The Island Brae Golf Club is located on Morrison Island in the middle of the Ottawa River on the Province of Quebec side just off of Highway 148 two miles from Pembroke, Ontario.
Since 1999, Dan Shields who also owns the Pembroke Golf Club has leased the Island Brae Golf Club from the Rogers Family who owns the property. Dan can be found most mornings opening Island Brae until he is relieved by his sister Trish or his fellow PGA of Canada Golf Professional Drew Calvert. Once relieved, Dan heads over to the Pembroke Golf Club for the rest of his working day.
Truly a family affair, Dan’s mom Gisele looks after the food and beverage operation while Dan’s sister Cindy tends to the flower beds on the course and another sister Trish relieves Dan on a regular basis in the pro shop. Dan’s father Ron, who passed away in 2007, was also active at the course and according to the family “ruled with an iron fist”.
The Island Brae golf course was designed by Pembroke Golf Professional Al Hancock in the 1950’s on land owned by Dean Rogers and his family. Until the early 1960’s when the nine-hole course was completed three holes were in operation. Mr. Hancock ran the golf course for approximately ten years and it was then run by Doug and Regine Oakley (and later Regine on her own) for another 25 years.
Tim Cosgrove, Ray St. Louis and Marty Marcus are the recognized dew-sweepers as the first group out each morning and they have played together for ten years. Flagstick caught up with them to hear their recollections of early times at Island Brae. These gentlemen also store their own golf carts at the club and pay a trail fee for the privilege.
“In the 1950’s three holes were in play and you could still see the furrows where the farmer had ploughed the land. You could play these three holes all day for $3. Al Hancock expanded the course to nine holes towards the Ottawa River and the layout hasn’t changed. The greens were cut with a wooden-handle hand mower and they were also rolled by hand. The greens used to be very small and sloped. The greens were enlarged and improved after Dan (Shields) came here. Island Brae has always had a good reputation with their greens and it is known as the friendliest golf course in the Ottawa Valley. Beside the 6th tee is an old milk house, now used as a rain shelter that was part of the old farm. There are also remnants of the old bar run by Mr. Laroche during golf tournaments in the early days. There also used to be the remains of the old log barn in the middle of the seventh fairway and it came into play often until it was removed. Everybody knows everybody up here and it’s a very friendly place.”
A look at the Island Brae scorecard shows a short course of nine holes featuring four par 3’s, four par 4’s and a par 5 that when played twice measures between 4619-5332 yards. The course record for the par 66 course is 62 set by Charlie Foster and Dan Shields.
“But don’t let the length of the course fool you,” were the words of Dan Shields. “It doesn’t play that easy.”
The first test for golfers is off the first tee with a par three measuring between 184-228 yards. The hope here is that golfers have made good use of the full-length driving range and practice area to warm up. It’s not the length of the par 3, 2nd hole that makes it interesting, but the traffic adjacent to the tee heading across the bridge into Ontario as well as vehicles entering the course. The hole itself is defined by fairway and greenside bunkers. The third hole comes back to the area of the clubhouse and measures between 326 and 391 yards. After playing the third hole, players have the opportunity of availing themselves of refreshment and being in Quebec, the bar is generally open during playing hours. The 4th hole is an interesting par 3 measuring between 155 and 196 yards. Players hit from an elevated tee to a generous green back-dropped by the bridge over the Ottawa River. The only par 5 on the course is next with the final shot being hit to a partially hidden green in a hollow framed once again by the Ottawa River. The sixth hole is a demanding par three not for its length of 132-145 yards but the accuracy required by the tee shot. Launch you ball left and you’re in trouble along the river and anything long or right of the green could find trouble. Holes 7 through 9 run parallel to the river but further up the sloped grounds. These holes are wide open off the tee but require accurate shots into their greens.
Island Brae is an interesting course to play and players must give some thought about their shots to the greens. It’s an easy walk on well conditioned fairways with plenty of views of the Ottawa River and the City of Pembroke in the distance.
In 2013, the Champlain Trail Museum and Pioneer Village supporters celebrated the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain reaching the shores of Morrison Island and meeting Chief Tessouat. The explorer founded Port Royal in Nova Scotia, founded Quebec, helped found the fur trade, and was one of the first cartographers of Canada, and one of the first to chronicle lasting contact with the native peoples. Tessouat was an Algonquin Chief from the Kitchesipirini Nation that extended from Lac des Deux-Montagnes to Pembroke, Ontario.
Dan Shields, PGA of Canada
PGA of Canada Professionals
Dan Shields and Drew Calver
White/Blue – 5332/63/102
Yellow/Red – 4619/63/102
Average Hole Lengths
Par 3’s – 174 yards
Par 4’s – 382 yards
Par 5’s – 442 yards
Island Brae Golf Club
Highway 148 East
Morrison’s Island, Quebec, J0X 1M0