CARDIGAN, Prince Edward Island -- Anywhere else, it might be considered a bit of a hidden gem.
Except that the locals love to tell their out-of-town guests about Brudenell River Golf Course in Cardigan, making it one of the worst-kept secrets in the entire province.
"It is a special place," beamed Jack Kane, the now-retired first head golf professional at the tree-lined track. "It's been recognized for its condition and its playability, and it's been around for quite awhile and has stood the test of time."
Brudenell River, which features an equal split with six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s on the scorecard, was one of the first championship-length courses carved out of PEI's trademark red soil, opening its gates in 1969. Although the number of golf options on the island has more than quadrupled since, Robbie Robinson's layout remains near the top of the "must-play" list for provincial taxpayers and club-toting tourists alike.
Sharing a clubhouse, practice and instruction facilities and several other amenities, Brudenell River and Dundarave (Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry, 1999) form PEI's only 36-hole facility.
"People who have been coming to the island year after year or every second or third year, they always come back to Brudenell River," head professional Anne Chouinard said. "It is definitely a favorite. People love the mix of holes and that it's walkable.
"When I go to golf shows to represent Golf PEI, which is the association of all the courses, Brudenell River is always one that comes up. People will say, 'Oh, I love that course.'"
Locals Love Brudenell River
Want more proof?
On my latest visit to Prince Edward Island, I was pulled over in Charlottetown after my rental matched the description of a vehicle involved with some "funny business" at a bank.
When the conversation turned to golf, the officer asked if I'd had an opportunity to tee it up at Brudenell River. I responded that we had played there the previous day and were just returning from the Links at Crowbush Cove, considered by many visitors to be the cream of PEI's golf crop. His response? "Well, what did you think of Brudenell River?"
Like the folks that call Canada's smallest and least-populated province home, Brudenell River is best described as friendly.
At just 6,541 yards from the back decks, you don't need to be Bubba Watson to put a couple of birdies on your scorecard. And with little elevation change and none of the lengthy commutes between holes that you'll find next door at Dundarave Golf Course, it's rare to see much cart traffic at the popular track.
The most memorable assignments are located along the shores of the slow-moving Brudenell River. The fifth and 10th holes are relatively short -- 163 and 143 yards, respectively -- but tricky tests where swirling winds can sometimes push well-struck shots into waiting water hazards.
The so-called "Brudenell Breeze" will also be a factor at No. 11, which stretches to 466 yards and features a large pond in front of the green that will make birdie-hunters think twice about trying to get home in two.
On every other hole, though, there's a safe route to the putting surface.
"The first impression of Brudenell, for me, was just the beauty of it," Chouinard said. "Right from the time you arrive and you're on the first tee, there's sort of an air of vacation. It's very pleasing that way.
"The course is user-friendly, but it's demanding in some ways. Some courses are so punishing, and you lose a lot of balls. At Brudenell, you can access the greens by rolling the ball straight. And you can get off the tee and get to the fairway by rolling the ball straight. Some other courses don't allow people to do that."
Brudenell River Golf Course: The Verdict
No matter the golf destination, the locals always have a favorite hangout. What makes Brudenell River Golf Course so unique is that they actually want the tourists to see it.
Although Crowbush Cove, Dundarave and Mill River Golf Course -- the site of Golf Channel's "Big Break XI: Prince Edward Island" -- are also owned by the provincial government and seem to receive more fanfare, many PEI residents will insist you can't head home until you've visited Brudenell River.
It's not as challenging or dramatic as a couple of the others, but with its reputation for superb conditioning and affordable green fees, it's easy to see what the islanders adore about it.
If you want to turn two rounds in the same day, tune up at Brudenell River Golf Course in the morning and test your luck at Dundarave after lunch.