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Cabot Links: Top 100 hype?

On Monday afternoon I jump on a jet and fly to Sydney, NS, for the second time this year. The trip is only three days long and takes in only two courses — Highlands Links, and Cabot Links. If you’re interested in what’s going on at Highlands, check out golf architect Ian Andrew’s blog or tune in later this week and I’ll provide updates.

However, the real interest lies in seeing a completed Cabot Links.

I’ve been writing about the course since 2005. In case you’re interested, here’s my 2007 article on Scoregolf, and here’s the 2005 article I wrote for my old blog. Interestingly the 2005 article talks about Ben Cowan-Dewar, the course’s managing partner, hoping to get the course open for 2007. And I was comparing the site to Bandon Dunes in 2005 — long before Bandon owner Mike Keiser came on as a partner. In all, I think I’ve written several big features on the project long before there was a course, often about the possibility it might change the economic fortunes of the small town of Inverness, where it resides.

It is now fascinating to see everyone play catch up, dropping superlatives all over the course — which has only had 10 holes open to date. I sort of played 13 in July in that several were only partially completed. This visit will hopefully give me a sense of the scope of the course, though I’ve walked the routing several times.

I wonder, however, about those commenting on it without ever seeing it. Golf Magazine, for example, said it might be Top 100 in the world, but Joe Passov, the magazine’s course editor who runs its Top 100 course panel, has never been there.  Lorne Rubenstein, who to my knowledge also hasn’t seen the course to date, reads the tea leaves of the media and guesses — perhaps correctly — that Cabot will make Golf’s Top 100 list in 2013.

“There’s more buzz about Cabot than just about any new course anywhere,” Rubenstein wrote.

He’s right there. I’d argue that never before in Canada have we seen a course with such a marketing and media push behind it. Before it opened you could “like” it on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter. You could see the Youtube.com postings or the trailer with Donald Sutherland voicing it. I’ve been part of this, of course. I’m more than aware of that.

Why the excitement? Because links golf doesn’t come along very often — look at the interest generated by Kingsbarns or Castle Stuart in Scotland, or Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes or Old Macdonald, all of which entered the Top 100 in the world the first year they were eligible. That’s the kind of buzz we’re talking about — and the kind of company we’re discussing.

I’ve actually heard some in the industry say there’s too much hype behind Cabot. One senior club pro said he was tired of it. “It better be good or Ben [Cowan-Dewar] is going to look like the emperor without any clothes,” the pro said.

I’ve actually asked Cowan-Dewar about this. He laughed and said it is only hype if the course doesn’t live up to it. And he’s convinced it will. Of course he’s been saying the site could host a Top 100 course in the world since before he even had the money to get the project going. Cowan-Dewar is a confident fellow — the type who jumps in to a project in a remote Canadian location while in his twenties, and moves his family out there a couple of years later. No one can say he didn’t believe it — it is just a question of whether his vision translates to the golfing public.

I was impressed during my most recent visit — but I only really played six completed holes. Several others — a short 4, the one-shot hole and par four along the bay — looked stellar. The opening and finishing holes didn’t excite me in the same way, but the course doesn’t need to have 18 all-world holes to be all-world. Show me almost any course in the Top 100 in the world and I’ll show you a course with a weakness somewhere.

All of this is by way of saying I’m fascinated to see whether Cabot’s remaining holes indicate it is another Mike Keiser success — and another Top 100 course in the world.

I guess this latest visit will once again have a “preview” attached to my commentary — just like the one I wrote in July did. But I think I’ll come away with a good sense of just how good this course can be.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Looking forward to hearing about the full 18 holes. If Cabot Links crack the top 100 world wide will that come at the expense of Highlands Links, or could it mean that Cape Breton gets two courses in the top 100?

  • Robert:

    Being a top 100 course in the world is all well and good, as a matter of fact probably better than that.

    But being very familiar with the East Coast the question I have to ask is, who is going to play the course, the tourist season is only about 3 months long and to drive there from mainland Novaa Scotia does not make it lass than an 8 hour game. just where are the golfers going to come from, also is there a resort on site ?

    It is too bad Highland Links, Bell Bay, Cabot Links and the other 3 real good courses on Cape Breton were not more accessible to a higher number of golfers.

    A golf trail would work out well but I would assure you it would be expensive for people from Ontario/Quebec to go that route.

  • Have a good time down there Rob, will look forward to your updates on both Cabot and Highlands.

    I was sorry I did not get a chance to stop by and see Ben at Cabot on my recent trip to PEI.

    BTW, I played Green Gables and was impressed with what McBroom (Chris Nelson) accomplished there. Very playable and good eye appeal.

  • I’m very interested and look forward to playing Cabot Links in 2012. It is the most talked about course since the Castle Course in St Andrews. However, I feel Cabot Links will still be talked about AFTER it opens!
    Planning a Cape Breton/PEI family reunion for 2012, can’t wait to play Highlands again.

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