CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – If Maryland does crab cakes and football, then PEI does fishing, farming and tourism – most notably, golf. And the golf on Prince Edward Island is some of the best in both Canada and all of North America. It’s one of the reasons the Canadian island attracts 1.2 million visitors annually.
PEI, Canada offers a choice to visitors here on a golf vacation of more than 25 layouts, including one that Golf Digest once listed in North America’s top 10 and a couple in Canada’s top 10, one of which ScoreGolf Magazine has named it the top golf destination in Canada.
There’s a lot of quality golf concentrated on PEI, an island twice as big as Rhode Island but with fewer residents (134,000) than the city of Providence. Tee times are easy to arrange, and greens fees are a steal ($55 or less). Lodging is equally inexpensive, and dining (on great local seafood and produce) is quite reasonable.
PEI’s Historic Green Gables Golf Course
Green Gables Golf Course, a 6,459-yard, par-72 Stanley Thompson design built in 1939 and revamped in the 1980s, is a relatively open track bordered by mature hardwoods.
The golf course is touted as a long-time area favorite. Though it can’t measure up to the newer venues, Green Gables has some memorable holes are on the back nine, where the Lake of Shining Waters comes into play. The signature 16th hole is a nice 181-yard par 3that crosses a corner of the lake.
Tee Off at Eagles Glenn Golf Course on PEI
Not far from Green Gables is PEI’s stunning Eagles Glenn Golf Course, which has been creating a stir since the opening of its first 18 holes in 2002. On 300 acres of pretty countryside, architect Graham Cooke plotted a masterful 18-hole track spiced with four large irrigation ponds, artful mounding, and nearly 80 white sand bunkers. There are 10 par 4s, four par 5s and four par 3s in the layout. Cooke sweetened the pot with a nine-hole, par-27 course and state-of-the-art practice facility.
A 25-minute drive from here takes golf vacation tourists past farms with buildings painted in bold Caribbean hues, and equally colorful fishing villages mirrored in quiet harbors. All commercial signs are small, uniform and black-and-white, so the view is unsullied.
Canada’s Golf Course at Crowbush Cove a PEI Gem
On the windswept north coast is what people come to PEI for – a golf course that sticks in your memories. In 1998, when the Links at Crowbush Cove was named one of Golf Digest‘s top 10 places to play in North America, the provincial government capitalized on the attention and began upgrading government-owned courses and encouraging private development of new ones. As a result, Prince Edward Island’s standing as a golf destination soared.
Crowbush, a 1994 Thomas McBroom creation playing 6,901 yards from the back tees, has competition on the island, but it is still one of a kind. It looks as if it were scooped from the British Isles and placed down on PEI. Eight holes skirt spectacular sand dunes and eight holes also involve water, usually in the form of salty marshes. Fairways bordered in tall brown grasses pitch and roll like frozen green waves, their surfaces pocked with deep, heavy-lipped pot bunkers.
On the back tee of the par-3 sixth hole, trees protect golfers from the wind off the ocean, but you can still see the flag whipping on the narrow green 191 yards away on a breezy PEI day.
“Marshland in front of the tee drains into a lake left of the green,” said Tom Higgins, PEI golf expert. “And bunkers guard the right and rear.”
The back tee of the 11th hole is perched high on a dune, providing a great view of the 18th hole as well as the immediate danger ahead. The second shot on this par 5 calls for a water carry, followed by an approach shot over deep bunkers or through a narrow run-up.
After playing golfers love to gorge themselves with big buckets of steamed mussels, a PEI specialty, in the pretty colonial-style clubhouse.
Dundarave rivals Crowbush for Best Course on PEI
The course that rivals Crowbush for beauty and toughness is Dundarave. This Michael Hurdzan-Dana Fry track lies next to PEI’s Brudenell River Course in the Brudenell Golf Resort.
Like Crowbush, Dundarave is a wild, natural beauty, with knee-deep brown grasses and deep ravines. However, it has an unmatched feeling of isolation as it winds through deep woods along the river. Another natural touch is the reddish sand found around PEI used in the bunkers.
Despite its beauty, Dundarave is too severe for the average golfer on golf vacation the resort draws. Landing areas are usually generous, but good strokes may be punished unduly by a minefield of deep bunkers on every hole. The route stretches 7,284 yards from the back tees, with other options being 6,823, 6,252, 5,607 or 4,997 yards.
