Much of the fun for traveling golfers is variety. And nowhere is the variety of fun and interesting golf on display than mainland Nova Scotia, where the courses might get overshadowed by their brethren on the famous islands of Cape Breton and Prince Edward but are nonetheless deserving of a spot on any golf-travel itinerary — and perhaps even a trip of their own.
In Episode 104 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast (presented by 2UNDR Apparel — use the GNN20 promo code to get 20% off your next purchase), hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch dedicate an entire episode to four courses (plus a couple resorts and possibly the best airport hotel you’ll ever find) that are all within a few hours’ driving time from Halifax.
Talking about everything from historic Stanley Thompson golf and an epic Lobster Bash on the Bay of Fundy to a high-end Tim Hortons-backed resort and a creative semi-private club that is redefining how to accommodate golfers in exciting new ways, Mitch and Darin retrace their summertime travel steps in anticipation of a new season in which golfers should explore mainland Nova Scotia, whether they are looking for drive-in or drive-out spots on their way to Cabot Links or planning a unique Halifax-based golf vacation.
The twosome begin with the oft-overlooked but historically important Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa and its historic 1931 Stanley Thompson design — The Pines Course — roughly a 2.5-hour drive from Halifax. Digby Pines is considered perhaps the best example of Thompson’s relatively untouched work available to golfers with exquisite hole designs like the par-3 No. 2, which gets the Thompson vibe off to a serene yet challenging early start with a one-shotter over a rectangular pond to a green cut into the hillside. Later, on the par-4 No. 11 hole, the legend of Babe Ruth is alive and well — the baseball great is considered the first to drive the green on the uphill, 278-yard (and he probably had no trouble with Thompson’s clever “question mark” bunker) along the right side of the fairway.
History remains in the Digby discussion as Darin and Mitch talk about the lineage of head golf professionals at the course where three generations of the Nickerson family have served in that capacity, making it a rare golf course where the top job has remained all in the family since its inception.
Meanwhile, Digby Pines Resort, built in 1929, is an old-world wonder that offers a variety of lodging and dining options plus an ultra-cool (yet heated) outdoor pool. And the service is everything you would expect from small-town Canadians, working to make every aspect of your golf getaway enjoyable. Plus, if you hit Digby at the right time (June 29-July 1 for 2018), golfers might want to spend as much time at Lobster Bash down by the waterfront as they do on the golf course (So. Much. Yummy. Lobster.)
Closer to Halifax (about 30 minutes by car) designer (and former Canadian amateur golf legend) Graham Cooke has created lakeside gem called Glen Arbour (actually, it’s routed around three lakes), which turned out to be an “unexpected surprise of a course” for the Golf News Net team. Glen Arbour’s rolling terrain, elevation changes, beautiful green complexes and interesting 3-pars make it a course that will appeal to a wide range of players.
About a two-hour drive from Halifax is the high-end destination of Fox Harb’r Resort — a much different Cooke design that features views of the Northumberland Strait (you can see across to Prince Edward Island) from its scenic waterfront stretch although Darin also praised the inner core of the golf course where an interesting sequence of holes play along the wetlands. With accommodations and amenities to match (the pool-hot tub area is outstanding), Fox Harb’r was built for golf travelers looking for an exquisite high-end experience — and if you have your own private plane, you can land right alongside the fairways.
And, finally, another course closer to Halifax (only about 30 minutes from the Stanfield International Airport) is The Links at Brunello, carved through rocky terrain by prolific Canadian designer Thomas McBroom, whose resume includes 12 courses on the Top 100 in Canada list. With its rugged landscape, The Links at Brunello is truly unique, offering some stunning hole designs (even if McBroom got a little overzealous in a few spots). More importantly, though, is Brunello’s innovative management team that is utilizing new ideas (four-person carts and “pay by the hole” options) to build an increasingly engaged membership.
And, of course, any trip that begins, ends or involves spending time in Halifax must include a mention about the Alt Hotel — easily one of the best (if not “the” best) airport hotels Darin and Mitch have run across in their worldwide travels. Adjacent to the airport (there’s a convenient walkway over the entrance road), the Alt features a cool, modern design with perfectly appointed space-saving rooms, plus all the proper touches to serve traveling guests (including the 24-hour snack counter, bar and pool-table for late-night fun). Every airport should have an Alt Hotel next door.
Mainland Nova Scotia might not be atop the popular “must-visit” golf lists found in U.S. publications, so take it from “Talking GolfGetaways” and don’t pass up the chance to explore this friendly province and wide range of golf experiences.