INVERNESS, Nova Scotia -- Somehow, it feels like the original Cabot Links course has been around for years longer than it actually has (2012). But such is the case, perhaps, when the shiny new neighbor, Cabot Cliffs, debuts just up the road. The Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed Cliffs is certainly stealing the majority of the headlines on Cape Breton these days, but Cabot Links, Canada's first true links golf course, designed by the country's own Rod Whitman and spearheaded by Canadian Ben Cowan-Dewar in partnership with Mike Keiser, continues to hold its own. The par-70 course features waterfront holes on each side, including a dazzling stretch from Nos. 14-16 that overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence which connects to the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of Cape Breton. On the front nine, the 5th and 6th holes play along a calm harbor and marina (the par-4 6th is a wonderful, but difficult dogleg left around the water), while the 8th hole plays along the walking trail and shoreline before heading uphill to a massive green shared with the par-4 13th hole. The tee shot on the 13th, by the way, is blind, and golfers aim for a stone at the top of the hill.
Cabot Links also has the added benefit of most of the guest rooms and public areas being within walking distance of the first tee, so it's always a really festive atmosphere. Putting contests on the 18th hole tend to happen well after the sun goes down thanks to a spotlight shining from the nearby Panorama Restaurant and bar area.
Cabot Links, named after the legendary Cabot Trail scenic drive in Cape Breton, is a true links golf course that was built in part on a former mining site. It's walking only but most golfers tend to hire a caddie. The design has been rerouted since opening day, and a new par 3 has been built along the southern edge of the property after acquiring more land. But the totality of the golf course is maturing and flourishing. The fescue turf that is used on the tees, fairways and greens has taken hold and has managed the busy summer tee sheets of the short golf season on Cape Breton Island.
Staff reviews of Cabot Links: Brandon Tucker
Video feature: Brandon Tucker visits Cabot Links, Cliffs and Highlands Links
Getting to Cabot
Much like Cabot's links golf brother Bandon Dunes on the other side of North America, getting here isn't that easy but to some of those golf groups coming for the first time, it's part of the fun.
Most international travelers will likely fly into Halifax and make the drive, about three hours, to Inverness. You can shave a little time off if you fly into Sydney, but that's only a good option if you're connecting from one of Canada's larger hubs like Toronto or Montreal. Those who want to fly private can arrange transportation into Port Hawkesbury Airport, which is less than an hour away.
Cabot Links has developed into a full-fledged golf resort and continues to offer more and more accommodation options, including more guest rooms, villas, and most recently they've even begun selling a small amount of real estate. Cottages are also being built on the south side of the 7th hole and will overlook the shoreline. The Public House also recently opened and has become the most popular place for drinks and pub grub, and also has live music on many nights.