Posted On: Saturday, October 15, 2022
The 16th hole at Cabot Cliffs with Margaree Island in the background.
By Steve Harron
After my round at Cabot Links Golf Club in Inverness, Cape Breton I sat on the patio overlooking the stunning course and watched the sun go down.
It was a spectacular setting, with the sparkling waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence creating an impressive backdrop. And I remember thinking as I sipped on my Irish Red beer that golf doesn’t get any better than this.
As it turned out, I was half-right. Why? Because the only thing better was to combine the experience with a round at the Links’ sister course - Cabot Cliffs - which I was able to do on my East Coast trip.
And after playing both courses I can tell they are the best one-two punch I’ve ever seen.
But don’t just take my word for it. Google the two courses and you’ll discover they are considered among the best in North America - if not the world.
When Cabot Links was first eligible for SCOREGolf magazine’s Top 100 list it debuted at No. 2 in Canada. And the Cliffs, which opened in July 2015, is now #1 in Canada.
So this leads to the obvious question: what makes these courses so great? Opinions may vary but what I think separates them from the pack is the combination of great golf holes and jaw-dropping scenery.
The routing is brilliant and they are both highly playable with generous fairways. And both courses make you think - a lot!
A great example of this is the 4th hole at the Links. It’s an uphill 410-yard hole (from the green tees) that offers you a shorter route on the left side if you’re willing to flirt with the tall fescue grass and fly your tee shot over a bunker. Or you can bail out to the right and have a longer approach shot. But this option also brings several bunkers into play.
Another brain tester is the par 5 16th at the Links. It’s a gorgeous hole that runs along a bluff above the beach and requires a forced carry to a fairway that slopes toward the ocean. The green is toward the cliff’s edge so any shots to the left get you into big trouble, as I discovered. The smart play is to take advantage of the large green by playing to the right side and try for a two-putt. Maybe next time!
Another brilliant strategy hole is the par 4 second hole at the Cliffs. The tee is elevated and the fairway is designed so the forced carry increases as you move from left to right. You’ll need to take into account the pin placement and figure out the best angle for your approach to the horseshoe-shaped green, which is protected by a large natural sand dune and lots of gnarly rough. This risk-reward hole definitely has the wow factor and that can be said about most of the holes at the Cliffs.
In fact, every hole has a different look. And that’s part of the fun. On the par 3 6th hole you’ll tee off between two large sand dunes and try to hit a two-tiered green.
And things really get interesting when you hit the four finishing holes. Fifteen is a beautiful downhill par 5 that offers up stunning views of the ocean and Margaree Island.
The 16th is a par 3 from one cliff top to another with an ocean inlet in between. It’s a sweaty-palmed thrill ride with little room for error.
Then comes the par 4 17th, which has the scariest tee shot I’ve ever seen. In fact, from the green and black tees you can’t even see the fairway. It’s on the other side of the hill and there’s a little flag on the top of the hill indicating the best line. But all you’re looking at is vegetation, rocks and the ocean below. It’s a short par 4 at only 277 yards from the green tees and once you’ve played it you’ll realize it’s not as tough as it looks. But it’s still plenty tough.
The 18th is a great finishing hole along the ocean and allows you to catch your breath after the knee-knocking tee shots at 16 and 17.
Two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw and Michael Coore deserve a lot of credit for creating such a terrific design on this breathtakingly beautiful piece of property.
This new course, in combination with the Rod Whitman-designed Cabot Links, definitely makes Cape Breton a major player in the golf destination business. Especially considering that one of the top golf courses in the world - Highland Links - is only a two-hour drive away.
What a triple play that would be!
For more information on Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs CLICK HERE