Prince Edward Island, midsummer, early morning. The clerk at the Crowbush pro shop politely repeats the price of a green fee. "It's sixty-five dollars," she says to the southern visitor with PGA WEST on his golf shirt and disbelief on his face. He signs his receipt, says thanks and walks over by one of the clubhouse doors that looks out on the fifteenth hole. It's brilliantly sunny, and there's a shine on the crosshatched cut of the fairway. Beyond the green, past tufted dunes, is the steely, whitecapped Gulf of St. Lawrence. The man stands gazing, then looks down at his receipt. You can see his mind working — sixty-five Canadian dollars will translate to maybe forty-five U.S. when the credit card statement arrives back home. He smiles. It's the height of the summer season, at a course rated among the best places to play in North America. Forty-five bucks.
Later that day. Two dads are standing shin-deep in high tide. Their kids, though perfect strangers minutes before, are playing like old pals, swimming, salvaging driftwood, collecting shells. The surf is light and the water is shallow, ideal for playing children and anxious parents alike. "Just look," one says, gazing down the beach. There isn't anyone for a half mile in either direction, yet the island's finest resort is only minutes by foot. "I grew up in San Diego," he continues, "and I went to the University of Miami. But this is, without question, the best beach I have ever seen."
Late evening. Sitting on a cabin porch, nursing a glass of wine and listening to the crickets, a wife leans close to her husband and whispers, "You can't write about this place. If people find out, it'll get crowded and ruin everything."
What's a fella to do?I saw the first-timer do the Crowbush double-take. I was the other dad on the beach. And that was my wife whose pleas I now am not heeding.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is hardly a secret — the smallest Canadian province has been a summer-holiday favorite for generations. And as my father used to say, good fortune should be shared, and my family and I had had nothing but great fortune. A comfortable, rustic cabin at the historic Dalvay By The Sea resort, on the island's north shore. Fresh local lobsters, mussels and oysters. Miles and miles of national park-protected dunes and uncrowded beach right in front of our resort. And the restorative, salty breeze off the sea — soft, moist and soothing — that took the sting out of the hot summer sun.
Then there was the golf. Crowbush, about thirty minutes east of Dalvay By The Sea, opens with a nice run of mixed-length par fours and rollicking par fives, the second of which turns back toward the sea and to the holes that earn the course its fame. The narrow green at the par-three sixth, for instance, sits across a saltwater pond from a swath of beach where kids skip stones. You can see practically the entire central coastline from the back tee box at eleven. The most memorable image, especially in the amber glow of evening, is the one looking back down sixteen, its fairway bordered by golden fescue, to the beach and the reddish brown cliffs in the distance. It's a wonder people stop sightseeing long enough to complete their rounds. The course plays tough, though, especially in the three-club wind my playing partners and I faced that day. Over pints at the clubhouse, we all agreed we had to play Crowbush again.