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The Links at Crowbush Cove plays beside the dunes of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Links at Crowbush Cove plays beside the dunes of the St. Lawrence Seaway. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)

The Links at Crowbush Cove: Paving the way for Prince Edward Island golf

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,

CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island - The Links at Crowbush Cove had a pretty heavy burden when it opened in 1994.

One of the main purposes of the golf course was to establish Prince Edward Island as a legitimate golf destination. After Crowbush arrived with a splash, a flurry of golf course construction followed, and now the lush, green island off the coast of Nova Scotia has around 30 layouts, about 10 or so of which are legitimate plays.

PEI's golf allure was given a significant boost when Crowbush was named the best new golf course in Canada.

"Crowbush kind of put us on the map," said tourism official Grant MacRae. "It was such a great golf course, it certainly helped tourism."

The origins of the golf course weren't without controversy, though. It's advertised as a links course, being hard by the St. Lawrence Seaway, and some island residents protested it would harm the dunes.

Crowbush officials say they were sensitive to the environment when the course was built, and the furor seems to have died down. Signs warning of environmentally sensitive areas are posted around the holes that skirt the seaside dunes.

It is a terrific golf course in a beautiful setting, though it isn't technically a links course, something that could be said about most golf courses that call themselves links.

Crowbush is laid out near the dunes on the north shore of the island; you reach Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort from the Nova Scotia mainland by taking the ferry over Northumberland Sound.

The first few holes are tree-lined, parkland holes before the course winds toward the sea. Crowbush is well groomed, with sharp-edged bunkers and clear distinctions between fairways and roughs, unlike the more natural, true links layouts. You can hear the roar of the ocean from over the dunes in the middle section of the course.

It's a Thomas McBroom design, as so many golf courses in Canada are. McBroom installed a lot of fairway bunkers on Crowbush, on the edges of the fairway and in the landing areas themselves, the more to confuse your eye as you stand on the tee.

It's a relatively flat layout, though the terrain picks up movement as you approach many greens in the form of mounds, elevation shifts, drop-offs and swales. Most every green has different levels, well guarded and undulating, with ridges running across several.

The Links at Crowbush Cove: The verdict

The stacked sod bunkers do give the course a links-like feel, as do the sand dunes and ocean, obviously. Just as obvious is the effect the wind can have when it blows in off the St. Lawrence Seaway, up to a three- or even four-club difference.

Crowbush Cove is playable but does have some holes that can send your scorecard north in a Nova Scotia minute.

No. 5, a 603-yard par 5, plays toward the ocean and can be a bear with an onshore breeze. It also forces a decision on your second shot: Whether to go for the green after a good drive over water to the green, or play safe to the fairway right. Even the layup is tough, with water left and bunkers set into a hill right.

The par-3 sixth plays to 191 yards over a marshy area to a two-tiered green. It's a pretty hole, framed by the seaway, past a wood bridge. There are some significant carries on the course as well.

No. 11 has the best view, a par 5 with an elevated tee box, with a marsh running across the fairway: Lay-up or carry?

Prince Edward Island hotels

The Pictou Lodge Resort is a gorgeous resort right on the sea, with views as far as you can see, and multi-colored beach chairs to sit in and listen to the waves roll on shore.

It's an open resort with log cottages and private beaches, close to the PEI ferry. Some of the rooms come with large, whirlpool tubs or stone fireplaces

Despite having a rustic appeal, it's popular for conferences and meetings, and the resort's Sunday brunch in the fireside dining room - fresh-caught local fish and lobster - and Oceanview Lounge is a treat.

Pictou has a heated outdoor pool, wooded nature trails, a large freshwater pond with canoes or pedal boats available. Or, you can try sea kayaks.

There is also a mini-golf driving range and a practice putting green.

Getting to Nova Scotia

"The Cat" (catferry.com) 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 leg room, and quite a few of the seating arrangements have tables, perfect for meals or playing cards.

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 and 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 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.

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