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The Links at Crowbush Cove is a terrific golf course in a beautiful setting.
The Links at Crowbush Cove is a terrific golf course in a beautiful setting. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)

Prince Edward Island is a storybook place that has redefined itself as a premier golf destination

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,

The smallest province in Canada, just off the tip of the Nova Scotia mainland, Prince Edward Island features such excellent golf courses as The Links at Crowbush Cove, Dundarave Golf Course and Brudenell River Golf Course.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, Canada - Prince Edward Island is a real place where real people live, work and play, but it has a sort of storybook feel to it, at least to visitors.

The maritime province is the smallest in Canada and - there's no getting around this description - it's cute as a bug.

It doesn't have the splendid ruggedness or dramatic and isolated landscape of nearby Cape Breton. PEI, as it is usually referred to, is more rolling green fields broken by occasional woods and quaint towns, all of it surrounded by ocean.

Those fields that aren't dominated by picturesque, tidy small farms are often festooned with yellow wildflowers, like paintings for the tourists who pass by.

Add to that the reddish white sand beaches, beach coves, bays and harbors and the island's famous red sand, and you have an island someone could write a book about.

They did, of course: "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery, published in 1908.

PEI has about 140,000 residents and only a few ugly developments. Most of it looks like a postcard.

The island has become increasingly known as a premier golf destination and now has around 30 golf courses. Score, a Canadian golf magazine, named it Canada's Best Golf Destination.

Prince Edward Island must-play golf courses

The Links at Crowbush Cove 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. The first few holes are tree-lined, parkland holes before the course winds toward the sea.

It's a very well-groomed course, 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, elevations shifts, drop-offs and swales. Most every green has different levels, well-guarded and undulating, with ridges running across several.

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.

• You'll see a ton of the famous red clay of PEI in the 120 bunkers at Dundarave Golf Course. The contrast is dramatic because of the velvety smooth, lush green fairway.

You won't find yourself cursing the bunkers at Dundarave - much - because they're such an integral part of the course, defining both strategy and the overall aesthetic.

The bunkering throughout the course is interesting, but there's more to the course than red sand. The fairways are wide and inviting, bordered by pines, fir and beech trees, and the architects slyly used the Brundenell River that slithers through the terrain and is frequently in view.

Dundarave doesn't have the sea views other island courses do. It's a parkland course located in a pristine area close to a provincial park.

Dundarave opened in 1999 at the Rodd Brudenell River Resort, which has 45 holes of golf overall. Dundarave is considered the more challenging of the resort's two 18-hole courses, the other being Brudenell River Golf Course.

Dundarave isn't overly long from the back tees at 6,606 yards, but neither is it a pushover with a slope rating of 135.

Every green is guarded by bunkers of some size or shape, and the greens themselves are large and undulating. The greens have large, well-kept surrounds and some false fronts.

PEI solid seconds

Brudenell River Golf Course is probably the most popular course on the island, being that it is more playable than Dundarave. The course has six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s.

It also has the river, of course, as well as ponds and picturesque gardens. The course has hosted numerous Canadian Tour events.

Fox Meadows Golf and Country Club is close to Charlottetown, PEI's largest city of about 40,000. Fox Meadows is known for its distinctive clubhouse, and the course has rolling terrain with views of the city and harbor.

Glasgow Hills Resort & Golf Club is a little less than 7,000 yards from the back tees. It has good elevation changes over its rolling hills, with views of the River Clyde and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Green Gables Country Club is a picturesque, ocean-side layout. It's one of the golf courses designed by Stanley Thompson, with undulating terrain and six large water hazards.

Mill River Country Club is set in a mature forest with lakes and streams. The course features wide fairways with good movement and well-protected greens.

Getting to Nova Scotia

"The Cat" (www.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, 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 a lot of American tourists on the way to the Celtic and Acadian cultures of the Canadian Maritime provinces, like spectacular Cape Breton.

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.

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