I’ll do a longer, more thorough discussion of what is going on at Cape Breton’s Highlands Links, which I’m now convinced is the best course in Canada, at a later date. But the one thing I did want to show was the remarkable changes brought about by tree removal on holes 7, 9, 12, and 17.
The change on nine is probably the most transformational, taking a green surrounded by dense trees, which had struggled to grow grass on its green, and making it an open marvel, with long views and options. The change makes it look and feel like a different hole, though I think it is a hole more akin to what Stanley Thompson had in mind.
Here is the hole before the change:
And here is the hole after all of the surrounding trees were removed. The green had thick grass on it.
Here is hole 12 — I don’t have a “before” shot for this one, but I think you get the essence. The hillside will be seeded soon.
And here is 17 before the tree removal:
And here it is after tree removal:
What is the result? Impressive. Conditions that were so deplorable last year, have vastly improved. Sure there’s drainage and other issues, including a forest worth of trees that still need to be taken out, but there was thick poa grass on the greens that previously were almost bare. The course was fun to play and there were few spots I feel needed immediate attention.
I’ve been to Highlands Links six times in the past decade — and it was always a special place and a world-class course. The changes demonstrate that its conditioning doesn’t need to be a stumbling block. That’s a good thing — because with that issue out of the way, I think more people will recognize just how great the course actually is. And it is remarkable — and once again the best in the country.