Cardigan, PEI, Canada
Dundarave, admittedly an unusual name for a golf complex, is an old Scottish family name. To those who've not been fortunate enough to visit this golf course on Prince Edward Island of the Atlantic provinces of Canada, the island has become synonymous with leisure. Being the smallest province, and an island to boot, PEI is best known by tourists seeking the mythical home of Ann of Green Gables, the best tasting mussels in the world, and a relaxed pace of life. As the island is now connected to New Brunswick by the 13-kilometer-long Confederation Bridge, PEI is becoming the golf destination of eastern Canada. One of its main golfing tourist attractions includes Crowbush Cove, Golf Digest’s Best New Canadian Course in 1994, and the different but equally dramatic Dundarave course of Hurdzan/Fry.
Like most small island communities, everyone knows everyone else, and their politics. The life history of Dundarave begins with a series of legal and political maneuvers that seemed to be documented in the Charlottetown newspaper everyday, with each side alleging some kind of self-serving motivation by the other side. We read all of it, didn't understand any of it, so we just enjoyed the wonderful world of PEI while we fashioned an 18-hole golf course, a 9-hole executive course and a huge learning center.
To avoid stirring up old politics, we will limit the cast of characters to Robbie Hellstrom - who many thought should have been named "Hell Storm" for his well calculated and precision guided fits of anger. Robbie again did what we thought was impossible -- complete a golf course complex on PEI in less than five and one-half months. Even today, we are in awe of Robbie’s ability to get things done, even if it means some people end up seriously disliking him. Robbie showed us what he could do at Mt. Tremblant when he was the project coordinator for the Le Diable course, so he was hired to repeat the trick at Dundarave.
The Dundarave site was adjacent to the existing Brudenell River Golf Course in the Rodd's Brudenell River Resort. The total site was about 250 acres, with the ultimate plan of building a golf course and academy complex. The first step was to decide upon a clubhouse site, and one was selected to serve both the existing Brudenell River Course and the new Dundarave course. However this meant that the Dundarave course could not have returning nines because of space limitations. This turned out to be fortunate, for it meant the golf course could be routed further out onto the site, taking advantage of its most exciting parts.
The result is four distinct types of golf -- links, heathland, coastal and inland. Some golf holes play in open meadows, another section is in woods, a stretch winds along the river’s edge, and several holes run up and down hills and skirt ponds and wetlands. The clay soils on PEI are made very red owing to their high iron content, and even the bunker sand is tainted red. Draining those clay soils became the biggest challenge and the most costly part of the construction. The contractor was an islander named Harry Annear, whose company, Kings County Construction, did a remarkable job interpreting our drawings, having patience with Robbie, and working in difficult site conditions.
The favorite holes for some golfers will be the ones along the Brudenell River. For others, it will be the 17th, with its great long-range view from its very high tee. The scale of the property is huge and so are the tees, greens, fairways and especially the bunkers. The golf course is more reminiscent of an A.W. Tillinghast or Stanley Thompson style course than any other we've ever done. Some people will like that, and others will not. But it seems to fit the site.
Equally exciting to the golf course is the learning center, perhaps the finest in eastern Canada. An old barn was converted into an indoor practice range for those months when everything on PEI is frozen except thoughts of improving the golf swing. Then there is a huge outdoor, natural grass practice range tee that will always have good turf on it, with a private teaching tee at the far end. The short game center (or centre, as Canadians spell it) is the place to learn and practice all kinds of approach shots from twenty yards out. These facilities are complimented with two large putting greens and a very enjoyable 9-hole executive golf course. Anyone who is even slightly thinking about learning to play golf, or play better, will find the opportunity at the Canadian Golf Academy.
Even with the new bridge, Prince Edward Island is not easy to get to, and perhaps that is one reason it is so special. Once there you will want to return, again and again.