Thompson’s Highlands Links in Cape Breton Highlands National Park remains my favorite. I have been fortunate to play courses in many different countries but when anyone happens to ask my favorite course, my answer is quick, Highlands Links. I’ve always liked the way the course moved along the ocean and then inland through the Clyburn Valley. It is not just the course that makes this place special for me, but the whole feeling of the area.
I have played other Thompson designs, especially here in the Maritimes – Digby Pines and Green Gables on P.E.I., just to name a few and both are great, playable golf courses.
Recently I played another Thompson course, one he actually owned, Cutten Fields in Guelph.
It wasn’t my first time there. I had played it last year with my son Paul, who is member of this private club. The course was actually designed by Chick Evans of Chicago. Evans did the original routing of the course and Thompson was brought in to do the detailing of the holes. Thompson’s hand is all over this layout.
The course was built by Guelph native Arthur Cutten who made his millions as a commodities speculator in the U.S. Interestingly Arthur Cutten had a Nova Scotia connection. (I figured there must be a reason I liked this course.) His father Walter was a lawyer, banker and city alderman from Nova Scotia and his great-grandfather, George Barton Cutten, was the president of Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. from 1910 to 1922.
Cutten Fields opened in 1931 and in 1939 after Cutten’s death, Thompson, along with Toronto stockbroker Donald Ross, (according to the history) purchased the Cutten Fields, which in time gained the nickname Cutten Club. In 2011, on the 80th anniversary of the course, which is now owned by the University of Guelph, the course reverted to its original name Cutten Fields.
This design is a treat to play. Very walkable in very much a parkland setting. Several of the treed –lined fairways remind me of some holes on the Old Ashburn course in Halifax which Thompson also designed. That course opened 18 holes in 1925.
Cutten’s greens are large, very quick and with lots of break. It’s a good solid test for any ability but you must make sure you pick the proper tee to match your ability.
A highlight for me was to see where Thompson lived in a house along the 16th fairway and to sit on a stone bench under a tree that bears his name. Quite a thrill!
After a relatively mild winter the course was in great shape in early May and COO Craig Moore said changes are being made to make this challenging course even better.
In addition to the course, the Cutten Fields has a very charming and comfortable clubhouse, excellent pro shop, practise facilities and tennis facilities. It is a great family facility that I’m sure Arthur Cutten would be pleased to see if he was around today.