Links meet Luxury on Prince Edward Island

It’s not very often you find a links style course in Canada. So when I had the opportunity to play The Links at Crowbush in PEI, a sister course to Rodd Mill River, home of Big Break PEI, I jumped at the chance.

Crowbush is on the north shore of PEI and is a perfect combination of links and luxury.

I can see why this 5 star resort was chosen to host the Export Skins Game with Mike Weir, Mark O’Meara, Fred Couples and John Daly in 1998, and Making the Connection Legends of Golf with Mike Weir and Vijay Singh in 2007.

We arrived at the resort for an early morning tee time, not quite sure who our playing partners would be, and not quite sure what to expect from the Thomas McBroom course that was awarded 4.5 starts from Golf Digest Places to Play and ranked as the #2 public course in Canada by Score Golf Magazine.

We arrived at the resort for an early morning tee time, not quite sure who our playing partners would be, and not quite sure what to expect from the Thomas McBroom course that was awarded 4.5 starts from Golf Digest Places to Play and ranked as the #2 public course in Canada by Score Golf Magazine.

I was very excited and a tad intimidated by its reputation, but ready for the challenge. Golf is all about attitude, and although the sky was overcast (as it was long the entire eastern seaboard that week), we weren’t discouraged. This was going to be a great day, no matter how many bunkers I found or balls lost in the 11 holes where water comes into play.

We started the day with a tasty breakfast in The Links restaurant on the top floor of the club house. It was a great way to relax and enjoy the surroundings and views.

I also learned that it was not the ocean we were looking at from the 2nd floor of the clubhouse, but the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Sure look liked ocean to me!

After breakfast, and a warm-up at the practice facility we were ready to face the day, the course and our playing partners.

Now I’m used to playing golf with lots of different people and 99% of the time, they are nice, friendly and polite golfers. On very rare occasions, however, we’ve been paired with absolute jerks and so I’m a bit “Once bitten, twice shy” when I’m about to meet the twosome I’ll spend the next 4.5 hours with.

Well, I couldn’t have been more pleased to walk up to the first tee to find Tim Arnold (General Manager of the resort) and his lovely wife, Laurie, ready to show us how to golf The Links at Crowbush. I was thrilled that we were playing with a married couple. There is nothing I enjoy more than playing golf with a couple who loves to play together. And when I shared my apprehension about playing such a challenging course, my butterflies flew the coup when Tim grinned and said, “It’s not about the quality of the game – it’s the quality of the companionship.” I knew then that this was going to be a great day.

The Links at Crowbush is a very walkable course, but be careful to keep pace of play. More than once I wanted to stop just to take in the vistas and tranquility around me as we played. But with the GM playing with me, I wanted to be on my best behaviour, so I snapped a bunch of pictures and video and kept moving.

Every one of the 18 holes had something memorable to share, but I’ll just highlight a few that I hope will entice you to check out the rest…

The first four holes seem to be set up to create confidence in ones game with handicaps running 15, 17, 7 and 11. After these few holes, one might even start to think that they’ve got the course licked. Haha…NOT!

Welcome to #5 – a daunting and demanding 567 yard par 5 (from the tournament tees) and the #1 handicapped hole on the course.

Off the tee you must keep it left of centre – the last thing you want is to end up in one of the deep bunkers on the right.

Walking up the fairway you start to wonder if there is a flat lie anywhere on this course – the undulations are not saved for the greens – this course is hilly!

Once you get to your 2nd shot, you face the risk/reward lay up or go for it shot to the green. Now this is where the fun really begins. There is a large pond right in front of the green that you have to carry and then quickly stop your ball from running into the strategically placed bunkers in the back.

You know that a bunker is deep when there are ladders in the bunker. And you know this hole has taken its toll on you when you’re tempted before noon to sneak into the clubhouse for a pint before heading to the 6th tee.

The 7th hole is where you start your trek along the north shore of PEI, with its beautiful views of the beaches and shoreline. It looks a bit scary off the tee, but the carry is really only about 150 yards or so. But, as you can imagine, wind is a big factor on this hole and you’ll need to be careful to keep your tee shot left to avoid the rough and marshland on the right.

