This was my third time back to Cabot Links since it opened in 2012, so of course I knew what I was getting into, but as I was walking to what I thought was the first hole (the blind, dogleg right that heads over the big bunker), everyone in my group asked where I was going.
Turns out, the course has been rerouted since 2014. Even the caddies in our group, new since then, thought I was hallucinating.
Now, the course starts out fairly similar to Cliffs in that it's a south-facing par 5 that is all in front of you, and what used to be the demanding par-5 2nd hole is now the 11th. The old opener (now the 10th) reminded me a lot like Pacific Dunes' first. I think the new 1st and 2nd are among the less memorable holes, so maybe that's what Cabot was going after.
This was my first trip to Cabot playing the Links and Cliffs. Having played Cliffs twice before my round on Links, I was curious how I'd find the round. My takeaways were that there are long par 4s on Links, whereas there isn't really a brutish 4 on Cliffs. Maybe it's just because my swing was a little lazy having played a full 18 on Cliffs in the morning, but I think there are some legitimately more difficult holes on Links (the slope/rating for the par 70 Links is much lower, however).
I'd say the main difference between Links and Cliffs is that it seems that on practically every tee, Cliffs is trying to outdo itself with spectacle. Links, meanwhile, has ups and downs to it, with some holes more mellow than others, that make the standouts that much better. And there's something much more authentic about playing a links right in the town with church steeples as aiming lines.
Cliffs has a more spectacular 18, no question, but I think Links still holds its own and is a totally different piece of property and design. It's a slightly easier walk but not by much. If playing 4 rounds at Cabot, I think I'd still split it up 2-2. And you can't beat finishing up on 18 with the sun setting and the light coming on the green.