Red Sand Diaries
A golf trip to PEI will have you literally singing the island’s praises.
The Links at Crowbush Cove
As our plane nears the capital city of Charlottetown I can make out tree-covered hillsides and a patchwork of green potato fields and red fallow sections. Not to mention several golf courses: The pop-culture image of PEI may be dominated by a pigtailed literary character, but it’s also one of North America’s top golf destinations, and I’m here on a long golfing weekend.
Impatient to tee off, I drive eastward a half hour from Charlottetown to Brudenell River Golf Course, a lovely Robbie Robinson design where the rough is manageable but the greens demand respect. The combination of six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s is daunting on paper, but I discover that it’s only on the pretty riverside holes that I struggle. Note to self: Make your shot, then enjoy the scenery. On the way back to C’town, as Islanders call it, I stop in the bustling village of Montague to admire the multicoloured boats in the river port. In PEI, the sea beckons even the monomaniacal golfer – it seems from almost every course you can get distracted watching sailboats and trawlers heading to Northumberland Strait or the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Day two finds me at Crowbush Cove, the linksy Thomas McBroom layout that put PEI on the golf-destination map in 1993. Like Anne of Green Gables, McBroom found “scope for the imagination” here – Crowbush is a rollicking North Shore ride with stunning holes skirting saltwater marshes and the gulf. Next up: Mill River, a Robinson design that recently hosted Golf Channel’s Big Break reality show. The weather, almost comically erratic throughout my stay, put on a reality show of its own, with electrical storms and heavy runoff turning the water hazards and the nearby river a rusty PEI red. But after the rain it was back to playing this intimate, woodsy track.
A bowl of chowder at Charlottetown’s Flex Mussels and a rejuvenating sleep at The Great George, my cozy Victorian home base, had me primed by the morning to tackle Glasgow Hills, an exhilarating Les Furber course full of elevation changes and views of North Rustico Harbour and the blue gulf. This is the heart of Anne’s Land, and had she been a golfer I would have pictured the fiery redhead as a short-fused club-tosser. Furber’s twisting fairways would certainly have tested her temper.
The final day brings me back to Brudenell River and a Michael Hurdzan-Dana Fry gem, Dundarave. Here, I neatly navigate the fescued forced carries and fast greens, but it’s the red-sand bunkers – “a perfect graveyard of broken dreams,” as Anne says in a darker context – that are my undoing. There’s always next time.
Even with all the sensational golf, I made a few discoveries off the links that convinced me I’ll have to come back. Among them were the mouth-watering halibut at Lot 30 and two charming musicals: Anne of Green Gables, in C’town, and Anne and Gilbert, an hour west in Summerside. In the latter, the showstopper is “You’re Island Through and Through,” which slyly celebrates the natives’ suspicion of the world “away”: If you’d say no to Montreal, but yes to Montague / You’re Island, you’re Island through and through!
It was time to say yes to Montreal, but I was already planning my return to Montague.
(Christopher Korchin is a Montreal-based writer with a good practice swing.)
TOP IMAGE: TOURISM PEI / JOHN SYLVESTER
BOATS: TOURISM PEI / JOHN SYLVESTER
MILL RIVER COURSE: TOURISM PEI / BARRETT & MACKAY