Stanley Thompson's Cape Breton Highlands (also commonly called "Highlands Links" on Cape Breton Island is one of a handful of works by the famous golden era architects set in one of Canada's national parks. Like Jasper Park Lodge and Banff Springs, Highlands Links is one of the country's most memorable rounds even if it is remote, located on the island's northeast corner.
Thompson built Highlands Links in 1938 with the help of associate Geoff Cornish as part of efforts to bring a new resort, The Keltic Lodge, to this part of the island (unlike Jasper and Banff, no railway leads to this remote spot of the island). The routing, originally referred to as the "Mountains and Oceans" course, begins on a narrow strip of more exposed ground high above the ocean before heading down and deep into mountains and dense woodlands. One really unique aspect (among very many) is each side has back-to-back par 5s. On the front, the 6th hole ("Mucklemouth meg") is a more reachable, risk-reward hole followed by what is by many measures one of the more epic three-shotters in the north: Killiecrankie is a narrow, uphill double-dogleg 570 yards long with big mounds in the fairway. The green isn't flat, either.
On the back nine, the par-5 15th hole heads downhill towards the ocean, while the 16th then trudges back uphill along a ripping fairway to a small green tucked into a slope.
Recent improvements to the course include tree-clearing projects to improve views, playability and the health of the golf course. Also, a bank was raised along the Clyburn River to mitigate flood damage to the low-lying holes Nos. 11 and 12.
Cape Breton Highlands is located about three hours from Cabot Links and the two are connected by the spectacular Cabot Trail scenic drive, which winds through the mountains before heading out to the coastline and heading south. Golf North has invested millions into the Keltic Lodge resort property in recent years and in addition to the main hotel there are cabins and other larger options for golf groups.