Underrated and underappreciated golf in Canada.
The simple fact is there is not a Cabot Cliffs or a Banff Springs in every province in Canada. With respect to the quantity and quality of golf options, provinces across Canada are simply not the same. The PGA of Canada and Golf Canada co-authored a report, Golf Facilities in Canada 2017, which provides data and information on golf facilities and development in Canada. One thing that is interesting to this report is their provincial breakdown on the quantity and type of courses available – 6, 9, 12 and 18 hole courses, including resorts, public and private clubs. http://golfcanada.ca/article/golf-canada-and-the-pga-of-canada-publish-golf-facilities-in-canada-2017-report
In late 2017 I had set up a Twitter poll asking followers to identify the province they feel is most underrated and underappreciated in terms of the quality of public golf available. Results were modest and by no means provide any scientific data, but do provide insight to the hunch I had that a valid case can be made for all four of these provinces as being underrated and underappreciated.
With about 10% of Canada’s course offerings there is considerably more to choose here than one might think. Saskatchewan is only second behind Ontario in 9-hole courses and the ratio is courses to the population base is quite high. But add a qualitative component to it and only Dakota Dunes appears as a consensus top 100 course in the country. Perhaps this just proves the point though, as courses like Waskesiu, Kenosee and Moon Lake (among others) are admired by those who play them. I have a business trip this spring in Regina and will aim to get 2-3 rounds, so look for more insight. I’ve played Waskesiu and as a Stanley Thompson design, it’s a sensational golfing experience. Dakota Dunes is rightfully situated well within the country’s top 100 courses, it is fantastic. It’s a region I would love to spend more time playing.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Not exactly top of mind when one thinks golf in Canada and that alone can sway opinion. But what they lack in terms of quantity they more than make up for in terms of quality. With only 22 courses/facilities available in the province a focus on two will help make the case for those who voted NL. Canadian Golf Magazine, in 2015, voted Humber Valley Resort as the 37th best course in the country. Located on the western side of Newfoundland, south of Deer Lake and north of Corner Brook, this course is a must play for visitors to the Island. The course website has some of the most incredible visual images of the course which will make you want to book your travel for next year. Within St. John’s, Graham Cooke designed Clovelly Golf Club has two courses but it is the Osprey Course which players will want to experience (likely more than once). In a pinch for time in St. John’s? Try Pippy Park which has 27 holes. Admiral’s Green is their 18-hole course and the view from the par 3 7th is worth the green’s fees alone. A long fall season will allow players chances to often play well into November. But to me, Newfoundland will always be an underrated province for golf. With a few strong, quality options it is certainly underappreciated.
Here, the challenges seem to be the rather large shadow cast from the quality of golf in Nova Scotia (the Cabot courses alone are driving a boom) and the marketing machine and marriage of value and quality of golf in Prince Edward Island. Yet that aside, New Brunswick with a population just over 750,000 has over 50 golf facilities available (54 to be exact). The provinces geography is such that courses are likely no more than an hour away for anyone. Algonquin holds the mantle of the best course in the province and rightfully so in my opinion. Rated 77th in Canada in 2015 by CGM (and underrated at that), like Saskatchewan this is the only course cracking the top 100. But other courses like Royal Oaks, Kingswood, Gowan Brae and unique Herring Cove all add merit to New Brunswick being high on this list. Worthy of its own accolades, New Brunswick complements the quality of golf in the Maritimes and in so many ways merit its own unique praise.
I must confess, I have never golfed in Friendly Manitoba. And while this is about to change this summer with a visit to Winnipeg. No one better to connect with on this then Jeremy Kehler of Prairie Golf Magazine. He was quick to point out that the omission of Granite Hills from top Canadian course rankings is confusing. Just over an hour outside of Winnipeg it seems he is not underselling this based on my conversations and preliminary research on this course. Other courses identified, like Minnewasta and Falcon Lake show a level of quality which should not be surprising given the province boasts 130 golf facilities. Included in this is the country’s only 6-hole course! After the summer is complete I will have an informed opinion to share but for now I will let Jeremy and others beat the drum for Manitoba. Fact is it was tied for first with 30% of responses citing Manitoba most underrated and underappreciated.
The winner of this debate is the public player. Shining a light on the provinces (and great courses within) that don’t get enough golf love provide us chances to get off the beaten path and identify our own golf destinations and courses which we want to play.
Let me know if there is a course you know in any of these four provinces which should be on players and visitors radar.