resemble the line graph of the Vancouver Stock Exchange.

Brudenell River held the title of Gem of the Island in the B.C. era (Before Crowbush). It is still an exceptional golfing experience that will rival most courses anywhere in Canada. More of a parkland design, Brudenell has many wide-open holes as well as others that are tighter, bordered by trees located just a few yards off of the rough. Accuracy, then, is vital.

Both Mill River and Brudenell are accompanied by Rodd Resorts and have lots of other amenities to offer its guests in comfortable surroundings.

Another troika of courses - these ones privately owned - offer challenge at reasonable prices. Summerside is a consistent course on which players will find few weak holes. The strongest is probably the 18th, a classic medium-length par-four which has a pond guarding the green. Many dreams have been realized or broken by this hole.

Stanhope may be the most underrated course on Prince Edward Island. Located near Covehead Bay on the North Shore, wind plays a factor in any round here.

Belvedere Golf and Winter Club is the oldest on the Island, tracing its roots back to the days shortly after Confederation. Probably the most private club on the Island, it is still very accommodating to visitors and tee times are plentiful.

With its age, the course is obviously a classic style with tradition oozing from every blade of grass. There is no gimmickry to Belvedere - it's a straight forward test of golf.

One of the better-known golf courses in Prince Edward Island is Green Gables. Located in a national park of the same name, Green Gables was originally designed by Stanley Thompson Jasper, Banff, St. George's), arguably Canada's greatest architect. Over the years, alterations have been made that have lessened the overall impact of the course, Some holes were moved from their proximity to the sand dunes while another green was shifted away from Green Gables House, a popular tourist attraction which resembles the house in which the fictitious Anne lived. It seemed too many inquiring tourists were wandering into the line of play and receiving dimpled projectiles in the noggin.

The remaining courses are not quite of championship calibre, but still offer a fine day's golf. Rustico Resort has made annual improvements to its layout and for 1995, has added a teaching area and several new tees. The resort is also full of charm and a warm feeling that makes guests think of the Newhart television show.

Glen Afton, Forest Hills and Clyde River are courses where the low handicappers can enjoy themselves and those without a single digit number will not feel intimidated. Views of rolling countryside, water and farmland blend together to build to a crescendo of scenic pleasure so even if there is no happiness with the score, the round is still a day well spent.

On Prince Edward Island, man and woman cannot live by golf alone. Thankfuly, there are plenty of other options for those who don't golf or who want a break from the links.

The Island is world-renowned for its beaches. Pristine, uncrowded and miles in length, they are the perfect tonic for a stressful world. A long walk next to the surf can ease the tensions no matter how they are caused.

Another globally recognized Island attraction is a fictional redhead who goes by the name of Anne. A virtual Green Gables industry is in place in Prince Edward Island, from the stage show at the Confederation Centre, to the author Lucy Maud Montgomery's house to the many souvenirs for sale.

Lobster is also prevalent, and a lobster supper held as fundraisers in many church basements across the Island is a tradition that no one should miss. There are also many other fine dining opportunities, especially in Charlottetown or Summerside. Locals will steer you in the right direction depending on your tastes and budgets. Amusements and other kiddie attractions, horse racing, deep sea fishing and more will add to the appeal of a Prince Edward Island vacation.

So whether you're From Away, From Away with Golf Clubs or an Islander born and bred, you'll find Canada's smallest province to be a big hit, especially if you're a golf lover.