“The toughest par 3 is the 237-yard seventh hole, which has a stingy green ringed with deep bunkers in the middle of a windswept field of grass,” said Higgins. “The eighth hole is a par 4 that crosses a deep gully, and then doglegs to a tiny, fast green on the river’s edge. The finishing hole is a 542-yard par 5 with a dozen well-placed bunkers. It’s called Victory Chimes.”
More Golf Courses on Canada’s Prince Edward Island
PEI’s Brudenell River Course, a traditional layout with level fairway sand average bunkers, is a sharp contrast to Dundarave, but far from a pushover with its dense rough and susceptibility to PEI’s unpredictable wind. A longtime stop on the Canadian Tour, the 6,591-yard course hugs the river and is susceptible to wind. Swirling gusts are the norm on the 163-yard fifth hole, called “Ink Pot,” and the 10th hole, “Shimmering Waters,” a 143-yard beauty with water on the front and left.
Not far from New Glasgow is a new golf resort five minutes from Cavendish, 20 minutes from Charlottetown and 30 minutes from the Confederation Bridge. Glasgow Hills Resort and Golf Club sports a Les Furber design on a rolling piece of land that, helped by elevated tee boxes, offers long panoramic views on nearly every hole. Ranging from 6,915 to 5,279 yards, the course makes good strategic use of five ponds. The 17th hole, a 502-yard par 5ranked third hardest, begins with a very elevated tee, climbs uphill on the second shot and presents a blind approach to a very elevated and shallow green. Another nine holes are in the works for this inviting golf resort.
Most golf packages to PEI include a 30-year-old favorite of the Charlottetown crowd. The Stanhope Golf Club zigzags 6,600 yards across a hillside overlooking scenic Covehead Bay. Wind off the water constantly buffets its unassuming, open fairways. Every approach shot and most putts are memorable, because the cloverleaf greens are set in bowls created by high mounds.
The Fox Meadow Golf and Country Club near Charlottetown, PEI, is a Rob Heaslip creation stretching 6,836 yards that opened in 2000. The course was very open when it was new, but the rough of clover and crown vetch have matured into gorse-like toughness. Many of the greens are crowned and shed balls like water. Swirling winds area constant factor, and tend to kill those uphill approach shots.
Where is PEI in Relation New York City, Toronto and Other Major Cities
Prince Edward Island’s capital city, Charlottetown, is roughly 1,000miles from Toronto, 625 miles from Montréal, 650 miles from Boston and850 miles from New York City.
Where to Stay
The Fairholm National Historic Inn (888-573-5022, fairholm.pe.ca) in Charlottetown is a restored 1839 mansion within walking distance of historic sites, the harbor, and several fine seafood restaurants.
The Rodd Brudenell River Resort (800-565-7633, rodd-hotels.ca) has motel-style rooms and cottages with easy access to the Brudenell and Dundarave courses.
The Inn at Spry Point (902-583-2400, innatsprypoint.com) is a small, elegant hotel on an isolated spit of land within a half-hour’s drive of the Dundarave, Brudenell and Crowbush courses.
Food and Restaurants on PEI
Family-style “Lobster Suppers” are the ultimate dining experience in PEI. More than a dozen communities have them, and you can count on fresh lobster, mussels, breads, soups and desserts – all for one reasonable price. It’s hard to find a bad meal anywhere PEI, Canada, even at the racetrack. The harbor in Charlottetown is lined with great seafood restaurants, and every village has cafes and restaurants frequented by locals. Look for the parking lot with the most cars.
New Glasgow Lobster Supper – It’s been in operation for almost 50 years and is packed every night. We came away groaning from a meal that included a lobster fresh from the pound on premises, plus all-you-can-eat seafood chowder, cultivated mussels and desserts.
Set a Golf Vacation to PEI
The moment you book your golf vacation to PEI is the first step to a memorable golf experience in Canada. And since lobster goes great after an afternoon of golf, Prince Edward Island is a seafood lover’s paradise. Be sure to book tee times in advance – advanced booking on the golf course are smart to do, as is an advanced reservation at your favorite PEI restaurant.