Course Reviews – Rustico Resort Golf Club – Rustic and Oh So Much Fun
I’ll admit my bias; PEI is my favourite place to play golf in Canada. There is way more diversity in the courses available on the gentle island than I could have ever imagined. A 2015 fall trip had me play 10 of the top courses in PEI. Fast forward to 2019 and a value-based guys trip had us staying at Rustico Resort. It’s a family friendly resort based on the north shore, east of Cavendish and just outside of Rustico. The facilities include cottages, a restaurant, an 18-hole golf course and (yes!) grass tennis courts. I had driven past the resort and its golf course in the past and didn’t give it much thought. I was fortunate to play three rounds this July and the par 72 course presented more challenge and much more enjoyment than I could have imagined.
If you’re a guest at Rustico your greens fees are included. You can rent a cart (driving or pull) but the course is walkable. On a couple holes the gap between holes in longer than expected but it’s relaxed. Just visiting? Peak greens fees are $40 and that’s not just for a round but for the day. Memberships? Sure, an adult membership is $725. Or a family (2 adults, 2 children under 18) can join for $1375. So now that I have piqued your attention from a value perspective, let me introduce you to the course.
The course plays off four tee boxes, from just under 5400 yards from the Red tees and just over 6500 yards from the Gold tees. This course will grab your attention right away. A straightaway par 4 measures out at 442 yards from the back tees. Looking for a break from that? The second hole is 237 yards. Wow. No slouch here, either. Most holes are framed well with trees on both sides; on some holes the trees are merely there to divide fairways though the trees are mature enough to pose challenges. The greens are larger than I expected and have some slope and in some instances significant challenge. Players get a nice break with a shorter par 3 on the fifth hole, but it’s often into the wind. This hole is followed up by the par 5 6th which is the number 1 handicap hole, a tighter hole with a narrow green demanding precision.
I found the back nine to be more dynamic and diverse in its layout. The 12th hole is a short par 4 which has a pond short and right of the green. A well-positioned tee shot opens up visual access to the green but a blind approach is possible here. A dogleg par 4 follows and then the course has back to back par 3’s. The 14th is just as demanding as the second hole. An uphill tee shot to a green with pronounced slope to a plateaued green is clever in its design. The reward for this beast is nice downhill par 3; a beautiful golf hole. Even the par 4 16th has mystique. A short par 4, drivable, forces players to make some decisions. Our group played aggressively (as one should when you’re far from home) and we faced a downhill eagle putt, which we drained. The closer, a 480 yard par 5, may have one of the widest fairways I’ve played in some time. Before you get all excited about another eagle putt, the green is smaller and almost completely surrounded by water. It’s an aggressive play to go for it in two.
You’ll walk off the course and, if you feel the way I did, feel that Rustico presented a fun and surprisingly stout test. The course conditioning was really nice; it is clear the staff and members care for the course. There are flowers planted generously throughout the course and I could hardly find any ball marks on greens.
The course is an excellent value resort course; playable off the tee, with enough length to challenge, and tends to bring more trouble in around the greens. Bunkers are firm but consistent, and that red sand will get in your groves so have a cleaning tool handy.
In my research before I went to play PEI I heard opinions on hidden gems on the Island. Eagles Glenn (definitely, yes). Belfast Highland Greens (something to experience on my next trip). And from a true value perspective I’ll add Rustico to the list. I’ll borrow a line from Lorie Kane before I go so far to say its underrated, Kane says in a Golf Digest article that instead of underrated “golf is unknown. We’re still a secret. But when people do come up here, they really enjoy it. It’s probably one of the more affordable places in the world to play”. I couldn’t say it any better (thanks Ryan Harrington for your article). And it’s true if you’re talking top courses like The Links at Crowbush Cove, or more modest courses like Rustico Resort
Aura – 6 out of 10 – Rustico is well positioned geographically on the north coast and close to the more popular vacation and visitor areas near Cavendish. The course is understated but no pushover. The tee sheet was quite busy when there in July, so it’s not exactly unknown. And while it may not be for golfers seeking a top Canadian course experience, it could serve as a nice warm up and as part of a base to visit more popular course on the Island.
Value (cost / experience) – 9.5 out of 10 – Here’s a link to course costs. Hard to argue how this could not be seen as excellent value.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 7 out of 10 – I really enjoyed this course. My expectation was fun with friends, not to experience one of Canada’s top 100 courses. The layout is straightforward but sitting on 120 acres of land, the course is not at all cramped. Greens were larger than I expected and the course, at over 6500 yards, is certainly stout in places. Greens rolled nicely and were in very good condition. The course focuses nicely on making the playing experience enjoyable for members and resort visitors. It is regularly maintained, aesthetically pleasant but lacks the rigour in design and conditioning of other more recognized courses on the island. And I don’t say that disparagingly. This course does things really well and holds an important place for people seeking a fun and challenging value golf experience.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 7 out of 10 – I really enjoyed the Rustico Golf Club. As part of the overall resort, it complements other amenities well. One of the real jewels of this club is its people. The owners and golf staff are all friendly and place an emphasis on service. Of course, that is consistent across the Island but my experience at Rustico over four days was consistently excellent. I have already told my parents – retirees who enjoy golf and would love to travel – about my experience there. I’d certainly recommend Rustico.