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Prince Edward Island: Golfing At It's Best

by Scott A. Sumner

    Prince Edward Island has 25 golf courses in a perfect setting that every golfer would enjoy.  Recently I had the opportunity to golf at six great courses in PEI and was extremely impressed with the experience. PEI is a unique part of the maritimes and the birth of Canada.  Charlottetown is the largest city with a population of about 40,000, out of a total island population of 140,000.  I couldn't help thinking that the population of Thunder Bay including rural is about the same as the entire province of PEI.
   While you may think PEI is far away, there are great connections from Northwestern Ontario with both Air Canada and JetsGo.  My trip included an early flight to Toronto and then connecting direct to Charlottetown on an Airbus 320.  Airfares are very reasonable now so getting there is both fast and inexpensive.  When you reach PEI from the air you first notice the Confederation Bridge some 10 kms long that connects the island to the rest of Canada.  The bridge has increased tourism by 60% to over 1.4 million people per year.  Also very predominant when you approach the Charlottetown airport are the vast pictouresuque farm lands of red earth with mainly large potato crops. 

Our home for the next three nights would be the luxurious Delta Prince Edward Hotel.  This 211 room hotel, including 33 suites provides a great view of the waterfront or downtown and offered fantastic food and service with a friendly staff.  The first thing you notice in PEI is the friendly nature of the people.  Warm hospitality is their trademark and quite a contrast from many larger urban centers in Canada.
   Our first course was Dundarave, part of the Rodd Brudenell River, a Rodd Signature Resort. Dundarave and sister course Brudenell form a very impressive complex complete with 32 Gold Cottages, 99 Deluxe Hotel rooms and 50 Riverside country cabins.
   Dundarave is part of Golf Links Prince Edward Island which includes Brudenell, Mill River and Crowbush Cove.  These courses are owned by the province and are all unique.  Dundarave was opened in 1999 and ranges to 7284 yards.  This course became one of my favourites in PEI.  It resembled a PGA Tour course with very fast greens, that were challenging to read and in perfect condition.  You also had to have accurate tee shots and avoid trouble.  Some holes had as many as 13 traps.  A green in regulation did not mean an automatic par given the speed and complexity of the greens.  It was a real challenge.  The sand traps had signature red earth typical of PEI.
   My cart playing partner was local PEI resident Jack Kane, whose daughter is LPGA player Lori Kane.  It was very interesting talking to Jack and learning more about PEI golf.
   After lunch we played Brudenell River, which is considered to be one of the best courses on the island.  Unique to Brudenell is the format of six par threes, six par fours and six par fives.  The greens at Brudenell were not as fast as Dundarave making it more playable for most golfers.  The condition of the course was SUPERB with fairways that would blend right into the greens.  These courses are the best conditioned I have seen this summer.  Brudenell was home to Canada's first womens skins game with Lori Kane, and numerous Canada Tour events.
   After 9 holes we had a closest to the pin challenge on the water surrounded 10th hole which I won!  Service is key to PEI golf and value is what they promote by direct mail and advertising.  They have mystery shoppers who play the courses and provide comments on their experience.
   Our next day of golf was Fox Meadows, a spectacular course privately owned by  75 year old PEI businessman Simon Compton.  Compton who made substantial returns in the cable TV industry in PEI had the dream of building a golf course on property near his ocean front home near downtown Charlottetown.  His luxuriuous clubhouse offers spectacular views of the 18 hole layout.  Fox Meadows plays up to 6570 yards from the blue tees and is designed with a book end 4-10-4 split with four par 3s, four par 5s and ten par 4s.  The beautiful rolling land offers a view of downtown Charlottetown with cruise ships visible during the year.  It is a 7 minute drive from our Delta Prince Edward hotel.  Playing partners that day included Michael Bird, General Manager of the Delta Prince Edward, who incidently hails from Heron Bay, near my home town of Manitouwadge.  It really is a small world.  Also Jim Lee from Victoria manager of the Canadian Golf Marketing organization and Don (Hoss)Chandler, 5 handicap marketing person for Fox Meadows.  Hoss was a comedian and golfer and made for a very enjoyable day of golf on a superb course with the gentle island breezes in our faces.
   Our afternoon after golf includes a tour of the Confederation Bridge area and lobster fisherman just in with their catch.  The uniqueness of PEI was very evident and made you start to love this part of Canada.  Tracy Stretch of Tourism PEI was our tour guide for most of the trip.  The scenery, the relaxed feeling.  It's certainly not  a very rushed life style here on the island. When I did leave PEI and come back I did have a new appreciation for the beauty that is here on the island.  In florida there is no real distinct four seasons like the is here on the island.  There is no changing of the foliage that sort of thing.  That is what makes PEI special.  The people here are quite nice.  They are very friendly and laid back.

