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I defer to PEI’s Finest Golf in their description of this championship course because it is true, “the most stunning beauty that PEI has to offer”. This expansive and stunning course is located adjacent to Brudenell River golf course but location and quality may be all they share, as this course is considerably more challenging than its sister course. Designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, this course opened in 1999, almost 30 years after Brudenell River. The iconic, unique red sand bunkers and its bunkering pattern gets proper due but this course is an intelligent and challenging design, creating both beauty and brawn.
Considerably more expansive than Brudenell River, Dundarave reminded me of courses in Muskoka, in Ontario, with many fairways carved out of the tall pines. However, this course brings diversity of design which makes any identification of course type difficult. Perhaps this is why – as its website indicates – Dundarave is an appealing blend of traditional and contemporary design. I enjoyed the opening holes which stretch over a considerable swath of property, making walking challenging but certainly visually stunning. Hurdzan and Fry, who demonstrated their bunkering genius at Devil’s Paintbrush in Ontario, created a signature hole which showcased one of their strengths on the par 4 8th hole, with an elevated tee to a true risk-reward hole which is dotted with bunkers (of course). While the 8th gets considerable attention, justifiably, each hole brings intelligent design elements to it. Elevated tees, fairway bunkers, collection areas around the greens and tree-lined fairways all create unique elements of beauty and challenge to each hole. The river, which is so prominent to its sister course, is only a subtle feature on this course and is featured on the 8th and 9th holes.
While most courses have a memorable stretch of holes, I cannot say I had a favourite stretch. Fact is, I truly enjoyed all 18 holes and wish I had the time to play another 18 upon completion of my round. I appreciated the opening holes, which introduce the challenges of design and conditioning. The middle holes bring in the river, along with an increase prominence of water hazards, and the closing holes bring scoring opportunity with clear risk-reward options and more dramatic elevation changes. There is nothing mundane about Dundarave. You will need to have all facets of your game working to score well. If pressed on the issue, I would state the opening four holes – par 4-5-4-5 – are a great opening which will test players. As a resort course, the landing areas are relatively generous but the approach shots require more precision.
One aspect I want to emphasize, and that contributes to the golf experience, is the outstanding condition of this course. Playing on a sunny, cool fall morning and the day after a soaking rain I was impressed with how well this course played. The greens were sensational; the tee boxes tightly mown and framed each hole so well. The bunkers were firm but consistent and the fairways were immaculate. Bunkering is respectful of the fact this is a resort course; they are not too penal but are certainly prominent. Unlike Brudenell, the greens at Dundarave were larger and had some undulation in spots but more slope and pace overall. They were fair, firm and fast and a real treat to play.
This course has been rated 61 on the Canadian Golf Magazine 2015 Top 100 Golf Courses of Canada, 27th best public course in the country. Along with Crowbush Cove which is a perennial top 10 public course in Canada, Dundarave anchors the quality of golf on the gentle island. The Island may be gentle, but golf at Dundarave is stout…and fun.
Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – It’s a top 100 course and was high on my bucket list. Certainly on the Island’s best courses and part of the Rodd resort holdings. The aura is high, but in a uniquely discreet PEI kind of way.
Value (cost / experience) – 9.5 out of 10 – Sit down for this one. You can become a member of Brudenell River AND Dundarave for $1275. Just looking to play one round? Your peak fee is $80. For the quality of golf and the overall experience that is sensational.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – It is hard to critique the condition of this course for early October; it was outstanding and really added to the overall enjoyment of the golf experience. Press me on the issue and I’d say the bunkers were too firm for my liking but it had rained hard the day before so the conditions were understood. But it is clear that the players and staff take pride in this course.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 9 out of 10 – I’d love to come back, and plan to at some point. I left wishing I could leave the bag on the cart and just go around for another 18. Challenging? Sure. But it is fair and fun and great test of golf.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – I really appreciated the diversity of golf holes. The expansiveness of Dundarave created a feeling of tranquility for me. Add to it that we were first off in the morning and it felt like we played early at a private club – pristine and alone.
My Best Shot – I didn’t play my best at Dundarave and seem to be able to recall some poor decision making on the closing holes where I was either too aggressive in spots, or the opposite, where I was too conservative and was left with much more challenge than I should have. I was pleased with a number of great tee shots I had early in the round. My consistency off the tee kept the round from getting ugly. I’ll be back, Dundarave, seeking that elusive memorable shot!