Prince Edward Island

We're in PEI on a research trip.

A great quick golf trip that includes red sand beaches (and bunkers), Lobster suppers and great golf courses.

Golfing in Prince Edward Island

Less than an hour from Charlottetown is Dundarave, which opened in the summer of 1999. Designed by the team of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry on the shores of Brudenell River.

The name Dundarave came from Scotland and refers to the home estate of the area's first Scottish settlers.The course is slightly less than 7,300 yards from the back tees, and at sea level those are very long yards.

Tee box at #8 at Dundarave

Tee box at #8 at Dundarave

Golfing in Wales

In 2010, Wales hosted the Ryder Cup and for the first time golf in the tiny nation was thrust into the limelight.

Sadly, the golf course in question, the Twenty-Ten did not do Wales any favours, as this is not the type of golf course that is going to interest the North American golfer.

Happily, there are many golf courses that do fit the image of ancient links land and can provide an excellent golf trip at almost half the price of its more famous neighbours in Scotland and Ireland.

On top of that who does not want to try Lavabread in Mumbles (Catherine Zeta-Jones hometown) or Welsh Rarebit, which is not rabbit, but just a ton of oozing melted cheese on bread?

We have organised a trip for 10 golfers heading to Wales in August. If you have played most of the World Top 100 courses on the British Isles, consider Wales for a trip of great golf at a really really good price.

Nefyn, the inspiration for Old Head in Ireland

The back nine at Porthmadog, offers some of the best links anywhere

Pennard, a quirky course and a favourite of acclaimed designer, Tom Doak

Local traffic at Southerndown

Royal Porthcawl, best course in the country

Welsh rarebit, not rabbit, but melted cheese on toast

Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland

The Old Course, every golfer's Mecca.

With an interest in golf architecture, I've always been intrigued, when reading the Old Course described as having been "designed by God".  Therefore, it seems appropriate to describe the journey as a pilgrimage and the experience as religious.

It did not come easy. As a twosome on a Monday in April, we expected no trouble to win the daily ballot, but we were sadly mistaken. This meant a 5:30am wake-up call to line-up at the starter's hut to sign up for the walk-on list. Arriving at 6am, we were number 7 & 8 in line.

They asked us for our name, home club and a handicap card, the only course thus far on our trip to request one.  The maximum handicap for a male golfer is 24.  My Dad's handicap index is 24.9 and when converted to a handicap it comes out as a 27, so we strategically folded the paper above the handicap, only displaying the index.  The starter read it, looked at us, paused and said, "this is the max, but you're okay." We were relieved indeed.

We went back to the hotel for a rest, came back at the suggested time of 9:30am and luckily we were off by 10:10am with a couple of nice guys from California. The day could not have been better. 

It is often difficult to judge a course and the overall golfing experience independant of your score.  Fortunately, I had my best round of the week, making a special round even more fun.

For the entire round, one experiences a unique feeling, an awareness of walking in the footsteps of history.

A very special day indeed.

The rising sun bouncing off Rusacks hotel at 6am

In front of the starter's hut on the first tee

Looking back on the 1st hole, offering a generous fairway for nervous tee shots

Pete had to go backwards twice on one hole to get out of the bunkers

Tee shot from the 18th over 100 years ago

The same tee shot - April 2011

The perfunctory Swilcan Bridge shot on the 18th


on 2011-07-13 15:55 by Travel Impresarios

The deadline for applying for 2012 Old Course Tee Times is Wednesday September 7 at 10am BST

Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch, Scotland

Located a mere 50 yards from the first tee at Royal Dornoch is the Royal Golf Hotel.

A classic hotel with a long history as the spot to stay in Dornoch, the hotel closed in 2006 after its parent company (Swallow Group) went bankrupt.  Entrepreneur Peter de Savary, who once owned Skibo Castle, where he founded the Carnegie Club, immediately bought the hotel with plans to turn it into a top luxury resort.

