CAVENDISH, Prince Edward Island, Canada -- On Prince Edward Island, several golf courses could make the argument as the destination's signature play.
Some will proclaim the Links at Crowbush Cove the island's best, thanks to a dramatic, coastal setting. Others might curry favor with the traditional, national park setting of Green Gables Golf Course .
But there is little disputing the finest all-around golf facility on P.E.I., the provincially owned Brudenell River Resort. Within footsteps of the side-by-side clubhouse and Rodd Brudenell River Resort and Spa are two 18-hole courses: Brudenell River Golf Course and Dundarave Golf Course . The facility is capped with a large practice area and a nine-hole short course, the Divine Nine.
Theoretically, golfers could base a long weekend here and enjoy all the golf they can handle.
Built 30 years apart, Brudenell River and Dundarave play side-by-side, which makes their starkly contrasting styles that much more remarkable. Robbie Robinson designed the traditionally styled Brudenell River, which opened in 1969.
Between the fact it's less expensive, walkable and has a strong membership base, Brudenell River has remained a favorite island draw. In fact, the afternoon we played, a steady rain couldn't keep golfers off the course. The tee sheet was stacked.
"It's an old-time favorite," said Anne Chouinard, head golf professional at Brudenell River and Dundarave. "People who have come to the island for many years always want to come back."
Playing a maximum of 6,541 yards, the course is an easy-swinging alternative to Dundarave but reveals its teeth with dog-legging fairways and smaller greens well-protected by bunkers.
Another player-friendly attribute to Brudenell River is the course's six par 3s, 4s and 5s, which help afford amateur players more birdie opportunities. In fact, every par 3 is followed by a par 5 here, so the driver never stays in the bag very long.
Playing around Brudenell River's perimeter is Dundarave. Designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry in 1999, nearly every hole is framed by forest, while several holes play along the river. Deep forest greens, plus the blue river and natural, red-sand bunkers give the course one of Canada's most unique appearances.
Considered one of the toughest courses on PEI, Dundarave is undeniably more challenging than its counterpart. Greens are huge, which puts lag-putting and knowing how deep the flag is at a premium. They also boast top speeds at 10.5 on the Stimpmeter during the summer.
The meat of the course begins on the back nine at the par-4 12th hole where there are three long par 4s and a 208-yard par 3 to contest. It's as tough of a gauntlet of holes as the island has.
Once you make it through, you'll encounter a pleasant, sharply downhill par 3 followed by an uphill par 5 guarded by the most daunting bunker yet: a mammoth, deep, riveted bunker left of the green that will put real fear in anyone going for broke in two shots from the fairway well below.
Most golf groups will probably want to leave the Rodd Brudenell Resort at some point for more golf, but you really don't have to if you'd like.
Rarely are two golf courses side-by-side so different from one another, and that's the great appeal of Brudenell River and Dundarave. Each presents a scenic walk through a mix of lakes and forest, but that's about all they have in common.
Dundarave can make the argument as the island's top tournament-level course, while Brudenell River curries favor from those seeking a gentler, more traditional style.
Stay and Play at Rodd Brudenell River Resort: Located on site is the Rodd Brudenell River, one of the brand's five properties on P.E.I. The resort offers 67 guest rooms and 32 suites, most of which have private balconies or patios. Larger groups should inquire about one of the 16 cottages, which come with plenty more space and a fully equipped kitchen.
In addition to golf, the resort has indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, canoe and bike rentals, and plenty more to stay busy on an off-course day. For food and drink, the resort offers both casual dining and drinks in the Stillwater's Pub or at the Pool Deck Bar and more formal dining at Fine Food and Spirits.