Sympatico: The restoration of Highlands Links

The second fairway, with the third green to the right. Previously it was surrounded by trees.

My weekly Sympatico column is now up, and this week includes a video interview with golf archtect Ian Andrew. What more can you hope for from free media?

Contrary to at least one media report, I found Highlands to be in fine shape this year, with greens that were vastly improved from a couple of years back. Discussions I’ve had with people who have visited the site suggest those conditions continue to get better. Nice to hear after all the struggles.

Anyway, here’s a taste — the video is embedded in the story:

Highlands Links has long been regarded as the crown jewel of Canadian public golf courses. A magnificent work of art by Canada’s foremost golf architect, Stanley Thompson, Highlands, located in Cape Breton, NS, has held a coveted place among the best golf courses in the world for 70 years. Canada’s only “mountains and oceans” golf experience, those who have played on its fairways can attest to its genius, its staggering beauty and the drama that rumbles throughout a round.

In recent times that brilliance has been somewhat muted, the victim of being part of Parks Canada, a federal government division that is used to running historical sites, not operating golf courses. Adding to its troubles was a violent storm that hit the coastal course late last year, badly damaging numerous holes.

The course’s fortunes are changing under the guidance of the course’s general manager, Graham Hudson, and Brantford, Ont.-based golf architect Ian Andrew. Over the past few months Andrew, a golf designer heralded for his uncanny ability to recapture features lost on courses over time, has brought Highlands Links back to life, using historical photos to resurrect bunkers and opening up ocean vistas lost to dense woodlands.

“I think of Highlands as the top course in the country and top 50 in the world,” says Andrew, 44, who previously worked on the restoration of St. George’s in Toronto, site of the 2010 RBC Canadian Open. “People who have been playing it always have fun there. They may be concerned about conditioning, but say how much fun it is to play.”

The entire column is here. 

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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.

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