In North America, golf destinations have typically sprung up in warmer climates. In the last decade, however, that model has changed, in particular with the emergence of the Oregon must-play, Bandon Dunes. Now golfers are happily packing rain gear and sweaters for their getaways and spending quite a bit of time traveling, too. This rugged style of golf has opened the doors for other out-of-the-way destinations that hope to attract golfers to their northern links.
High on that list are a number of Canadian provinces. From the Vancouver Island Golf Trail to Prince Edward Island's recent exposure on Golf Channel's Big Break, the Great White North is a great destination for golfers with an affinity for both the links and the great outdoors. Perhaps we should now think of it as the Great Green North?
If remoteness sounds attractive to you–away from the grind of city life and all that–then the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a must-visit. Canada's northeastern most province (yes, it's one province) is affectionately nicknamed "The Rock" by locals, and boasts 19 golf courses, sprinkled far and wide among its 156,000 square miles.
While not technically a "golf destination," western Newfoundland is an outdoor paradise and home to the excellent Humber Valley Resort course. And with autumn just around the corner, it's a great time to visit. Brilliant foliage blankets the hillsides, temperatures are cool but comfortable, and bargains can be had.
1. The game's best players have a knack for bouncing back after a bad hole; so too does Newfoundland's best course. After declaring bankruptcy in December 2009, Humber Valley Resort and its excellent Doug Carrick-designed course is now under new ownership–and at a reduced rate ($80 including cart). But not to worry, despite the recent restructuring, it has retained the high-caliber golf that its original $20 million budget built. Routed through a massive swath of wooded hillside overlooking the beautiful Humber River Valley, the course features large undulating greens and plenty of risk/reward shot options.
Playing Tip: With lots of tempting "go for it" options, ask yourself if it's worth going for a birdie when bogey is one bad bounce away. humbervalley.com
2. While Newfoundland officially transitioned from a British dominion to a Canadian province in 1949, Blomidon Golf Club (the word is an elision of "Blow Me Down") retains the feeling of a local UK golf club. Although it measures only 5,835 yards, Blomidon's small, quick greens make it a challenge for even the best golfers. Built on a bluff overlooking the city of Corner Brook, it's a sneakily challenging track, but the community vibe is what stands out for the visitor.
Playing Tips: Leave the driver in the rental car. On most holes, all you'll need is a fairway wood off the tee. Oh, and keep your approach shots below the hole. blomidongolf.com
3. As golf continues to develop on western Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, a new generation of golfers and course owners are discovering the game. At Gros Morne Resort, the province's northernmost track, the views of the Long Range Mountains are almost worth the $48 green fee alone. With no houses, forgiving bunkers and an often steady breeze coming in off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the new 7,025-yard course almost has it all. One only hopes that, as the course develops, measures are taken to address a few peculiar absences, notably that of an expert greens keeper.
Playing Tip: When the wind blows, play the ball back in your stance and make a __ swing. Remember to take at least one extra club. grosmorneresort.com
Humber Valley Resort boasts a couple hundred rental chalets, many of which can sleep up to 8 people. Approximately $150-$200/night per person. humbervalleylodges.com
For an all-inclusive B&B experience, try the Inn at Humber Valley. $129-179/night. innathumbervalley.com
The seasonal Gros Morne Resort offers postcard views of the 2,600-foot-high Long Range Mountains. Rooms start at $109. Tired of your cell phone always ringing? Don't worry, it's so remote, there's no service. grosmorneresort.com
Fish the Humber River for salmon. Photographic evidence of a recent 40-pound catch adorns the Humber Valley clubhouse walls. humbervalley.com
One of 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada, the 697-square-mile Gros Morne National Park has great hiking trails and is a feast for geologists. Rocks dating back 420-570 million years ago were part of an ancient ocean that later became part of the Appalachian Mountains. grosmorne.com
Go sea kayaking in and around the calm waters of Bonne Bay with Gros Morne Adventures. Starting at $50, the tours last from two to six hours. If you're lucky, you may even spot a whale or two. grosmorneadventures.com
You'll feel like you're in Scandinavia on the Western Brook Fjord Boat Tours. The two-hour cruise ($56) affords passengers jaw-dropping views of 2,000-foot-high fjords. Highlights include dramatic scenery, waterfalls and uniquely sculpted rock formations. bontours.ca
History buff? Spend an extra day on the island and visit L'Anse Aux Meadows on Newfoundland's northern tip. It's the site where, in the late 11th century, Leif Ericson first landed on the North American continent. pc.gc.ca
Blomidon Golf Club $95 per person, per night (plus Harmonized Sales Tax), includes accommodation at the Mamateek Inn, 18 holes of golf, plus cart. Price based on double occupancy and shared cart. For more information, call the Mamateek Inn at (800) 563-8600.
Gros Morne Resort $109 plus HST (per person, double) includes two rounds and two dinners. Call (709) 243-2606 for more details.
Humber Valley Resort "The Lodges at Humber Valley Stay N Play" Three nights in a luxury three- to five-bedroom lodge (size appropriate to party size–max two people per bedroom), one round of golf per person, a sleeve of three golf balls and a course guide. Nongolfer? Substitute an $80 voucher at Elements Wellness Spa for the golf and gifts. Hot tubs and BBQs available as optional extras. Prices start at $280 per person. Based on double occupancy. For more information, email [email protected] or call Simon or Jean at (709) 637-6725 or (877) 214-9750. Offer valid until the end of the 2011 golfing season.
How To Get There
Without any direct service from the States to Deer Lake Airport, you'll have to transfer through a Canadian airport (likely Toronto, which is a little more than two hours away). Rent a car well in advance, as the remote island has a limited fleet.
1. What time is it? Called, "NT," or Newfoundland Standard Time Zone, Newfoundland is half an hour ahead of Atlantic Time.
2. That ain't right. There's an abundance of golfers who play the game left-handed in Canada. Why? Growing up with a hockey stick in their right hand meant that placing their left hand on the club low made sense.
3. Northern delights. A visit to the province wouldn't be complete without some local cuisine like moose burgers, caribou sausage and the breakfast staple, toutons, a dish of fried bread dough drizzled in molasses.