Appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of LINKS.
IF YOU BELIEVE the book True Links (and I’d be grateful if you would since I’m one of the co-authors), there are fewer than 250 courses in the world that may be classified as genuine links, with more than three-quarters of them in Great Britain and Ireland. Then there’s Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth 40 times the size of the UK, with 151,000 miles of coastline. Its links count? One. And that one has just been born.
On Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Cabot Links has made its debut, a stunner from Canadian Rod Whitman that is the real thing—a windswept, fast-running, seaside test with a look and feel that’s much more Scotia than Nova. It’s the brainchild of Ben Cowan-Dewar, a young Canadian entrepreneur who found the sand-based, 200-acre strip of land between the former coal-mining town of Inverness and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, spent several years acquiring the necessary parcels and permits, and then had the good sense to entice Mike (Bandon Dunes) Keiser into becoming his partner.
Sloping steeply toward the sea, the site brings to mind Scotland’s own 21st-century links, Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart. While Cabot may never reach the heights of those two LINKS100 gems, it is surely unlike anything in Canada (or, for that matter, the eastern U.S.). Whitman took some chances—two nines of par 37 and 33, the front 800 yards longer than the back—but routed a generally out-and-back path with loads of rhythm, challenge, and charm. The homeward half is particularly dramatic, with the Cape-hole 11th (lobster boats swaying in the harbor behind its infinity-edge green) beginning a stretch of six bracing holes along the water.
Cabot is a chore to reach—a flight to Halifax followed by a three-hour drive—but so is Bandon. Also like Bandon, the accommodations (a 48-room lodge) are no-nonsense and there’s not much else to savor—just gorgeous scenery and engaging golf. In other words, plenty.