Glen Afton ~ Player's Guide
Hole 1 ~ Par 4, 310 yards
This hole is a great starting hole and provides a great opportunity for a par providing that you clear the two bunkers running laterally across the fairway 200 yards to carry off the tee. The rough on both sides is well mown turf cut to 3 inches so put it on the fairway for an easy second shot. The second shot to a green sloped back to front requires that you watch the pin placement closely. Be careful with this shot if the wind off the coast is behind you it is easy to be long. If you are pin high or over the high back of this green you could be looking at a bogey or more. Coming back to this green and stopping is very tricky unless you are an expert with a lob wedge. Capitalize on this hole and get off to a good start. This is a birdie hole for the experts.
Hole 2 ~ Par 3, 142 yards
The par 3 hole is only 143 yards off the tee but if the wind is out of the north be careful what club you use here, you could come up short. The green is very generous and so you have a big target to shoot at. Make it stick or you could be chipping out of a large bunker at the front or back of this green. Again the green slopes back to front so plan on leaving a short up hill putt for a birdie or par. The green has large sweeping undulations making for a tricky two putt unless you are in really close to the flag. This is a par for the low handicapper and expert golfer.
Hole 3 ~ Par 5, 497 yards
So you are off to a great start and you have that wonderful feeling after two good holes. Well pay attention now because this 497 yard par 5 is not easy. The tee box is set up for the long ball hitter attempting the green in two. Other players are advised to play well left to avoid bunkers down the right side. The rough on the left is well mown turf and is playable but may take the distance of your second shot making the green difficult to hit on your third. The funnel like wooded approach to the green requires an accurate shot or you could be playing a provisional ball if you have gone left, right or long into the woods. This hole has a large flat green and gives you a chance to sink a 30 footer. Don't get to confident this a difficult two putt. By the way any ball hit right of the tee or fairway will be out of bounds so all those with a slice take care, this hole will add to your score quickly. A bogey here is a good score even for the low handicapper. Again this is birdie material for the long ball hitter with a very accurate second iron shot and a hot putter.
Hole 4 ~ Par 3, 145 yards
A short walk through a wooded path brings you to the tee box at # 4, this hole runs east to west directly into the prevailing winds and is surrounded by trees 40 to 50 feet high. Club selection is critical here because the wind will affect the shot, so sometimes it will be an nine iron or sometimes a six iron. Be careful as a sure par 3 can turn into a triple here easily. The target green is protected by a bunker in the front right, the green slopes front to back with sweeping undulations. This is another green where you might sink a 30 footer. A par here is great for even the expert golfer and a bogey for the higher handicapper is definitely excellent, take it and run. This is another birdie hole for the scratch golfer providing the wind is read correctly and club selection is the right one. This is a beautiful wooded hole surrounded by maples, birches and tall spruce trees. Watch the wind!
Hole 5 ~ Par 4, 390 yards
Is this hole an optical illusion? The tee box faces directly south toward the strait and is open to the prevailing winds so generally this hole plays long. In addition the fairway slopes down into a swale then rises again to the green. This is an interesting par 4 and one that judging distances of carry is difficult to ascertain. Should you be lucky enough to be on this green in regulation a tough putt may be waiting for you. This green has a ridge running front to back and if you are on the wrong side the chances of a one putt are slim. This hole has trees right but open on the left other than a large waste area which is playable for the most part. Getting to the green from the waste area is not easy so count on a bogey from here. This is a double bogey for the higher handicapper and a par for the experts and wannabes.
Hole 6 ~ Par 4, 342 yards
This is what links golf is all about. This hole is wide open with a closely mown fairway bounding a pond, dogleg left. Your choice, drive the green across the water, carry 310 yards. Play left into secondary cut turf to the waters edge leaving an easy chip onto the green or play to the corner avoiding a bunker there and leave an unobstructed shot into the green, carry 200 yards. Or play safely to a landing area approaching the green, across the corner of the pond and bunker, carry 250 yards. On the other hand two 175 yard 4 iron shots will get you there as well. Yes, it is a large green sloping back to front and right to left so a three putt is possible. This is a sure bogey for the high handicapper, a good chance for par for our low handicappers and a birdie for the pros. By the way watch the wind here this hole is wide open. Who needs woods when golf can be this much fun, the way the Scots intended it.
Hole 7 ~ Par 4, 354 yards
If you want to par this hole you must hit straight down the fairway to the corner of the dogleg left, carry 225 yards. This allows for a 135 eight iron to the green with no hazards in play. If you are short with your tee shot you will have to come in over the corner and a large bunker tight to the green and this is a tough shot. The green has a severe right to left back to front slope so there are few putts that don't break a few feet. This is a double bogey for the high handicappers, par for the low and an other birdie possibility for the pros. By the way off the tee you have out of bounds on the right and some nasty clover over there also. It is possible to go overland to the green, but be careful the grass in the waste area is tough so your second shot may not go far. For the long ball hitters avoid getting stymied by a big spruce out 215 yards on the right. This hole looks easy but few pars are made here regularly.
