PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, Canada -- If you're familiar with Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel "Anne of Green Gables," then you know a little about Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island. The book was first published in 1908 and has become a world-wide favorite, beckoning people to make the journey to see where Anne was created and the rolling green fields where she had her adventures.
Of course, it also makes for a perfect golf setting, and for those of us who are looking for ideal places to tee it up, it doesn't get much better than this little island well north of Maine in the Atlantic Time Zone.
And if you're visiting, you should probably take time to take in much of the Anne of Green Gables attractions. After all, there's Green Gables Golf Club, a wonderful Stanley Thompson design just minutes from Montgomery's gravesite and the Anne of Green Gables Center (you can see it from the golf course). And while you're there, you should definitely take the time to see "Anne of Green Gables -- The Musical," which celebrates 52 years with new sets and projections, new choreography, a live orchestra and a cast of 26 professional performers.
But for golfers, you could spend close to a whole month on PEI and play a different course each day. Each one of them is different and usually in great shape, depending on the time of year. With that said, here are 10 reasons golfers love coming to Prince Edward Island:
1. Nearly 30 golf courses, and most are exceptional
For me, the highlight of my recent golf trip to Prince Edward Island was The Links at Crowbush Cove, designed by Thomas McBroom. Perfectly manicured with ocean views on half the golf course, it doesn't get any better than this track that hosted a skins game between Mark O'Meara, John Daly, Fred Couples and Mike Weir in 1998. Plus, there isn't one bad hole on the golf course.
I enjoyed the other courses, too, such as Glasgow Hills with its elevated tees and doglegs, Green Gables and Dundarave Golf Course, a red sandstone design by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. With 100 or more bunkers and plenty of wide fairways working their way around the Brudenell River, Dundarave is terrific. Prince Edward Island, quite honestly, is a bucket-list destination for golfers.
2. Cool breezes in the summer, fall
For those of us looking to escape the heat and humidity of the South, there's nothing better than a trip up north, way north. Even when it's hot there (80s), the lack of humidity and ocean breezes make it a welcome respite from our oppressive summers in places such as Houston and even Washington D.C., for example. Plus, the nights are very pleasant, which is perfect for hitting the pubs and restaurants of Charlottetown. Go in the fall, and you're likely to need a little outerwear, but that's a terrific time to visit, too.
3. It's not as expensive as you think
Okay, getting there isn't exactly easy, and the flights can be a little pricey (there are currently no direct commercial flights from U.S. airports), but once you get there, PEI can be quite reasonable. Green fees are mostly less than $100, and that's Canadian. This summer, the American dollar was trading at $1.30 Canadian, so it was a perfect time to travel. You can stay at local hotel for around $100 a night, plus Golf PEI offers all kinds of reasonable packages.
4. Terrific craft beers
If you like beer (and what golfer doesn't?), this is your destination. Not only do all the pubs and golf facilities have a nice selection of Canadian, American and other imported beers, but PEI has an extensive craft beer scene as well. You could start with a tour of the historic Gahan House Brewery, but best of all, these craft beers are available throughout the island in the pubs and the golf courses. I liked Sir John A's Honeywheat Ale, but other popular choices include Blueberry Ale, Beach Chair Lager, Rhuby Social and Black Eye IPA.
5. Incredible seafood
Because of its perfect, fertile waters, PEI is renowned for its mussels, oysters, clams and lobsters, so if you love shellfish, this is definitely a bucket-list destination. How plentiful are the mussels on PEI? Well, after a round at Glasgow Hills Resort & Golf Club, a wonderful hilly Graham Cooke design, the steamed mussels are complimentary. And they go perfect with those craft brews I mentioned above.
But that's just the start. On my recent trip to PEI, we took a Top Notch Lobster Tour with Capt. Mark Jenkins on his lobster boat (tours are offered in July and August), where we not only got to pull up real traps, band a claw and get a selfie with Larry the 25-pound lobster, but we were also treated to a fresh lobster dinner right on the boat (as well as some fresh oysters). Of course, fresh seafood is what you get at most of PEI's terrific restaurants.
Every September, by the way, competitive shuckers, celebrity chefs, music lovers and a host of shellfish fans gather in Charlottetown for four days of festivities, all built around the Island's superb shellfish industry. Simply put, this might be the best shellfish in the world.
6. Fantastic food and dining
There's actually something called the Prince Edward Island Culinary Trail with close to 50 stops on it, ranging from Anne of Green Gables Chocolates to the Downtown Charlottetown Farmers Market, helping to give PEI one of the best dining scenes in the world. (Zagat rated PEI as one of the eight best dining getaway locations in the world in 2012.)
Along with seafood, PEI is pretty good at potatoes, too, providing Canada with roughly a third of its overall supply from its potato farms. The beef is stellar as well, as we found out at Sim's Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, located in a newly renovated heritage building in the historic downtown core of Charlottetown. The restaurant offers a wide selection of premium beef, raised right on Prince Edward Island as well as one of the best wine lists on the island.
Of course, while steaks are plentiful, seafood was still the theme of the week, including oysters, haddock and lobster at Claddagh Oyster House, owned by Liam Dolan, who emigrated from Ireland. Upstairs from Claddagh is Olde Dublin Pub, where you can hear live Irish music.
7. Harness racing and casino gaming
Some of the top trotters and pacers in the world can be found during the summer months at the Red Shores Racetrack & Casino in Charlottetown. And, yes, you can place your bets on them.
The facility is believed to be the oldest continuously racing track in Canada, dating back to 1886. In 2005, the current facility opened. This 50,000-square-foot entertainment complex includes the three-tier Top of the Park Restaurant, a new grandstand and a casino with slots and table games as well as a tribute to harness racing families and racing history in PEI.
8. Great music, pub scene
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, you'll find a variety of music festivals, such as the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, which welcomes more than 60,000 visitors each July to the coastal community of Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. This festival features world-class country entertainment, camping, dining and more than 30 acts, including country greats like Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Johnny Reid, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and the legendary Reba McIntyre.
Of course, in Charlottetown, there's all kinds of live music at the pubs and bars, at places such as Peake's Quay Restaurant, located just a few feet from the Charlottetown Waterfront. The Restaurant has the largest outdoor patio on Prince Edward Island.
9. Myriad View Distillery
Here's one you probably didn't expect, but you can get moonshine on Prince Edward Island -- legally. The allure of these products actually go back to prohibition, which on PEI was 15 years longer than the rest of Canada. Anyway, it has been a tradition here to sip a little "Shine" at weddings, funerals, etc., and at the Myriad View Distillery, you can take a tour and sample a few products, which include Strait Shine (yes, it packs a punch) or the other spirits they distill such as gin, vodka, rum and whiskey.
10. Cows Ice Cream
It's been voted the best ice cream in the world, and it originates in Cavendish. The recipes date back to the time of Anne of Green Gables, and contains the same all-natural ingredients that were enjoyed by the children of Avonlea. Cows ice cream was awarded "Canada's Best" by Readers Digest and "World's Best" by Taulk World Travel. If you go to the Creamery on Capital Drive, you can also take a self-guided tour, sample the flavors or buy a T-shirt or other gifts. They're pretty good at cheese there, too.