As the sun set and he looked to the wind-swept beach that bordered the golf holes beneath us, Ryan Garrett remarked, “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
From my perspective on the upper deck of the clubhouse at the Links of Crowbush Cove I had no words of resistance for the man who manages it and three other golf properties owned by the Province of Prince Edward Island.
Hours earlier were traipsing the fairways of the Tom McBroom crafted layout that propelled the island to much renown within the golf industry.
This early July day was a special one, guests were invited to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the course and they came from far and wide to join the party.
My own group that day was fairly exceptional – I was paired up with the regional representative for Nike Golf, Mike O’Pray, and we enjoyed a friendly match with Head Professional Terry Hamilton and none other than the Premier himself, Robert Ghiz.
Ghiz, a talented athlete proved he was no slouch with the golf club and each time we broached the subject of golf in his home province he seemed to beam with pride.
With a long-time family connection to the island myself I could relate, the development of Crowbush, as it is known by most, was a huge point of satisfaction when it came to being. It ushered in a new era of golf course built with tourism specifically in mind.
Constructed along the northern shore of the island just 25 minutes from the capital of Charlottetown and tucked behind massive sand dunes, the course quickly drew praise for its spectacular location. It would go on to host some of the best in the game during the 1998 TELUS World Skins Game and a televised match between Mike Weir and Vijay Singh in 2007.
It continues to be admired and sought out as the key golf course for visitors with an affection for the game. Just days prior to my visit the drummer from Canadian band Our Lady Peace, Jeremy Taggart, enjoyed a round. It that wasn’t enough, following us on the course on the anniversary day was none other than Toronto Maple Leafs Captain Dion Phanuef and a gang of friends all on island to celebrate his wedding just days later.
That’s not to say things have been rosy for the course and it’s brethren, the grouping known as PEI’s Finest Golf that also includes the Dundarave and Brudenell Golf Courses and the Mill River Resort course. Earlier this year the government was seeking a company to purchase, manage, or lease their golf properties. They backed off that plan shortly after with Tourism Minister Rob Henderson saying the offers that had come in were just not adequate. News of late is that a deal is closer to happening but as of the end of the 2013 season, it had not found it’s way into private hands.
Henderson, who joined us for dinner during the anniversary, is a golfer himself. It was obvious from our conversations that he understands the value of the courses for driving revenues beyond their gates, padding local hotel traffic and related expenditures by visiting golfers.
Even as they work through the issues of provincial ownership, golfers continue to flock to the properties, which are the cornerstones of an Island golf industry that counts more than 26 courses in its inventory.
The blustery fairways at Crowbush will challenge any golfer and the setting is certainly a special one, something you are reminded of with every glance to the ocean.
Of course the secret to Crowbush is more than the course itself, it is paired exquisitely with the Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort. It’s a similar situation at Mill River and Brudenell which also feature Rodd Resorts. Rodd Hotels and Resorts President and CEO Mark Rodd continues to drive his golf properties to be better each and every day and the effort is apparent for those who enjoy a stay at Crowbush. I could hardly imagine the Crowbush experience being complete now without the partnership. While great on their own, the sum of the two parts makes them even better.
Just months after it opened in 1994 I played The Links of Crowbush Cove for the first time. On a Fall day tempered by heavy north winds and cool temperatures I struggled to score well but it didn’t seem to matter. I left with a smile on my face knowing I’d played golf in one of the most stunning settings in Canada.
Two decades later, as I departed from Crowbush, once again I could feel my cheeks rise in joy.
That’s what The Links of Crowbush Cove has been doing for visitors for twenty-years.
I don’t expect the trend to end anytime soon.