Canada’s closely linked Atlantic provinces are the perfect destination for travellers determined to pack as much memorable golf as they can into even a short vacation.
For golfers, one of the top attractions of Canada’s conveniently compact Atlantic region is how much ground—and how many outstanding courses—they can cover during even a short trip.
First stop was St. John’s, a vibrant and famously friendly city of 211,000 that still displays outward signs of prosperity despite the untimely bust of Newfoundland’s offshore oil boom. Raymonds on Water Street was named Canada’s best new restaurant of 2011, and slickly modern 84-room JAG Hotel on George Street West opened to rave reviews in 2014.
A must-play for golfers is the Osprey course at Clovelly. Architect Graham Cooke carved this beauty through a typical Avalon Peninsula landscape of wetlands and a forest of Black Spruce and Balsam Fir.
Another essential stop is lushly treed and challenging Glendenning Golf, named the province’s course of the year in 2011 and 2014. And my final tee off before catching a quick flight to Halifax was at the popular Admiral’s Green course at Pippy Park, a fun and rolling design that offered stunning farewell views of downtown St. John’s.
The hot new golf draw in Halifax is the Links at Brunello, a Tom McBroom design unveiled last year about a 15-minute drive west of The Citadel, Pier 21 and the other downtown attractions. McBroom’s layout led me on a thrill ride through granite outcroppings, wetlands and thick stands of pine trees.
Nova Scotia is also home to Digby Pines, one of my favourite resort courses. Designed in the 1930s by legendary Canadian golf architect Stanley Thompson, the course is the showpiece of Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, a Norman chateau-style grand hotel 230 kilometres west of Halifax on the Bay of Fundy.
Thompson’s classically designed layout includes several of his most unforgettable holes. The whimsical charm of the short par-four 11th, featuring a bunker shaped like a question mark, is impossible to resist. Clearly, Thompson was asking, “Can you drive the green?”
A car ferry from Digby to St. John, New Brunswick, followed by a 102-kilometre drive west, brought me to St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, my final stop before a return to Halifax for my flight home.
Renowned as one of Canada’s prettiest and most sophisticated resort towns, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea boasts hundreds of lovingly preserved historic buildings dating from as far back as the 1770s, several noteworthy restaurants, and an eclectic collection of craft shops.
But the town’s defining landmark is the Algonquin Resort. Built in the Tudor Revival-style in 1914 and re-launched in 2014 following a lavish makeover, the red-roofed grand hotel has hosted luminaries from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Diana, Princess of Wales.
The resort’s already strong Algonquin Golf Course will receive a redesign by top architect Rod Whitman at the end of this season. Almost certain to remain untouched is the signature downhill par-three 12th hole, with its breathtaking views across Passamaquoddy Bay to the state of Maine.
It’s a postcard setting perhaps unsurpassed on Canada’s Atlantic coast.