Hole 8 ~ Par 3, 168 yards
This hole is a wide open long par 3 with a large green with a gentle slope and only one bunker front left. If you don't make the green on your first shot you will have a second shot from well groomed fairways all around this hole. This green is really fun to putt because it looks flat but in fact putts break of 5 to 7 feet depending on pin placement. Be careful three putts here are not uncommon. This is a par hole so take advantage of it. By the way if the flag is directly behind the bunker go for the flag, there is lots of green to work with.
Hole 9 ~ Par 5, 514 yards
You should be having one of your best rounds ever by this time. Even the bogey golfers are probably carding 37-39 and our low handicappers are 33-35 all looking forward to an all time low score, right. This hole runs directly south towards the Strait into the onshore breezes, so this hole can play like 600 yards depending on conditions. Out of bounds and a large bunker on the left, wide open right and a small bunker at the 235 yard mark so get as much out of your drive as possible. It is possible to get there in 2 but I have only seen it done once. The second shot plays down into a swale 30 to 40 feet below the flag so your third shot will be to an elevated green with very large sweeping undulations. The left side of this green breaks away into a 60 foot gully and creek so keep it right or you are looking at a triple. Par on this hole is excellent for anyone. Take a look at the flag placement before teeing of on hole 1, it could save you a stroke when approaching this very large green.
Hole 10 ~ Par 3, 137 yards
This hole is played from one of two tee boxes, depending on the day and wind. The tee boxes are elevated 60 to 80 feet above the green which is guarded on the front by a large pond. The green has a false front with enough slope not to hold the ball so clearing the water is not enough, play long. Well not to long because anything hit past this green is out of bounds. The long and the short of it will cost you two strokes. Now depending on the wind speed and direction you will have a really interesting shot to this green. You must make allowances for the wind here so read it carefully. A bogey here is good for the average player but there is a good chance for a birdie for the risk takers and marksmen. Starting the back nine with a 6 on a par three is not a good idea, but a lot of players do it here, be careful.
Hole 11 ~ Par 4, 365 yards
If you started out with a bogey on 10 this is not the hole that you will make it up on. This hole runs along a pond and marsh to you right which will not come into play generally. The fairway slopes left to right and is closely mown so play to the left to stay on it with your tee shot. Left is safe up the hill but the secondary cut can hurt your second shot. This gets really interesting because the green is narrow and slopes front to back and left to right. This is a small target so plan on bump and run onto this one to play safe. Do not be long over the back on this one as it slopes quickly to the bottom of a very large swale and coming back to the narrow green is a tough shot. It can provide some good practice for lob wedge players. This is a two putt green so make sure you are there in regulation.
Hole 12 ~ Par 4, 331 yards
This hole is wide open to the Strait with a steep pitch 175 yards out and a very wide easy to hit fairway. Long left is safe and long right is out of bounds so play it down the middle. The long ball hitters will have an easy wedge to the green which might stick on this green which slopes front to back, the ball will probably run to the bottom leaving a difficult 2 putt. Do not try to hit and stick on this green with anything under an eight iron .Best bet is to bump and run onto this one and hope for a stop before the trip to the bottom. This is an easy par for the pros and an easy double for the rest of us. Be careful.
Lucky 13 ~ Hole 13 ~ Par 4, 386 yards
Thirteen is an exciting and challenging hole that runs along the ocean and is a pleasure to look upon. It is a 386 yard par 4 with a dog leg to the right that requires a precise tee shot. The right side of the fairway skirts along the ocean and to make the corner comfortably you need a drive of 230 yards placed accurately because mature trees loom in the middle of the fairway at around 180 yards and along the right edge before the corner a thicket of trees lies in wait for any errant drives.
If you got the drive you wanted you then have a carry of around 150 yards over a pond into a small green that slopes up with a bunker and ocean at the back. You have to factor in the wind which is a constant issue plus a firm green which does not hold shots easily. Any pitch back is going to be tricky if you are long. Many mid to high handicappers play this hole as a lay up hole and happily take bogie but for those bold enough this can be a well earned par. Precision and strategy are important when playing lucky 13.
