Your golf reporter recently returned from a travel swing through Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, where he discovered four fascinating courses that are smile makers and heart takers.
This is the fourth and final article in a series of what Ottawa-area players can look forward to when they book a trip east through Golf Cape Breton:
Whether it’s the golf purist looking to score birdies on terrain like that of the game’s original courses or the recreational player wanting to play a genuine Scottish-links layout, they’ll all have a ball on the new Cabot Links track.
The 18-hole course is located on the craggy coastline of Cape Breton between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the town of Inverness. The huge body of water can be seen from every hole and five holes reach the border of the beach.
I had the opportunity to play two rounds on the track that lives up to the billing of being an exact match of layouts in Scotland.
Along with playing partner Ian McNeil of Ian McNeil Real Media and our astute caddies Shane and Jurgen, I was pummeled on an overcast first day by 60- to 80-klick winds that put a premium on ball flight control during the first round.
It was great trying to steer shots to the green spaces while making every effort to avoid the rough that grows in various heights and hues from yellow through to light and darker shades of brown and the pot bunkers with steps in them.
McNeil and I teed it up on the second day in less challenging conditions, which changed the game plan to a more traditional hit-longer-clubs-off-the-tee approach.
The fluctuating conditions added to the authentic experience since Cape Breton’s weather mirrors Scotland’s by flipping from blustery to calm in short order.
Cabot Links plays to par 70 (37 going out, 33 coming in) and accommodates all levels of golfers by featuring five sets of tees. They measure 6,803 yards from the tips to 3,733 yards from the fronts.
A terrific welcoming touch were the cookies provided by the starter Brenda and the moist towel to wipe off with at the end of the game was also appreciated.
Players from Canada, the U.S. and Europe have already checked out Cabot Links in increasing numbers.
I’ve no doubt that its popularity will take off even more as word spreads about the splendid track and politeness of the people of Inverness (cars stopped on the main street to allow us to cross and locals said “Hello” as we passed them on the sidewalk).
Cabot Links went from being a vision to becoming a reality after co-owner Ben Cowan-Dewar purchased the land and together with Enterprise Cape Breton got things started.
Cowan-Dewar then added the expertise of fellow co-owner Mike Keiser and they brought in architect Rod Whitman to create a golf course that is a tribute to the birthplace of the game.
Cowan-Dewar and Keiser both believe in the captivating allure of links golf and Keiser’s track record proves golfers love playing beside large bodies of water on harsh terrain.
His Bandon Dunes resort is situated on a jagged piece of Oregon coastline. Bandon Dunes features a quartet of championship courses (three of which are true links tracks) and was voted the best golf resort on the globe in a recent Golfweek poll.
Amazing accommodations are in the mix at Cabot Links, too.
The 48-room lodge that was designed by architect Susan Fitzgerald and she evidently believes in the saying: When you’ve got the goods, put them in the window.
Every room features floor-to-ceiling windows that provide dynamic views of the track and the sea. Each entry door greets guests with a famous and witty golf quote, the beds are large and comfy, the bathrooms are stylish and there’s a flatscreen TV and Wi-Fi.
Players can kick back after a round while savouring world-class dining in the upscale Panorama Restaurant and Cabot Bar.
Celtic culture isn’t only on display at and beside the course.
“When golfers visit the surrounding area, they’ll be treated to the warm hospitality that the folks of Cape Breton are known for providing to their visitors,” said McNeil. “They’ll also be able to have a great time listening to Celtic music and dine on cuisine that includes the best lobster found anywhere.”
We had the opportunity to do just that by driving down the road to The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou.
Owned by the famous Rankin clan, the food choices came in family-sized portions, tasted great and were accompanied by enthusiastic entertainers of the Celtic variety.
And no golf holiday starring a Scottish theme would be complete without exploring where fine spirits are created.
The Glenora Inn and Distillery complex is located in Glenville, which is a few klicks south of Inverness. Glenora produces North America’s first and Canada’s only single malt whisky.
The distillery’s gift shop is also stocked with a nice selection of zesty and tangy sauces that are an ideal way to bring extra zing to any meal.
It looks like Cabot Links is only the beginning of golf course development in the area.
A second 18-hole layout called Cabot Cliffs is in the preliminary planning stages for about 1.6 klicks north of Cabot Links. The architects are PGA Tour legend Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
Cowan-Dewar has said the best-case scenario would see construction starting in the spring, with golf being played in the fall of 2014 and the official launch happening in 2015.
For more details and to book a Cabot Links Golf Package, call 1.855.652.2268 or e-mail http://firstname.lastname@example.org.