Gowan Brae – Yet Another New Brunswick Stunner

https://www.gowanbrae.ca/en

Golf in New Brunswick is starting to get a bright and positive light shone on it, and its about time.  A course which has been high in my bucket list since its inception was Gowan Brae, set in lovely Bathurst, NB, in the northeast of the province.  Gowan Brae, as their website states, opened in 1958 and expanded to 18 holes in 1962.  I, like many others, receive annual messages on Twitter from Rick Young and Scott MacLeod, leading national journalists, extolling the virtues of this beautiful golf course.  This summer, I was finally able to make a visit and play this gem.

 

Excellent facilities at Gowan Brae. Clean, bright and welcoming.

My perceptions were that this was an excellent regional course which deserves greater national recognition, the likes of which courses like Waskesiu and Talking Rock are also positioned.  My assessment, I feel, was spot on.  Simply put, this course deserves much higher national recognition and attention.  I urge anyone to come up with significant, critical feedback which would not warrant this.  This championship course invoked memories of another superb New Brunswick course, Algonquin, with a routing of an inland 9 followed by a stretch of golf holes on the back which run along the water.  The design is intelligent in its layout and use of a surprisingly undulating terrain. 

Beauty everywhere. Even at the entrance.

The first hole and the 13th utilize the elevation wonderfully to create a nice, elevated tee shot; the first being much more relaxing, and the 13th being much more demanding.  I really appreciated the variation of par 3’s with the 6th and 17th being stout in their length and demand.  The 17th is a signature hole, to which I would argue there are many.  The stretch from 13 to 17 is one of most scenic, with Bathurst Harbour within the Bay of Chaleur offering a majestic view between shots. 

The course is walkable, and an active membership meant the tee sheet on a cool, foggy morning was full.  The entire team, led by the Director of Golf, Adam Chamberlain, take tremendous pride in this course and property.  Nothing was out of place.  I stopped looking for ball marks after a few holes, as there were none beside my own and that of my playing partner which needed repairing.  Bunkers were consistent and exceptionally maintained.  The course overall, as has been the case with many courses in Canada, has flourished under a very wet and warm summer season.  I stocked up at the Pro Shop, as there’s a wide array of options for collectors.  And while we did not stay around for a post-round meal, the food we purchased at the turn was excellent, showing the care attention to service which is a hallmark for Gowan Brae. 

A fun, elevated opening tee shot.

My only regret is that I waited so long to visit here, and I will be sure to come back again.  As we left to continue with our maritime journey, my playing partner was quick to call his wife, also an avid golfer, and share with her that they need to travel to experience Gowan Brae.  His words, “this is exactly the kind of course we love to play”.  Safe to say, someone will be following up with some stay and play plans!

Time will only make this experience more special for me.  It is a course which hits a sweet spot of excellence, beauty and humble pride.  There is a quiet confidence which Gowan Brae exudes and I felt fortunate to experience it.  I can see now why Young and MacLeod rave about it.  Add me to that list now.

First peek of the beauty of the back nine.

Aura – I have a strong bias toward courses like Gowan Brae that are exceptional in quality and somewhat off the beaten path.  Geography, regrettably for some, would lower this mark but not for me.  8.5 out of 10

Value – Can we go higher than 10 out of 10 here?  An annual membership is $1150 + taxes.  The highest greens fee is $75+ tax.  That defines value in this country.

Making time for a selfie on the signature 17th. What a spectacular par 3.

Condition – Oooh, this course was sweet.  The weather has helped, but conditions are exceptional. This is a solid 9 out of 10.

Such a pleasure to meet our host Adam Chamberlain. My friend Gerry and I have

Experience – It was so nice to get back on the road and tackle the bucket list again.  I loved this course, it’s people and location.  I’d happily come back and this is a season-high experience for me.  9.5 out of 10.

Mildly addicted to the game of golf. Fiercely loyal. A planner, a dreamer, reflective and a proud and passionate Canadian. A father. A fiancé. A tree planter. A Trent graduate. A dog owner. Falling in love with my putter after many failed relationships. A scratch golfer stuck in a 10 handicap body. Love, love, love golf value. Fade on a good day. One ace (and seeking a second). A golf writer/blogger focused on public golf in Canada. Chipping away at my own Bucket List of Canadian golf courses.