Two years later, with the hotel untouched, de Savary's plans changed and the hotel was sold to local investors.  The investors spent £9m to refurbish the hotel and return it to its former glory, as a perfect little four-star golf hotel.

The lead investor, Grant Sword is also a director of Castle Stuart Golf Links, so there is a marketing connection between the Highlands newest golf course and the restored Royal Golf Hotel.

Royal Dornoch is a must-play on every Highlands golf trip, and Royal Golf Hotel is the perfect complement for a two-night stay.

The entrance of the hotel

There are two suites, this is one of them

The proverbial "Room with a View"

Hanging from the ceiling of the bar are bag tags from around the world

The dining room appropriately set for tables of 8 overlooking the course

This shot illustrates how close the hotel is to the first hole

The view of the hotel from the first hole

Royal Dornoch

Located an hour north of Inverness, Dornoch is a long trek, a good four hours from Edinburgh and St. Andrews.  Dornoch is so far north that it is on the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska.

Due to its location, Royal Dornoch is often overlooked by people planning an inaugural golf trip to Scotland. But that is a big mistake, as this is golf at its purest. The club was formally founded in 1877, but there is record of golf being played at Dornoch since 1616 and it doesn't feel as though it has changed much since then.

It is a classic nine holes out and nine holes back layout, where the wind is your friend for half your round and your foe for the other half.  Especially memorable is the 401-yard 16th hole, up hill and directly into the wind.  This makes for a very long hole and forces one to be creative by keeping the ball low to the ground and using the hard links fairway to get the requisite yardage off the tee. For North Americans, this is a different game, fun and creative golf.

This course is a real treat that one never tires of, even inspiring Lorne Rubenstein, The Globe and Mail golf columnist to spend three months there in the summer of 2000. At the end of his stay, he wrote a book entitled "A Season in Dornoch" about his experience. It is a great read about both golf and life in the Highlands.

At this point in our trip, this is our favourite course.

Next posting: Royal Golf Hotel, located 50 yds from Royal Dornoch's first tee.

The flags represent the nationalities of the guests at the club, a nice welcome

The front of the scorecard

Hole #2, a par-3 that Tom Watson called the hardest 2nd shot on the course

Highest point of the course offers a great view

It is either long arms or hit it backwards

Bunker on the right, swale on the left and a green sloping downhill, a delicate putt

The golfer looks like he is putting from the edge of the cliff

Our caddy Hamish, a 52-year member who knew a thing or two about the course

Castle Stuart

Most people journey to Scotland to play the established traditional links courses, but the newest kid on the block is bringing them back to Scotland.

Castle Stuart opened last year to great fanfare, as it is the second ambitious project by Mark Parsinen, the visionary behind Kingsbarns near St. Andrews. Located just outside of Inverness and minutes from the airport, Castle Stuart is the latest must-play course in the Highlands.

With a decidedly American approach, Parsinen teamed up with Gil Hanse to build a course that is designed to send golfers home with a smile.

The generous fairways mean most tee shots provide an approach from the short stuff. Almost every green has the gorgeous backdrop of the Moray Firth, which often includes Fort George, the Chanonry Lighthouse or the Kessock Bridge.  Yet my favourite view is looking down 130 feet at the starting holes.

The beautiful art deco clubhouse, the service-oriented bag drop-off and conveniently located driving range together give the course a modern feel.

This is Scottish links from an American's POV, which means great seaside sandy-based terrain combined with the level of service one finds at home.

Lastly, Loch Lomond declined the Barclays Scottish Open this year, opening up an opportunity for Castle Stuart to host the tournament. Traditionally held the week before The Open, the return to a links course should attract a few more North Americans looking for a warm-up before Royal St. Georges in July.  Many are curious to see how the course stands up to the pros as they tackle Scotland newest great course at 7400 yards from the championship tees.

Next up: Royal Dornoch


on 2011-08-19 13:57 by Travel Impresarios

The World Rankings for 2011 were just released and Castle Stuart made its debut at #56.

Check it out - Golf Magazine's World Rankings