Cabot Links, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
Architect: Rod Whitman
Public: Opened July, 2012
Cabot Links is the first true links course in Canada and its opening is the fulfillment of a dream for founder Ben Cowan-Dewar, along with architect Rod Whitman, Mike Keiser and the rest of the team involved in the project.
I firmly believe that Cabot Links will evolve into the “St. Andrews of Canada” or “Canada’s Bandon Dunes” over time, with the addition of other courses and the expansion of the hotel.
Cabot Links is located in the town of Inverness on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. Inverness, once upon a time, was a mining town, but it has been depressed since the coal industry moved on.
The course and hotel have breathed new life into Inverness, creating over 150 jobs with more on the way when Coore & Crenshaw being construction on the second course just 2 miles up the beach.
Cabot Links sits between the town and the sea, which is reminiscent of some of the great links of Scotland and Ireland.
Arriving at Cabot currently requires a flight into Halifax, Nova Scotia followed by a 3 to 4 hour drive onto Cape Breton and up the west side of the island to Inverness. If you can fly private then there is an air strip near Inverness (lucky you!).
The course opened about a month ago and will mature nicely over time. The greens are currently slower than target speed due to unseasonably warm and dry conditions this summer, and some elements of the course are still growing in, but this track is already a lot of fun to play and the setting is spectacular as you can see in the photo tour below.
Cabot Links is very walkable and 36 a day should not be a problem for the walking golfer. Caddies and pull carts are available. I was excited to see so many husband/wife twosomes and groups of women walking the course. Cabot is certainly not “guys only”, which I tend to see at Bandon Dunes. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing?
In terms of walkability, Cabot Links is one of the easiest links courses to navigate on foot that I have ever played. The land is rolling and it slopes from the hotel down to the beach. The architect has done a very good job of minimizing green to tee walks while maximizing the property he had to work with. The 2nd fairway has a bit of a climb, you walk across a road from the 9th to 10th and then back across again from the 11th to 12th. There is a bit of a climb up from 13 green to 14 tee and then 17 and 18 climbs gently back to the clubhouse. If Bandon Dunes is a 3.75 out of 4 and Pacific Dunes is a 3.5 out of 4, then I would comfortably place Cabot at 3.5. My father and his friends, all over 60 years old, walked 36 a day comfortably during our visit.
Rating Architecture and Aesthetics for a newly opened course is a bit challenging because the conditioning plays into aesthetics and it is always better in year two than year one and the greens are also faster and more pure. In 2012, expect the greens to stimp around 8 on their way to 10 in 2013 which will be perfect. If you need super pure greens to enjoy a round, then you may elect to wait until next year to visit Cabot Links. If you are like me and love walking a links course as long as it’s playing firm and fast then Cabot is ready for you to visit now.
Aesthetically, Cabot Links must be one of the most beautiful and serene walks in golf. The setting is spectacular due to the combination of several elements. The manner in which the town, the course, the surrounding hills and homes, and the sea work together to peak the golfer’s senses is amazing. The course will mature over time, the greens will get faster, the lines in the grass showing where irrigation lines are located will go away and it will play even firmer and faster, but the experience at Cabot Links is already special. Whitman routed an intriguing design over and around the humps and bumps and internal wetlands on the property. He takes you to the sea, towards the hills, back to the town, out to the linksland, along the beach and back to the clubhouse as if you were on a relaxing stroll. Cabot Links, in my opinion, does not have the highs or lows of a course like Pacific Dunes, it is much more constant in quality with a few average holes, a lot of good ones and a couple of gems in #15 and #16.
The number of women I saw playing Cabot Links alludes to the playability of the course, which is excellent. The Royal Blue tees play to 3,733 yards while the tips are a reasonable 6,803 yards at Par 70. The course has a lot of elasticity while challenging all skill levels. In sedate conditions it is easier to score at Cabot but when the wind gets up it becomes a linksy challenge. Strategically, the course does make you think. There is usually a safe play off the tee and a more risky one. There are many options to run the ball, some banks to play of on approaches, bail outs long or to the side of greens, etc. The thoughtful golfer will fare much better than the tunnel visioned one on these links.
Overall, I would rate Cabot Links a very strong 9 out of 10.
TWG Rating for Cabot Links:
3.5 / 4 – Walkability
3.5 / 4 – Architecture and Aesthetics
2.0 / 2 – Strategy and Playability
9.0 / 10 – Total