Saturday, May 26, 2007

Golfing the rock

Travel Web article - By JONATHAN JENKINS - Sun Media

It's a crime how little it costs to golf in Newfoundland!

Respectable courses can be played on all year for about $800 and the most expensive round in the province is only $100, a price most GTA golfers would barely think twice about.

Now golf is hardly the first thing that springs to mind when the average Canadian thinks of Newfoundland, which is no doubt why Golf Newfoundland invited the cream of Toronto travel journalism on this fact-finding adventure. They couldn't make it, which is why I found myself sipping pints of 1892 and sending my slice further east than it's ever been before.

First stop, and a real focus of the trip was the Humber Valley Resort, a vastly ambitious project on the still sparsely populated west coast of Newfoundland. The multi-million dollar venture started up in 2003 and has already lured scores of high rollers -- many Europeans -- to plunk down big bucks for roomy chalets sprinkled around a very, very nice golf course.

Crafted by Canadian golf design guru Doug Carrick, it's 7,000-plus yards of classy playability for both expert golfers and hackers alike. It is $100 a round but well worth every penny.

Set in the hills above Deer Lake, the first four holes trickle down gently to the shoreline before the par three 5th, which curls around the beach. It's quite a dramatic opening, especially if the sloping ground is wet underneath your golf cart and you slowly fishtail out of control down the second fairway, giving you a 360-degree panorama of the hills, the trees, the water, your life flashing before you.

That was certainly breathtaking but no more so than the view from the 10th, with its waterfall tumbling a good 125 metres into the valley below, the Humber River laid out before you and the Long Range Mountains drifting off to the north.

Hazards abound -- there are 107 bunkers on the course, some of them mirroring the geography -- but none more frustrating to hit into than the local foxes. One patrols the 10th fairway and snaps up any golf ball he comes across, with scant regard for the quality of the drive that sent it in his direction. We came across another of the bold reynards on the idyllic 14th and had trouble chasing it off, so indifferent was it to our presence.

It's quite a climb back to the clubhouse and the occasional cart has been known to peter out before the top, but the views are well worth it.

Just about 20 minutes south of the resort is Corner Brook, home to about 30,000 people and the only other 18-hole course on the west coast of Newfoundland, the Blomidon Golf and Country Club.

This is a bit more mac and cheese compared to the gourmet meal up at Humber Valley but it's still satisfying -- a nice homey course, 5,700 yards of tight fairways and small greens inside a bowl of mountains looking out onto the Bay of Islands.

The 10th and 14th holes are particularly pretty, although you do have to contend with some views of a paper mill and the wind off the bay can be a little more than brisk. It's a private course but the public can get on for $43 a pop, or you can bulk buy 10 rounds for $390.
That's pretty much it for 18-hole courses on the west coast, at least until Humber Valley gets a planned second course up and running, but since you're in Atlantic Canada, you can drive for less than three hours and get most of the way across the province, if you want.

It's a great drive along the Trans-Canada -- especially when the sun comes out. The rocky hills drenched in pine with an occasional red flash of maple slowly give way to the boggy interior, a green wall of conifers hiding sloughs, salmon rivers and thousands of moose.

Good golfing can be found in the northeast in Gander, which has a lovely track overlooking Lake Gander. Lake Gander feeds the Gander River, which flows all the way to Gander Bay, so it comes as no surprise the course is called the Gander Golf Club.

The ubiquitous Doug Carrick had a hand in the course's 2001 redesign and it makes great use of its height -- the holes stacked up one on top of each other to afford multiple views of the glistening lake below. There's a lot of up and down to the holes as they ride the edge of the hill and a couple of rocky creeks cutting across the narrow fairways.

There's a beautiful A-frame clubhouse overlooking three holes and if you smoke your wedge on the 18th, you just might get a lucky bounce off it back onto the green. Actually, that's not recommended as most of the A-frame is plate glass window but it can be done. The 6,137-yard course can be played for $38-$43 a round but it's the only game in town.
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Anonymous said...

I have come to read your site regularly. Your passion about the HV is great and I have enjoyed many of your stories.

I think it is unfortunate that you post such a great article on your site today about golfing the west coast and not provide the original authors name.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your feedback. Blog page was added in a rush, and wasn't finished off properly. The URL from a source website is always addedd to the "title" of the blog ... have a look at the title of Golf the Rock. However I have now added the normal references within the page itself.

Thanks for your feedback - and we welcome anymore, along with any news, articles, video/pictures and folklore ... very best regards