|Dundarave is one of the must-play golf courses on Prince Edward Island. (Courtesy of Golf PEI)|
CARDIGAN, Prince Edward Island, Canada -- If you've ever wondered what it would be like to have your own private golf course, you can get a taste of it at Dundarave.
Nothing feels overcrowded on Prince Edward Island. But as you traverse this tree-lined track on the eastern reaches of Canada's smallest and least-populated province, you might worry that you've missed an evacuation order.
"It's almost like you're all alone out there," said Ryan Garrett, the general manager for four government-owned courses on PEI, including Dundarave. "Even on a busy day, you might see the group in front of you and the group behind you; but other than that, you're on your own. It feels like your own course."
If not for the handiwork of design partners Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, this parcel of wilderness could have become a filming location for a backwoods installment of "Survivor."
Without any real estate in sight, it's the kind of place that might be too spooky to sneak out as a single. Even traveling in the comforts of a foursome, the course itself has some frightening features.
Measuring 7,284 yards from the tips, Dundarave is the longest layout on Prince Edward Island, which boasts more golf courses per capita than any other place on the planet.
Packed with the same red soil spotted all over Canada's so-called Garden Province, it's impossible to ignore the 120-plus bunkers that speckle the landscape and punish wayward shots.
Heck, even the course logo -- a medieval-looking knight on horseback, with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other -- could cause your knees to tremble a bit.
But while Dundarave isn't nearly as forgiving as Brudenell River -- the golf course with which it shares a clubhouse, practice facilities and on-site accommodations -- it's not overwhelming, either.
The forced carries are manageable for mid-handicappers, and unlike some courses that are carved out of the forest, they didn't cut corners with the chainsaw at Dundarave, creating wide fairways that provide plenty of turf to target from the tee. In fact, you're much more likely to be hitting your approach shot from one of the trademark red-soil traps than searching for your ball in the woods.
"There's a good chance you're always in at least one," Garrett said. "The thing about it is when you're standing on the tees, those bunkers, because they made them so big, it looks like the fairways are really narrow.
"But when you get out on the fairway, there's all kinds of room. It's just visually that it looks tight."
The highlight at Dundarave is undoubtedly the eighth, a 387-yard par 4 where you'll forget your match for a moment to wage a quick battle with your ego.
This risk-reward hole snakes to the left, making the green appear a wee bit closer than it actually is. That, in turn, will fool many golfers into choosing an over-aggressive line from the tee and watching their ball drop into a soggy marsh or one of the handful of bunkers that guards the fairway.
Perched on the banks of the barely moving Brudenell River, the eighth is also among the most scenic spots at Dundarave. And if there are boaters on the water, it could be the first time you've spotted another soul all day.
This was once home to the Canadian Golf Academy, but the teaching facility has since set up shop closer to the capital city of Charlottetown. Nonetheless, there is still on-site instruction available at Dundarave and Brudenell River. In addition to two 18-hole layouts, there's also a par-30 course known as Divine Nine, a good spot to practice your short game.
Dundarave may lack the seaside drama of the Links at Crowbush Cove, but it packs just as much punch as PEI's star golf attraction and is viewed by many as the other must-play in the province.
Located about a half-drive from Charlottetown, the Dundarave/Brudenell River pairing is popular among those trying to cram two rounds into one day. The downside is Dundarave was built around the borders of its older sibling, creating some long treks between holes and making it a difficult course to walk if you don't know the shortcuts.
April 11, 2011
Wes Gilbertson is a sports reporter and golf feature writer at the Calgary Sun. Living in Calgary, Alta., he trades his golf clubs for a hockey stick in the winter months. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. You can find Wes on Twitter at @GilbertsonGolf.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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