[vimeo 196099160 w=640 h=360]
Video provided by Eat Sleep Golf. To see hole by hole flyovers of Crowbush, click here
My experience can attest that PEI is blessed with a rich diversity of quality golf courses. Playing what I determined to be the Island’s 10 best this fall, there were natural differences in course quality. Some were clearly of a quality to be considered for national ranking and others, while not on prominent lists, perhaps should be. However, one course on PEI stands above the others. This course is natural, rugged and blessed with a seaside location that is spectacular – both visually and its impact on play. Crowbush Cove is located on the north coast of PEI, about 45 minutes north and east of Charlottetown and was the consensus crown jewel of golf on the Island for me and my three playing partners.
Playing on a fall day where ‘blustery’ is not quite appropriate; we witnessed Crowbush in all its glory. Winds of 50 – 70 kmh greeted us and to complement the winds were intermittent showers and sleet. Looking back though, it really added to the allure of this course. Staff were welcoming, professional and helpful as it was our first time playing. As the parking area is set away from the course slightly, we were directed the clubhouse and were able to check in and get off early. The course begins to play away from the ocean and the first six holes loop inward and back toward the ocean. The par 5 fifth hole would be a brute on a calm day as the approach shot plays to an elevated green with a narrow landing area. With water short, and large, receptive bunkers long make for an intimidating shot. The slope rating, even from the white tees is over 130 and we realized the greenside protection is varied and penal. Whether it is bunkering, swails or elevated greens, the design of this course makes approach shot accuracy at a premium. This is challenging in a 3 or 4-club wind!
The beauty of the ocean holes – the majestic par 4 7th; par 3 8th; the par 4 15th and iconic 16th are a treat to play. Be sure to take a moment to look back from behind the 16th green to see the beach and ocean. Have your camera handy. And while these beautiful holes, rightfully so, get much of the attention, the opening holes on both nines which move inland provide enough variety and challenge to keep you engaged. I was very impressed with the par 5 11th. All shots pose opportunity and challenge and a uniquely guarded green will create a myriad of recovery shot options if you miss. The elevated tee allows for many of us to feel like big hitters. The design of each nine is similar in how it starts away from the ocean and returns toward there after a few holes.
It is certainly a course you would want to play more than once as local knowledge on where to miss could shave strokes. Some holes allow, almost favouring, aggressive play whereas others need patience and an understanding of where to play to. There was nothing that seemed cookie cutter about this course; its layout and conditioning were superb. Even the more benign opening holes (which do afford scoring opportunity) have design elements which are impressive and challenging. The greens were some of the faster ones we experienced on the island but there was significant difference in uphill putting (which required a little more pace) versus downhill (which seemed to run extensively). The bunkers were outstanding, fairways and rough easy to identify off the tee and played fair. The tee boxes were in very good condition for late in the season. My only critique was of our own making; scheduling. Not allowing more time to warm up and really appreciate the facilities and the location is something I would amend when I return.
Because make no mistake, it is not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’. Allow yourself the time to truly experience Crowbush. It provides a strong diversity of golf holes which will challenge you and several beautiful golf holes which will wow you. Prince Edward Island is blessed to have a course of this quality and beauty. It really is the crown jewel of golf on the island.
Aura – 9 out of 10 – National Top 10 public course. Highest ranked course on PEI. Seaside location. Hard to refute the score here. It is a course which is very special and unique and was a treat to play and experience.
Value (cost / experience) – 8.5 out of 10 – A peak green fee of $100.00 is not unacceptable for a course of this quality. However, plan ahead and get a PEI golf card and if you can get all 16 rounds in than you’re at an after tax green fee of $25. As it stands, our capacity to play 10 rounds make the value about $40 each. And that is 10 out of 10 value. You want even better value? A membership at Crowbush is less than $1500.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – Each nine follows a similar out and back in routing with a couple holes which skirt along the ocean. The layout is fantastic and each hole provides a unique challenge. Truthfully, the opening four holes and most benign but after that the course is dynamic and very challenging. The tee boxes were in very good shape given the time of year we played. Greens rolled fast and true. The greenside protection was diverse and penal at times but never unfair.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 9 out of 10 – We weren’t out of the driveway onto the highway and I was wondering when I could get back to play this course again. The weather made it a most unique experience, as it can, but this course, perhaps more than others, would present a new and unique challenge each and every round.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – The old real estate adage – location, location, location.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – critics of the course state that with investment the course holds greater potential to be viewed as truly world class. Perhaps the success of Cabot may provide cause for consideration. The strength of this course is how it marries quality with affordability and availability. There is clearly a high end golfing market with an appetite for this and as Crowbush is now 20 years old, the time may be right for some strategic investment in the course. I don’t see this as a pressing need, more articulating what could be.
Just So You Know – I don’t have much experience in 4 club winds. Playing the course shorter due to the wind and the slope rating, the 15th, a par 4, was dead into the wind. A low drive left me 150 to the hole and I felt a strong 4 hybrid should cut the wind and get me home in regulation. Wrong. The ball caught the wind and fell like a feather, about 35 yards short of the pin. Yes, a well hit 115 yard 4 hybrid.