Sweet Afton - Hole 14 ~ Par 5, 520 yards
The name Sweet Afton sums this hole up most accurately. The Afton River in Scotland was always known as the Sweet Afton because of its beauty and serenity. The song "Flow Gently Sweet Afton" describes this hole and how to play it. For some this is the hole that they would love to skip going directly from 13 to 15. For others, they would play this hole 18 times for the round. Many others would rebuild the green or fill in the tidal marsh to make it to their liking. This hole evokes strong feelings from all who play it be they scratch or bogey golfers. Although this is not the signature hole it is the defining hole in the round of golf for most players. Sweet Afton offers great rewards for risk takers that are successful in their shot making so birdies can be had here but only if earned. On the other hand the penalties for taking the risks and not making the shots will move even the scratch golfer into bogey and double bogey territory. In essence this is the perfect golf hole. Sweet Afton has to be played with the mind coupled with very high quality golf shots so it has become the defining hole for all who play at Glen Afton. Laments are overheard on the tee box at number 15 that could make a best seller if published, "Best Excuses in Golf". This was the most difficult hole to write about simply because justice can not be done in describing this hole, you have to play it to understand why it brings out the best and worst in players.
Sweet Afton flows from a tee box backing on the ocean down to a tidal marsh and then gradually elevating over a rise and down to a target green. Alister MacKenzie always said that the best holes in golf provide for alternate routes and shots with associated risks on the way from tee to green. So it is here as well. From the back tees it is a 320 yard drive across the tidal marsh to the 200 yard marker, making it easy to come in high with a 3 iron sticking it close to the pin for an eagle opportunity. Did I mention that going right on this hole is not a good idea as out of bounds awaits those errant shots, so take care and watch the prevailing westerly breezes that can float a perfect 300 yard drive beyond the white stakes. Keep in mind that a drive of less than 290 yards will leave you with a blind shot as the green is not visible from the tee box side of the hill. Determining the direction of the green from this spot is tricky as the mow lines do not parallel the direction to the hole, nor does the fence line. Through out the day the offshore breeze or wind will cut a lot of distance of the tee shot making the 190 yard carry over the marsh impossible for many golfers. The proudest of the long hitters can put a few balls into this tidal marsh before playing to a bail out area running to the left of the marsh. Conservative play when windy calls for taking the first shot left of the marsh then placing the second shot on the crest of the hill for an easy approach to the green. Don't go to far left or the water in front of 13 comes into play. Although the green is completely open from the front and it is easy to roll the ball on it has a narrow profile, bunkered and mounded on the left and mounded on the right. All shots going right will leave you with a chip shot over high mounds to a green sloping severely away from your shot. There is no chance of an up and down here so you will be looking at a double or if really lucky just a bogey. Now pay attention, this green looks like a good shot can be hit in high of the pin and trickle to the hole. Looks can be deceiving so be warned, play to the bottom of the green under the hole and putt up to the hole for your birdie or par. It is very difficult to learn how to play this hole and advice offered is seldom taken. By the way be careful what you say on the next tee box.
Hole 15 ~ Par 3, 153 yards
This is the last of the group of holes known by some as the "Dirty Half Dozen" starting at hole 10 and ending here. Like it's predecessors this hole can push you into bogey territory very quickly. This hill plays across water to an elevated tiered green protected on the side and back by bunkers. Do not go long into the back bunker because you cannot get up and down from there. Do not play short as the sloping approach will kick your ball back and down the hill leaving you with an opportunity to demonstrate your flop shot in an attempt to preserve par. This green can provide for a lot of fun in efforts to two putt this great equalizer of holes. Be careful here as double bogeys are taken here as often by the pros as by the bogey men. Like all holes at Glen Afton the alternate route is a lay up of the tee out 130 yards from the tee box followed with a wedge to the green still leaving a chance for par.
Hole 16 ~ Par 4, 355 yards
OK breath a sigh of relief you can coast home from here, now is your chance to make up a few strokes starting with this easy par 4. The hole is straight away from the tee, leaving an easy approach shot into a big flat green . The rough on both sides of this fairway are playable so there is not much risk here. Honest!
Hole 17 ~ Par 3, 187 yards
This hole runs directly into the westerly prevailing wind so club selection becomes difficult. On a very calm day a 4 iron will do nicely but there are times when the driver can be used particularly if the pin is at the back of this very deep green which adds another 30 yards to this hole. This can play like 230 or 240 so take care. Accuracy is a must here as the green is flanked on the left with water and a deep bunker on the right. The green is tiered, sloped and very fast also. Did I mention that par would be nice here.
Hole 18 ~ Par 5, 560 yards
This is a hole for the long ball hitters, it is wide open and allows for the power hitters to be there in two. The green is very generous and will hold a ball coming in from the 200 plus yardage markers. Another chance for eagle or birdie.
Comment by Ian Barrett ~ This course is definitely one of those courses with the rare quality of making golf extremely fun to play and extremely fun to talk about afterwards. Glen Afton is the most enjoyable, playable course on Prince Edward Island.