And don’t go long on your approach shot – there’s a “no access” area behind the green which is actually a beach. That’s out of bounds for you, unless you strip down like Henrik Stenson and pretend to blend in with the beach bums 😉

Speaking of water, check out the 8th hole – a fair par 3 from the tournament tees (161 yards), but very challenging for the big hitters from the tips at 219 yards. All carrythis hole is made even more daunting by the very strong winds, which were right in our faces. Definitely need to take an extra club or two.

The forward tees at 88 yards are a chip and a putt away from the green, so I’d be tempted to play from the whites on this hole. Hey, I like to “go for it” too! Hand me my water ball.

The 10th hole is the #4 handicap hole, probably because of all the pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway.

Very tricky off the tee – you need to hit a strong drive to avoid them. Did I? Well, as my mother always told me, “If you haven’t got anything good to say, say nothing.” Mums the word!

On to a hole I can’t say enough about – the 11th. Even if you aren’t PGA calibre, you must climb up the steps to the PGA tee box with camera in hand. We were told that this is the highest point on PEI and you can see the whole Island from up here. The views are breathtaking!

The 11th hole, itself is also quite beautiful with water coming into play on your approach shot. It’s a wise golfgal/guy who lays up on this par 5.
There are two very strategically placed pot bunkers between the water and the narrow elevated green which are sure to cause you some grief if target golf isn’t your forte.

The 15th hole is another camera opp, with the gulf straight ahead of you. You need to keep left to avoid the large waste bunker on right and going long on your approach means going going gone! Lots to get you into trouble behind the green.
Oh, and did I mention wind?

The 18th is a great closing hole. The number 2 handicapped hole on the course, it actually doesn’t look all that difficult. But don’t get to cocky. It is chocked full of bunkers on both sides and when you get to the narrow green protected on both sides by very deep bunkers, you’ll be facing a swale that will make you eat the “Hmm…doesn’t look too bad” words you voiced on the tee.

The Links at Crowbush is not for the faint of heart; it is for the golfer who doesn’t want to commune with Mother Nature, he/she wants to beat Her at Her own game. With the ever-changing elements She throws at you, I bet this course never plays the same way twice. And as we traversed the fairways, we felt like it we had been transported to Ireland. If there had been a rainbow out that day, I might have started looking for leprechauns and pots of gold.

After our round, we headed over to the resort where we were very pleasantly surprised to walk into our large king suite, complete with cosy bathrobes, a Jacuzzi, Mike Weir wine, a cheese plate and beautiful views of the course and north shore. I thought I had died on gone to golfgal heaven.

I could also see the 1 and 2 bedroom cottages from our room. My mind started working, thinking how great these would be for golfing getaways with our friends who recently returned from a golfing holiday in PEI and were anxious to return.

Venturing through the resort, we discovered the Spa, with an indoor pool, hot tub and work out facilities close by. It didn’t take me long to book a massage and wallow in self indulgence for an hour. Now, how can I describe that experience? Ooo…aaah…hmmm…sigh… (That’s all I remember, until I fell asleep. 🙂 )

That evening, we joined Tim and Laurie in Crowbush’s lovely restaurant where we were once again spoiled rotten by great food, wine and company. To top it all off were some homemade truffles that melted in your mouth. I snatched a few on my way out and savoured them on our flight home.

A special thanks to Tim and Laurie for a fabulous stay – it was sweet, but oh so too short. In my golf diary, I keep a list of places I want to re-stay and replay and Crowbush is definitely on it.

This year we’re taking the kids to the Okanagan for their summer vacation, but next year, I’m going to do my darndest to book our family vacation in Maritimes, just so I can play this course again and maybe (just maybe) walk away with more pars than scars on my score card. And when I’m done, I’m heading to Brudenell Dundarave – now that course owes me big time!


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One comment

  1. I love playing golf. I’m playing this week.

    This is a great site you have here. I have a sports blog myself and I would like to exchange links with you. When you get a chance, let me know if this is possible, either by email or a comment on my site. Jason

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