Course Reviews – Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best
The drive in from Fredericton was scenic and easy; very consistent with my experiences in maritime Canada. Traveling a little over 90 minutes to the resort town of St. Andrews By-the-Sea I was fortunate to have time to enjoy this town before and after my round at Algonquin. The drive along the Bay of Fundy shore was quicker than I anticipated but I was excited to arrive so I welcomed the efficiency. A quiet seafood dinner at a local pub set along the water stirred my excitement for the early morning round.
I had the pleasure of teeing it up with Assistant Professional, Ryan O’Connell. Being first group off on a cool and sunny day, my expectations were high. After all, the drive into the course and the views from the clubhouse set the tone – the views were spectacular. The course offers five tee decks, and as a resort course this helps to accommodate players of all skill levels. Ryan and I chose a relaxed round off tees just under 6100 yards (Silver). Ryan was a great host, sharing great insights on the course and layout, its history and details on current renovations which are focused on the back nine. We walked the course in just under 4 hours, playing at a leisurely pace and allowing me time for questions and pictures. Being mid-September it was no longer peak travel season and after my round I took time for lunch at the clubhouse. They offered a limited menu given the time of year but their soup and sandwich were outstanding. Add to it the views over Passamaquoddy Bay and it was a great way to celebrate a great round of golf.
The back nine gets considerable accolades, and rightfully so, as all holes after the 10th offer a water view. The renovation efforts led by Rod Whitman (of Cabot and Sagebrush fame) were well underway and Head Professional Jason Porter shared that they expect a launch of the renovated course for July 2017. That said, despite the full renovation efforts, the impact on play was minimal. The 11th is where the most significant change will take place and based on the construction and green placement, the signature hole on 12 will have a stout competitor. I predict 11 will become many peoples favourite. Also, work is planned on 13, a par 5, which will see work move the tee box alongside the water. Ryan said it well; that Rod is seeking to create an Amen Corner feel. Using the assets of the Bay and its stunning views, this will be one of the strongest three hole stretches in Atlantic Canada. The par 3 12th is a downhill par 3 and wind is a great protector for this hole. But I really like the intelligent design of the par 4 15th, which doglegs left and demands two great shots to reach in regulation. Beyond the 15th is a unique landmark and reflects the rich and long history of Algonquin; Canada’s oldest Clubhouse.
Those who appreciate golf history will love Algonquin. The course was first built in the 1890’s and in the 1920’s Donald Ross designed an expanded course layout. Canadian, Tom McBroom was brought in during the 1990’s to renovate the course. Evidence of the history of Algonquin is present throughout the course, including evidence of an early tee box complete with an old stone retaining wall. The course provides historical information on their site but like other courses in Canada, I feel they could bolster this greatly with more images, stories and detail of the changes over the years.
The front nine routes inland and is, in my opinion, a very strong nine. I felt holes 5, 6 and 7 all provided great scoring opportunity and intelligent design features with the tee shot on 5, a risk-reward par 4 6th and a beautiful and challenging approach on 7. Ryan shared that the course has been hard at work over several years to remove trees to open up the holes off the tee and provide a more generous landing area for players. On 5, a par 5, he shared evidence of an expanded fairway and new rough on the right side off the tee. The par 3 8th is an underrated golf hole, while lacking the water view of 12, brings the natural beauty of the area prominently into play. The course played firm and fast and reflects an emerging commitment of some courses to not commit to over watering and allow for a more natural playing experience. But make no mistake; conditions for late season were consistently great.
The course is walkable and allows players time to fully appreciate the beauty of the course and area. The tee boxes were well kept and course conditions, as stated, were consistent and very good. The greens were consistent and the effect of the Bay on balls was noticeable (balls on the green break toward the water). The bunkers were in great condition, allowing for consistent shot making. The course prides itself on excellent service and ensuring the playing experience is enjoyable. With five tee decks it is course which you could play over and over again and not get bored with.
Aura – 9 out of 10 – The 12th hole is an iconic par 3 with views of Maine off to your right and the water all around. It reflects well the enjoyment which players will have at Algonquin. The strength of design in the front allows for a transition to wind swept sea views throughout the back nine. The course markets itself well and does not oversell itself.
Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10. With a peak season fee over $90 this is a bucket list experience but value enhances in the fall where fees range from $45-65. Add to this the fall colours and fewer tourists, and the value in the fall is sensational. For me, to have what amounted to a guided tour of the course including an update on the renovations and a history lesson on Algonquin and I can’t believe my good fortune.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10. – The layout of the course is a true strength. I appreciated the intelligent design of the front nine and it complemented the jaw-dropping beauty of the back nine. The course transitioned on the back to more expansive feel but not once did I feel that holes were on top of one another. The greens were in very good condition, bunkers were flawless and the tee boxes and fairways consistent and strong. Again, I applaud Algonquin for a firm and fast approach to the course.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – If it is possible for a top 100 course in Canada to be underrated, this may be it. The course leverages its assets exceptionally well – both people and property. I felt a genuine welcome and experienced a course which brought a pleasant and relaxed layout with intelligent design. I’d be proud to be a member here.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – Just stand on the tee of 12 and you’ll understand what is great about this course. But then, talk to any member or staff person and you will know another thing that is great about Algonquin. The people are amazing; very friendly and passionate about their course.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – this is emerging as a theme for me in my experiences playing golf across the country but many courses do not leverage the history and the stories of their course and community as well as they could. I would love to see Algonquin build a more robust section on their website about the history of this course complete with pictures and stories.
My Best Shot – My approach on the par 5 13th was only from 165 yards. But with a slight breeze in my face and the ball below my feet I put a smooth swing with a 6 hybrid and the ball looked like it may hit the pin. It ended up about 4 feet from the pin. And sadly no, I missed the eagle putt. But I will never apologize for tap in birdies. This helped me to an even par 36 on the back and a sub 80 round. A great score on a great course!