This is without a doubt the most unique golf experience I have ever enjoyed: a true links course which required more imagination than any other course I’ve played, putting on fescue greens, and too many postcard holes to identify. And while the superlatives of the scenery, links layout and its impressive placing in the top 100 golf courses in the world are all appropriate, I was impressed with their staff commitment to professionalism, service and honest east coast hospitality and care (I mean, fresh cookies on the first tee?). For travelers, the staff are responsive year around, able to help coordinate your bookings (we did not stay in their accommodations, but I wish we had).
With any breeze this is a stout test and wind is clearly the strongest form of defense for this course. However, bunkers and large greens are a close second and third. Cabot utilizes a caddie program which, according to my friends playing in the group ahead was a sound investment. Forecaddying, reads on the undulating greens, and local knowledge on when to play run up shots along with some great stories of the course and community provided the scope of service they said helped make the round more enjoyable. It’s an experience I will gladly pay for next time I play at Cabot Links, but not having had experience with a caddy you don’t miss what you don’t know.
If this course has piqued your curiosity, you’ll be excited to know plans are well underway for a complementary (and I agree with Robert Thompson that it’s a potentially exceeding) 18 just north of the current layout, to be called Cabot Cliffs. With an affinity for the east coast I have read for many years and with great interest the story of Cabot Links, how it has helped to transform this former mining town into a Canadian (and now global) golf destination. A second course will garner much interest – a la Bandon Dunes – but if you’re willing to make time to travel to Inverness, this course will be a crown jewel of an experience that could (and should) include other Cape Breton golf and the legendary Cabot Trail.
I can’t wait to get back. This is a world class golf course, and should be on every avid golfer in Canada’s Bucket List. You’ll be well taken care of, and will enjoy a golf experience which you will not soon forget. Of course, my experience was slightly different than Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella, who traveled to Cabot Links and played with Cabot Cliffs designers Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore (talk about a priceless experience)
Aura – 9 out of 10 (I am saving 10 for the prospect of Cabot Cliffs)
Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10. This is not an inexpensive round, or trip for that matter, but the experience and memories alone place this as solid value.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – playing firm and fast, the fescue greens and clever undulations and bunkering make it challenging – 9 out of 10
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – I forgot about my score and relished the unique and enjoyable nature of the golf – 10 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – Leave the pro shop to the first tee area and just smile…your next 4.5 hours are going to be good. My favourite hole is the par 4 16th, looking northward to the Atlantic. Even the sound of the ball hitting the cup is amazing! The 11th is a unique and beautiful hole playing along the harbour. At the turn, get the lobster sliders.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – warm-up facilities – hopefully something that Cabot Cliffs can address. Driving over 2.5 hours to play with no substantial practice facilities is unfortunate, but a very minor blemish on an otherwise spectacular experience. If you like single malt scotch, just south of Cabot Links is the Glenora Distillery. Sampling tours are available!
Just So You Know – Great social media presence; excellent website and active twitter account @cabotlinks (which proprietor Ben Cowan-Dewar operates); if you’re willing to take a chance on their shoulder season, great value is possible for 36 holes a day mid fall (late fall weather can be very nice in Cape Breton).
My Best Shot – With a drive barely missing the far right bunker my approach to 16 was legendary, a high draw with a soft landing and gentle release left to the back of the green. Settled nicely about 8 feet from the hole (and no, the birdie putt did not go down, lipped out). But for my favourite hole on my favourite course, a tap in par was a memorable treat!
Playing Partner Notes – “I wouldn’t change a single thing about the course. Except maybe if my caddy looked more like Kate Upton”