CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island, Canada – Golf courses from Myrtle Beach to Malaysia use “Scotland” as a marketing tool. Prince Edward Island’s connection has a little more authenticity than most destinations.
Just a month ago I was in Scotland myself. Today, I teed it up on Prince Edward Island’s Glasgow Hills G.C., the last round of my trip.
So what better time than today to compare the two?
Residents on PEI estimate about half of the province’s descendants are Scottish, with a lot of Irish mixed in too. Even some of their accents seem to have a little of the old world compared to Canadians from Ontario on to the west. Farmers and fishermen make up a great deal of the population, and one resident admitted to me that those who want to make any real money head to Alberta for a few years before eventually returning home.
Aesthetically, PEI has some real similarities: a rural countryside with farms littering the landscape and nothing but two-lane highways outside Charlottetown. There aren’t any sheep. But some courses, like Anderson’s Creek, have the constant sound of cows in the distance. “You’d think it’s the funny farm out here,” laughed Alex MacLaughlan, who runs Anderson’s Creek and sister golf course Green Gables. In New Glasgow, Glasgow Hills offers long views of a green, heathland-esque landscape and the bright, blue ocean in the distance.
As for golf itself, PEI doesn’t have gorse bushes or pure, 19th-century links courses like in the U.K. (most of the courses visitors play in PEI are from the 1990s or later). The top coastal golf experience on the island is the Links at Crowbush Cove, set along the island’s northern shore and features a few holes that play right behind dunes. In its brief history, locals here already say the coastline has changed greatly from coastal erosion, with dunes growing and others disappearing, a challenge courses in the U.K. all deal with.
PEI has its advantages though, starting with shellfish. You can find lobster just about everywhere. Most clubhouses serve lobster wraps and even McDonalds serve a “McLobster”. And the island can’t seem to dish out mussels fast enough. Golfers at Glasgow Hills and Anderson’s Creek can help themselves to complimentary mussels in the clubhouse after 18 holes, while New Glasgow Lobster Suppers also includes bottomless mussels with their dinners.
So PEI’s Scotland connection for golf travelers is hit-and-miss. But the residents, so many of whom are to born and raised here and all seem to know one another, give the island this comfortable, down home vibe at every course, hotel and pub. Both destinations thrive at making visitors immediately feel right at home. Golf may have been born in Scotland, but Canada itself was born on PEI in 1864 when the Confederation was signed in Charlottetown.
PEI comparisons don’t stop with Scotland. PEI is called the “Idaho of Canada” for it’s massive potato output. It’s also the “Kentucky of Canada” for it’s love of horses. In fact, on my final night here we took in a buffet while watching harness racing at Red Shores Race Track, open since 1888. And yes, they had not one, but two types of mussels on the line.