I recognized recently that the first time I wrote about Cabot Links, the new course in Inverness, NS, was almost seven years ago. I’ve been fascinated by the project and was very pleased to see it work out so well when I visited last week. As mentioned in my review, I wanted to provide some more detail of the holes designed by Rod Whitman. And don’t make any mistake — this is a design job in that the site had a few natural features, but most were created by Whitman.
I’ll post holes 7-12 on Monday.
Hole 1 – not a spectacular opening, and tricky from an operational perspective since the tee shot is played over a rise and disappears, with a hill on the right side of the fairway. The left landing isn’t well defined, leaving some intrigue to the tee shot. However, the hole is an apt introduction to Cabot Links given the width of the fairway, the chipping hollows around the green and the judicious use of bunkers, which are almost always strategic as opposed to being for show. Like many links courses, the opening and closing holes aren’t the most memorable or strategic, and that’s the case at Cabot as well. Solid, though perhaps not as visually appealing as others.
Hole 2 – This par five seems to be gathering a lot of attention, with some comparing it to Pebble Beach’s sixth. I’m not sure I see the comparison, but this is a dramatic hole full of options, especially if played from the appropriate tee. I do wonder if that back tee – which requires a significant carry over naturalized areas – makes sense for anyone, but the other tee boxes allow golfers to try a bold approach (perhaps down the right side) or play safer. From there decisions need to be made. An isthmus of turf juts out on the right, providing golfers with a direct route the green, which is set in a faux dune. Those playing to the left may lose sight of the green, which also plays away from the shot that comes in from the safety of the left. A smart hole that I’ve learned to enjoy the more I play it – though designer Rod Whitman almost ignored the more difficult back tees during our recent round together. One of the best on the course.
Hole 3 – once conceived as the finishing hole at Cabot, it would have been more dramatic than the existing finishing hole. Played downhill from a tee shot off the raised ridge in the centre of the property, bunkers guard both side of this wide fairway. Fairway lines hadn’t been established when I played there, however a bunker of the left side will reside in the fairway, not along the rough line. The ideal line is down the right, but it brings more trouble into play. If Whitman and the Cabot team were looking for options and drama, this would perhaps have been a more memorable finishing hole. However, it certainly doesn’t have the difficulty of the existing closer.
Hole 4 – When compared with the first par five, the fourth appears ill-defined and a little plain. A large bunker looms down the right side and additional hazards are carved into the dune on the right side of the fairway. For those willing to try to play over the corner of the bunker, a wide target to the green is achievable. In most other instances it is likely a three shot par five. The greensite is not one of the better ones on the property, and it is located on the least dramatic land of the course. However, a golf course is like a great song – it has pauses and dynamics. This is a breather before the drama unfolds.
Hole 5 — Likely on the least interesting piece of property on the golf course, Whitman has created a smart par three that is the longest on the course without becoming the hardest. Patterned after a Biarritz, it sports a green with a U-shaped dip in the middle of this 255-yard hole. That said, it has a single bunker on the right side and is on-grade coming into the green, allowing for a running shot when the weather warms and the ground is firm. The dip in the green is large enough to pin, presenting a variety of pinning options. Very cool. Sorry I don’t have a good photo of this one — it was very wet when we played it. I made birdie the first time we played it, but designer Rod Whitman made the first birdie on the hole the day previous. Foiled again!
Hole 6 – A short par four with some quirky elements. Fescue-filled lumps in the fairway, and one in front of the green immediately reminded me of Cruden Bay’s 17th hole, though I’m not sure Whitman has ever been there. Drivable to some, it is the narrowest fairway on the course, located between a scrub-waste area on the right and a sandy native area on the left. The lumps – hopefully they don’t become like the Castle Course at St. Andrews so-called Don King’s – provide strategy as well; those trying to play a pitch to a front flag will have to deal with them, a daunting and difficult proposition. Aesthetically this is a stunner, with the ocean providing a panorama behind the green.