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Watch out for the many bunkers at Glen Arbour.
Watch out for the many bunkers at Glen Arbour. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)

Urban tranquility: Golf at Glen Arbour Golf Course in Halifax

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,

Glen Arbour Golf Course in Halifax is serene and picturesque, with natural hazards and elevation, as well as excellent facilities geared for corporate outings.

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - When you're playing a Halifax golf course for the first time, you expect a certain amount of urban intrusion, especially after you've arrived fresh from the countryside.

Halifax is, after all, the capital of Nova Scotia, and the greater Halifax area has a population of around 300,000.

That's why it's such a surprise to find yourself cavorting like a young deer around a golf course in near-rural isolation at Glen Arbour Golf Course.

Most of the land on which the course now sits was held by the Jodfrey family of Hantsport, Nova Scotia until well-known Canadian golf architect Graham Cooke got a look at it.

Cook believed the site would be the perfect place to build a "flagship course" for the Annapolis Group, a Canadian development company. So the course and surrounding development was started in 1997, and lo and behold, you have a golf course on the outskirts of Halifax that is one of the finest in Nova Scotia.

About that development: Unlike many of the rural courses in Nova Scotia, Glen Arbour does play through a development. Still, it is much less intrusive than many Americans might expect. The homes are set back even farther than what might be considered an unobtrusive American residential course.

And it is a beautiful piece of dirt. There are natural elevation changes and a lot of water in the form of three lakes, each of which is usually in view from virtually anywhere on the course. The rather grandiose clubhouse overlooks one of them, Sandy Lake.

Glen Arbour, as you Scottish speakers know, means "a valley of trees," and that is an apt moniker; Glen Arbour has tree-lined perimeters and a valley through which the golf course is routed.

The course has lush bentgrass tees, fairways and greens, making those of us in the southern climes, where the luxurious bentgrass suffers in the heat, envious. The rough at Glen Arbour is bluegrass.

The natural lakes and streams that cut through the layout are usually in play, if not always in view. Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 wrap around Bottle Lake, for example. The 14th in particular is a very scenic hole, following the contours of the lake. No. 15 is a sharp dogleg right into a small green and the 17th is a picturesque, 207-yard par-3 over marsh with the lake to your left.

Glen Arbour Golf Course: The verdict

Glen Arbour is a scenic, playable course that's convenient to city dwellers or tourists visiting Halifax. It won't overwhelm you with its length, being 6,800 yards from the back tees.

The fairways are slightly mounded, but it is the greens that will be your biggest foe here, with some fairly severe slope, usually back to front.

"This is one of those courses where you want to be below the hole," said Head Professional Cory Zinck.

The bunkers will also come into play frequently; there are nearly 100. The course was cleared out not long ago, courtesy of Hurricane Juan, which took down a number of trees. The front nine is decidedly more difficult.

"The back nine, to me, is better," said Al Dube, who lives down the road from the course. "Less stressful."

Glen Arbour is a well-conditioned, public course with five sets of tees that subsists mainly on corporate outings. One of the few complaints you will hear about the course is its relatively high green fees, which range from $105-$130.

The facilities are excellent, particularly the clubhouse, putting green and chipping area.

There is also a par-3 course.

Halifax hotels

The Lord Nelson Hotel is one of the oldest of Halifax's historic hotels, with an idyll location if you're looking to spend time in the city.

It's right across the street from the Public Gardens, in the heart of downtown, and has a variety of guest rooms and suites, a fitness center, wireless Internet access and the usual amenities of a fine, downtown hotel. The Lord Nelson has an excellent concierge service that can take care of theater tickets or take-home lobster.

It's also close to the cemeteries where victims of the Titanic are buried, the Spring Garden Road shopping district, Point Pleasant Park, St. Paul's Church and the old burying ground.

You can take city tours on double-decker buses or harbor tours on all kinds of boats, like tugboats, sternwheelers or sea kayaks.

Getting to Nova Scotia

"The Cat" is a sleek, high-speed catamaran ferry that's more like a cruise ship. If you want to get to the picturesque Nova Scotia golf courses from the U.S. mainland, it's a great alternative to the long drive.

The seats are wide and plush, with plenty of legroom, and quite a few of the seating arrangements have tables, perfect for meals or playing cards.

The Discovery Channel called it one of the world's top-10 super ships. The Cat has movie screens, restaurants and even a casino - slot machines only. It holds cars, motorcycles, bicycles, RVs, or you can just walk aboard.

The huge windows make sightseeing easy on the six-hour crossing between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The ferry is used by many American tourists on the way to the Celtic and Acadian cultures of the Canadian Maritime provinces.

The ship travels up to 40 knots, and rates range from $64 to $99 for passengers, with the shorter Bar Harbor to Yarmouth route being cheaper. Vehicle rates are $115 to $164 for cars, with varying rates for trucks and smaller vehicles. There is a port and security fee of $10 each way.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • not worth the price tag

    dave wrote on: Oct 1, 2010

    nice btu not worth the price tag, lots of just as nice or better in halifax, for half the price.