The Allure of Golf Travel
Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella has shared over social media a recent travel hiccup on a trip to Bandon Dunes, leaving from San Francisco, where he and 4 other accepted an offer of $5000 in airline credits and a free vehicle rental to ensure a plane which was overloaded could safely depart. The resulting road trip no doubt created lasting memories and gave me pause for reflection around some of my own travel experiences in my pursuit to golf public courses across Canada. While I don’t have a massive airline credit to show for my experiences, I do have some memories which I won’t soon forget. Here are two of my favourites, along with a couple notable honorable mentions:
Guysborough, Nova Scotia – 72 holes of tranquility
Guysborough is a small community located on the northeast mainland of Nova Scotia and is a popular destination for summer travel. The Authentic Seacoast brand is based in Guysborough and its burgeoning product line contains alcohol, coffee, shopping and accommodation options all in the quaint town situated along Chedabucto Bay. What drew me to Guysborough back in 2012 was their former 9-hole golf course set right on a peninsula on the water. As I am apt to do, I left for business a day early seeking golf and adventure. Being early in the season, the course was open but not at all busy (emphasis on not at all, literally no one). Paying for 18, the greenskeeper advised I can keep playing. Interspersed with trips into town (literally just down the road) for meals, from sunrise to sunset I walked the loop, alone, 8 times, playing 72 holes. My final 3 sets of nine had a fox following me on a few holes, clearly surprised someone could play so inconsistently, no doubt! The next morning, I took the Marine Drive which hugs the coast in a meandering and stunning drive into Halifax. Reflecting on this, it was quite simply one of the most memorable golf experiences I have ever had. This also set a template for me with business travel: get out a day (or two) early and find courses to play and a scenic drive to enjoy.
Note – sadly the course is now closed as the Atlantic Seacoast company is going to use the land to start growing grapes and support an artisan winery.
Saskatchewan – 36 A Day – Prairies Style
My first venture around an aggressive golf itinerary was in early June in 2015. Landing in Saskatoon, I planned two rounds before work commitments commenced the next evening. I am convinced I set a record for grabbing luggage, a rental car and hitting the highway as I had a long drive from Saskatoon to Prince Albert National Park where I planned on teeing it up at Waskesiu Golf Club, a Stanley Thompson design set on Waskesiu Lake. The drive up had the temperature drop from 14c in Saskatoon to a refreshing 6c at the course. The forecast called for intermittent showers so this was going to be a character builder. Seeing a black bear along the side of the highway just outside the park reminded me to be vigilant while playing the course. There is a rich history to this course, notably the Lobstick Tree on the first fairway (there are also regular Lobstick Tournaments). The course was not busy and having done my research I shared my interest around the course and its history when checking in. A course marshal chaperoned me for much of the back nine sharing stories of the course and the history of this Stanley Thompson gem. The course makes the greatest butter tarts I have ever had and in leaving they were generous to provide me with a book which shared the history of this wonderful course in detail.
My adventure was not done, the next morning had me set for an early tee time at another Saskatchewan public course with much notoriety, Dakota Dunes. This course has hosted a PGA Tour Canada stop in past years and I am always intrigued to play where the pros play. Arriving at sunrise, it was cooler than the day before, this time 4c, and getting off right away was fine. Paired up with someone, I was happy to experience this course with someone else. Not just someone, my good fortune continued as I was playing with the Course Superintendent, Tyler McComas. He was scouting course conditions about three weeks ahead of the tournament. Not only was it a guided tour of the course, but a crash course on greenskeeping and course management. Tyler was gracious in answering all my questions about maintaining a course and helping prep it for professional play. A quick drive back to the airport, and in just over 24 hours I had a whirlwind of a golfing experience. New courses, a new friend and an appreciation for always keeping a toque in my golf bag (especially since it was almost 30c when I left Ontario the day before)
Of course, I’ll never forget being paired up with a member at Talking Rock in Chase, BC, and having him share a different card trick on each tee box on the closing 5 holes…that was awesome, thanks George.
There’s the mountain pass snowstorm I white-knuckled through before valley warmth and 36 holes in Kelowna in the spring.
A day at Victoria Golf Club provided memories I will never forget. What a golf course!
I played one of the more scenic courses in Newfoundland and Labrador with members at Humber Valley Resort. A fun day, culminated with a fox which stole balls from the 18th fairway (figures, since I don’t hit the fairway too often!)
There’s the solitude of a round of golf at Banff Springs where the sky was big and blue and my putter was white hot. Having tourists stumble upon me when teeing it up at the Devil’s Cauldron was something I could never have scripted.
Then there’s my 6 day, 10 round trip to PEI. Between the weather extremes, the perpetual seafood coma, the house rental with a hot tub, a brewery tour and sharing all that will three buddies, sorry Matt, hopefully your trip to Bandon can hold a candle to that adventure! I will acknowledge it got off to a cracking start.
Create time to get out and make your own adventure. When you combine the excitement of travel with the pure joy of golf, it is a match made in heaven.