For the first time in several years, 2012 didn’t involve a big trip to the United Kingdom. That meant that for the most part I didn’t get my fix of links golf. I say mainly because I did get to Cabot Links to play the course the way it was designed — in other words fully grown in. That likely topped the list for me in 2012, but there were plenty of interesting courses and events throughout the year.
- Cabot Links officially opened in June, but I didn’t get out to see it until September. I’d say as a public golf experience, the course is without rival, in terms of value and amenities. In fact, I’d say a good case can be made that it is the best public course in Canada and could well be the top of all courses in the country. Regardless, Cabot — a walking-only links located in Cape Breton — turned out to be almost exactly as good as I hoped it would be. Yes, it ends on a weak hole and indeed the cape hole isn’t exactly a cape, but that’s nitpicking. It is tremendously fun to play — and that goes a long way. Now if the new course built near Cabot by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw is allowed to take full advantage of a great site just up the road — than there is little question in my mind that will become the best course in Canada — and perhaps spoken of as among the best anywhere.
- On the same trip I revisited Highlands Links. Ian Andrew concluded some bunker work there as part of a restoration, and the greens at the course were as good as I’ve seen them. In the fall the government announced it would try to find someone to take over the course. In the end, no offer was deemed acceptable, so it is more of the same at Highlands. In other words, GM Graham Hudson will try to make do while the government tries to figure out its next move. No one wins.
- In June I went out to Edmonton to play a group of courses, two of which would let me finish all Top 100 on SCOREGolf’s Top 100 in Canada list. I played Northern Bear (a better than average Jack Nicklaus course) and Royal Mayfair (which then promptly — and wrongly — fell out of the Top 100) to complete all 100. Then Ottawa’s Rideau View made the list and I took a trip to play it (it was solid — I’ve been meaning to review it). I believe I’m the only person on the SCOREGolf panel to play all 100.
- On the same trip I went back to Jasper for the first time in nearly a decade. The course, which was beset by heavy rains and ice damage, was struggling — but it is still a delight to play.
- Late summer I also made a flight to Montreal to see Ian Andrew and Mike Weir’s work on redesigning the second course at Laval sur le Lac. The new course looks like it’ll be good fun to play and the strategies are well considered — exactly as I’d expect from Andrew and Weir. Will it host the 2017 RBC Canadian Open? I hope so — it’ll be a refreshing change.
- The Canadian Open was held at Hamilton this summer and I spent a week there. The winner wasn’t exactly inspiringand the wet course didn’t quite measure up to the other recent times when the Canadian Open has stopped at
Hamilton. Oh well, it’ll be back at Glen Abbey in 2013 — and if history holds true, it’ll rain all week. Then we’ll wish we were back in Ancaster.
- The fall saw two more trips — both unexpected. In November I went to Florida on a Nike junket to see their new clubs and took an additional day to see Streamsong’s 36 holes — one by Tom Doak and the other by Bill Coore. Both are exceptional — without doubt the best public golf in Florida, which in itself isn’t saying much. But I’d compare the two courses to Bandon Dunes without the water. They are that kind of good. I also had the good fortune to be in LA for a day and have dinner with writer Geoff Shackelford before seeing LA Country Club, which Geoff renovated with Gil Hanse. It was also remarkable — among the best inland courses I’ve ever played.
Best new course I saw in 2012: Cabot Links (close runner-up is Coore’s effort at Streamsong)
Best course I played in 2012: LA Country Club (#24 in the US) (close runner-up was Pete Dye’s Casa de Campo in the Dominican)
Silliest rule change: Decision to alter “anchoring” rule
Happy birthday: G4G finishes its eighth year
Fave week of golf: Looping on the Canadian Tour in Scarboro
Worst Mayor in Canada award: Tie — Joe Fontana and Rob Ford
Coolest interview: Pete Dye in the Dominican
Strangest controversy: That people really like Blue Springs. Who knew?
Most commented article: Mike Keiser talks Cabot Links (61 comments, though admittedly 50 are from the same individual)
Oddest golf organizational move: LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan comes to Canada — and no one is told or notices.
Many thanks for your help over 2012: Alan Carter, Jeff Dykeman, Mike Mezei, Jason Logan and Bob Weeks, Ted Manning, Mitch Dawson, Vity Gomes, Nick Starchuk, Liam Mucklow, David Main, Bruce McCarrol, Richard Sullivan, Cameron Jacobs, Chad Cole, Barry Wallis, Jamie Trenholme, Ben Cowan-Dewar, Katherine MacDonald, Graham Hudson, Ian Andrew, Steve Ducat, George Pinches, Bryan Row, Jeff Lancaster, my Canadian traveling companion John Wilczynski, Scott Reid, Bill Coore, Rod Whitman, Chris Yeoman, Dave Schweyer, Dennis Firth, and anyone I might have overlooked who helped me throughout the year. My hat is off to each one of you.