Wednesday was a jammed packed day of golf when we played 36 holes.  Our start was at Eagles Glen owned by Cavendish Developments Inc and designed d by well known architect Graham Cook.  My playing partner was Stephen Birt, director and part of the owner group of the $6.5 million development.
  'Started out with lots of different variations but Glen is the gaelic term for meadow and the country side is like a big meadow and there were a couple of eagles nesting here so we put the word eagle and glen and came up with eagles glens.  In the boardroom we started about four years ago with four landowners and from there we put together 7 total investors.  We have 400 acres and 18 holes as well as plans for another nine and a par 27 executive course.  We've used bent grass on thee tees fairways and greens.  The rough is a kentucky blue grass, of different varieties.   About 10 years ago when the link was first announced we thought it would be a good investment up here in the Cavendish fro a cottage subdivision so we acquired some land and the adjacent landownwres came up with the idea of a golf course so we evaluated the project and it seemed like a good project so we went forward.'  said Stephen Birt.
     In the afternoon it was off to Glasgow Hills Resort & Golf Club.  Glasgow Hills is a full service facility with all the amenities and professional staff to host a first class event of any size.  Glasgow Hills is a Par 72 'World Class Signature Golf Course' ranging in length from 5279 to 6915 yards with four sets of tees to accommodate players of all levels.  Architect Les Furber has created a spectacular golf course in a spectacular setting featuring lots of elevation changes offering tremendous views and exciting golf.  Entering only its second full year of operation, Glasgow Hills is already being touted as a 'must play' golf course on Prince Edward Island. 

   The conditioning of this course was excellent and it proved to be a challenging layout.  The setting of the course speaks of PEI with rolling farm land and water in the distance.  My game was at its best at Glasgow Hills with a score of 38 on the front and a lucky 30 yard drop in the hole on the 18 th to finish below 80 for th efirst time in PEI.  This course is truly spectacular and should not be missed on your trip to PEI.
   In view from the course was our dinner stop, the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers a traditional well known  PEI restaurant  that could seat 450.  The fresh lobster, clams, potato salad and pie with ice cream was a perfect ending to a great golfing day.
   Our final day of golf would be at the famed Links at Cowbush Cove designed by well known architect Tom McBroom.  Our stay for the next two days would be at the Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort which is Atlantics Canada only 5 star Resort.  The main hotel features 25 deluxe guestrooms and 24 king suites with beautiful views of PEIs north shore.  There are also 32 executives cottages complete with full sized jacuzzi, kitchenette, fireplace, screened porch and barbeque.  The two storey units were fabulous and offered a perfect setting.  The Links at Cowbush Cove proofed to be a spectacular course that was very challenging.  It offered some e beautiful vistas of the ocean beach from many elevations, This course is a very intricately designed layout with many traps and large undulating greens that made the golfer position the ball to achieve a good score.  It was very interesting fro me to play this course give n the McBroom design Whitewater under construction in Thunder Bay.  It defineately offered some insights into the architects design feature.  Crowhbush is certainly another must play course on PEI.  Astay at the luxurious resort is alo a treat that everyone should enjoy!

After four days of great golf on six unique well conditioned courses it was time to leave PEI.  The lasting impression I will take with me is the warm friendly people, the specatular conditioned golf courses in the area, the great value at around $60 dollars or less per round depending on your package and the unspoiled rural beauty of PEI.  It earns it's reputation as the Number 1 golf destination in Canada!

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