CAVENDISH, Prince Edward Island -- Canada is a nation that adores its golf, coast to coast.
But no destination does the game quite like Prince Edward Island. Canada's smallest province, not only is it stocked with seafood, lighthouses and beaches, there is a golf course around every corner.
Here is a front nine of reasons that separates the "Gentle Island" on the east coast from Canada's many summer golf hotspots.
While the Links at Crowbush Cove is rated by many panelists to be PEI's best play, it's no runaway.
Dundarave Golf Course challenges Crowbush as the island's finest all-around experience. Or the Stanley Thompson-designed Green Gables -- the national park setting and classic course design is sure to win over many hearts.
Depending on what you favor from a golf course, there are a solid dozen courses or more that could very well be your group's favorite.
Like a lot of destinations, the island's golf boom came in the 1990s. But with deep roots back to Scotland, it's no surprise the game has been played here dating back to the 19th century. Belvedere Golf Club (originally Charlottetown Golf Club) dates back to the late 1800s.
But visitors thirsting for the golden era of golf should head to Green Gables Golf Club. Set in the island's national park, the course is a classic Stanley Thompson design from the 1930s that was restored in 2008 by Thomas McBroom.
Most parts of the island are sparsely developed, making for pleasant views of ocean and rolling, green hillsides on most courses. It's virtually impossible to hit a ball onto anyone's backyard patio.
While there are no deer on the island, be sure to protect your belongings from giant crows who could sweep in. Also, wild fox are plentiful, whether it's at Green Gables -- or it's at Fox meadows in Charlottetown, where the local, bushy-tailed menaces have a penchant for stealing golf balls from the fairway.
A big reason why PEI is such a family-friendly destination is how close-knit the island's residents can be with one another and guests who are passing through. Those born here never seem to leave, which makes for familiar faces and knowledgeable locals.
So don't be shy when asking for directions, dinner recommendations or even which pony to bet on when you're at the Red Shores harness racing track. Chances are, they know a horse or two in the race.
With nearly 30 courses, golf on Prince Edward Island is abundant -- but also affordable.
The most expensive courses are Links at Crowbush Cove and Dundarave, both of which can be played for less than $100. Package deals, especially all-inclusive deals that include airfare and some meals, help add to the bang-for-buck nature of PEI.
And a handful of golf courses, such as Anderson's Creek Golf Club and Glasgow Hills Resort & Golf Club, serve up complimentary mussels after your round to ensure every group gets its money's worth from the first tee to the 19th hole.
Modern golf design's a-list (such as Dye, Nicklaus, Fazio, Palmer) are absent on PEI. Instead, the courses were built efficiently, usually by a Canadian designer -- Les Furber, Robbie Robinson, Graham Cooke and Thomas McBroom -- and shaped by local islanders.
Architecture buffs will recognize names like Golden Era-designer Stanley Thompson (Green Gables), and the team of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry (Dundarave).
Rodd Resorts is a small, eastern Canada hotel brand with a big presence on PEI and its the golf scene.
Among its handful of properties on the island is the Rodd Brudenell River Resort, the best place to stay-and-play and never leave the property. From your hotel room, you can walk to the first tee of Dundarave, Brudenell River and even the nine-hole Divine 9 and driving range.
Rodd Mill River also offers a great stay-and-play experience, while the most luxurious of the Rodd properties on PEI is at Crowbush. This property offers fine dining and luxury accommodations overlooking the Links at Crowbush Cove and has shuttle access to one of the island's more spectacular beaches.
When the Charlottetown Conferences were held to form Canada in 1864, the saying goes that the details were hashed out by the province's leaders in the town's pubs and at parties more than at Province House itself.
Today, the province's capital remains a charming little port city with an easily walkable downtown area. Gahan Pub brews its own beers and serves up fantastic pub fare (the salty short ribs are addictive) and brews its own selection of beer on site. Or a top restaurant splurge is Sims Corner Oysters and Steakhouse, offering the best surf and turf the island can offer.
Or those staying at historic boutique hotel the Great George, just footsteps from where Canada was formed, can enjoy free daily happy hour and cookies served round the clock.
You're never more than a few minutes from the ocean on PEI, but you also don't need to spend much time in the car, either.
The capital of Charlottetown and main resort town of Cavendish are only about a 20-minute drive from one another, so you can choose whether you'd prefer to stay in the city or in more rural countryside.
And a big reason why New Yorkers and other residents from major metropolises love Prince Edward Island is the fact that almost all roads are just two-lane, rural highways lined with lush green landscape, watery inlets and beachfronts.
July 11, 2011