Since the turn of the century, Prince Edward Island has become
By Rob Duca
Canada’s most popular golf destination.
If you had ventured to Prince Edward Island just 20-odd years ago you would never have made the journey with a golf vacation in mind. There were only a handful of courses on the island as recently as the early 1990s, and getting there wasn’t exactly easy, either.
But that was then and this is now, and PEI is no longer a sleepy outpost lacking in golf choices and challenges. Today, the island boasts more than 30 championship courses, ranging from magnificent coastal landscapes to compelling parkland designs, with breathtaking elevation changes, Scottish-style bunkers and tree-lined fairways that will satisfy golfers of every skill level.
The construction of the eight-mile Confederation Bridge in 1997 made traveling to PEI from New England much more convenient, and that led to an explosive growth of golf courses that began with the opening of The Links at Crowbush Cove in 1994. You could now spend a month playing golf on the island and never have to visit the same course twice. As the locals like to say, “Why play one course when you can play an island?”
Today, Prince Edward Island is considered Canada’s hottest golf destination. PEI is not much bigger in size than Delaware, but don’t let that fool you. The island’s natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere draw vacationers from around the globe for its fresh seafood, scenic coastline, beautiful beaches and wide variety of demanding golf courses.
On a trip there last September, we were treated to all that PEI has to offer. We drove on long and winding roads, past rolling hills, red-sandstone cliffs with endless ocean views and miles and miles of farmland. During the course of one week jam-packed with activities, we toured or played two golf courses each day, went to the race track, dined on lobster, lobster and more lobster and feasted on mussels at seemingly every waking moment.
As you might expect, there are plenty of restaurant options. We dined in elegance one night at Dalvay By The Sea, a century-old oceanfront venue where Prince William and Kate Middleton spent a night of their honeymoon. The next night we feasted on two-pound lobsters and clam chowder at picnic tables.
Although the golf boom is fairly recent, the island remains a rural landscape ruled by Mother Nature. But golf has become a thriving industry that has drawn some of the game’s greatest players, including Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
From the oceanside Links at Crowbush Cove and the lush pines and red-sandstone bunkers of Dundarave Golf Course to the dramatic ski-slope fairways of Eagles Glenn and Anderson Creek, Prince Edward Island offers golfers an endless array of diverse challenges. One moment you’ll face white-knuckle carries over steep ravines and in the next you will be asked to escape pot bunkers set alongside undulating greens that are framed by steep mounds.
With Charlottetown as a base, you can play dozens of courses that are all within a one-hour drive, and you’ll still have time to explore the island’s museums, culture, national park, culinary delights and the more than 30 working lighthouses that come in all shapes and sizes.
The Links at Crowbush Cove is mainly responsible for PEI’s golf explosion. This striking layout overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence and features nine holes with eye-popping water views. Consistently ranked by national magazines in the Top 10 of Canada’s finest courses, it includes the unforgettable 11th tee box, called “Stairway to Heaven.” Climb the 51-step staircase to the championship tees and you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the course, the coast and Savage Harbor. Locals call it a “Crowbush moment.”
Crowbush’s success lit the fire that led to the development of Dundarave on the eastern side of the island; Eagles Glenn, Glasgow Hills and Anderson’s Creek in the Cavendish region on the north shore; and Fox Meadow on the outskirts of Charlottetown. These new courses, paired with such classic venues as Green Gables (opened in 1939), Brudenell (1969) and Mill River (1971), have firmly entrenched PEI as a global golf destination.
While Crowbush and Mill River are considered PEI’s signature courses, Dundarave is an equally superb layout. Opened in 1999, it features red-sandstone bunkers that are colorful and slightly intimidating. Lush pines frame the fairways, turning each hole into a private paradise. The Brudenell River meanders through the course, and while the fairways are expansive, they are dotted by a series of bunkers that will challenge you off every tee and on every approach.
The neighboring Brudenell River Golf Course offers a more traditional, user-friendly design. With six par 3s, 4s and 5s, Brudenell is certainly unique. The course runs along the river, past gardens, lakes and ponds, providing a relaxing and walkable routing.
Green Gables is truly steeped in history. This old-school Stanley Thompson layout includes views of Cavendish’s iconic sand dunes and the Green Gables House made famous in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, written by local author Lucy Maud Montgomery. With tree-lined holes, you’ll feel as though you’re the only golfer on the course.
Eagles Glenn and Glasgow Hills are also approximately a 30-minute drive from Charlottetown. Eagles Glenn is located in the heart of Cavendish Beach and provides a countryside setting with picturesque views from atop rolling fairways bordered by deep green Kentucky blue grass, fescue and distinct mounding that captures the site’s natural topography. Glasgow Hills is set alongside the River Clyde and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and features significant undulations from each tee box.
Anderson’s Creek, opened in 2003, is also notable for its dramatic elevation changes. The par-5 15th hole has seven tee boxes, and it’s essential you play the one that best suits your game. From the tips, it’s a 280-yard downhill carry over a creek. The course is part of The Gables of PEI Resort that includes 40 on-site two-bedroom cottages and four custom-built homes that accommodate buddy or family golf trips.
During a time of recession in the golf industry when courses across the United States experienced difficult times, Prince Edward Island’s emergence as a golf destination is remarkable. Today, the game is as much a part of the island’s identity as the red-sandstone cliffs, the pristine beaches, the mussels and the steamed lobsters.