Previous hole-by-hole writeups on Cabot:
13 (443 yards): One of a series of long par fours on the back nine at Cabot, this one has a tee shot that plays upwards to a wide fairway shared with 11. The tee shot is played up over a bunker set in a hill that will be one of the most difficult for many. It played into the prevailing wind when I was there, making the 200 yard carry daunting. The approach is played to the right half of the double-green shared with 11. A very cool hole and the double green works given its expansiveness.
14 (105 yards): Arguably the most discussed hole at Cabot, this short par 3 is stunningaesthetically with the ocean providing the backdrop. On a calm day it is a little sand wedge, but if the wind blows off the ocean, as it did when I was visiting the course the second time, it can be challenging. The green seems to play slightly away, meaning it is quite conceivable to have balls release over the back of the green and end up on the back 15th tee. The pot bunker on the right gobbles up balls that catch the right side of the green. A fun, sporty hole.
15 (418 yards) : Truly exceptional if played off the back tee which resides behind the 14th green. The fairway is expansive, but the challenging approach shot means you’ll want to advance the ball as far as possible off the tee. What makes the 15th hole is Whitman’s clever use of a centre bunker at the green, meaning the putting surface starts on the left and sweeps around the back of the bunker. Considering the approach is uphill, the shot is made that much more difficult by the single hazard. A multitude of short grass in the surrounds allows golfers to recover – even putting if they miss.
16 (459 yards): Another of the big fours on the back, this one reminded me of the
fourth at Pacific Dunes just in reverse. Another wide fairway, there’s a bunker in the left side of the fairway that is reachable, while another large bunker looms up the right side. The greensite is stunning, set near the rising sand wall that comes off the beach, with a dip in front and one of the nastiest, rugged bunkers behind the green. The hole looks perfectly natural and is, without doubt, one of the strongest, most picturesque on the course. From here you play away from the ocean.
17 (171 yards): After you put out on the 16th, you turn and begin to head inland back towards the clubhouse. This par three, while at first appearing a bit understated, is one of the smarter designs on the course and one of the first holes to be completed when I visited a couple of years ago. The front bunker is actually quite short of the green, while a second deep bunker protects the left half. Interesting pins abound, as the green rises to the back corner. A dip in front of the green is sure to swallow anything mishit. Understated and clever.
18 (481 yards): The question with the finishing hole at Cabot is whether it is a par four or five. Designer Rod Whitman conceived of the hole as a short five, but it has been changed on the card to a long four. The difficulty of the hole depends on the wind. If played from the green tees at 458-yards, it is possible to catch the speed slot in the fairway, propelling the ball forward and allowing a mid-iron approach. If that slot is missed, it is quite conceivable to hit a fairway wood approach to a green set near the clubhouse. I wonder if it could have been lengthened – something Whitman says he considered – making it a three shot hole. As it is, it is one of those half-shot holes; in other words, this is a par 4.5 hole and if you find the green in two, you’ve hit a couple of fine shots.
As for the hole itself, the tee shot is up a rise, so you likely won’t see the ball land and it can be played more from the right than one would initially expect. The green is long and protected by bunkers, but is an ample surface to be hit even by a fairway wood. However, I still wonder about the proximity of the clubhouse – at least those sitting in the bar or outside will have a close view of the action.
Conclusion: As mentioned previously, I think Cabot Links is world class, perhaps the best course built in Canada since Highlands Links opened in 1941. Its setting, smart design and strong interior holes, coupled with six or seven outstanding ocean holes, make it the best modern course in Canada. Additionally it will be playable by all; depending on the tees played it won’t ever have many forced carries. There are several holes on Cabot that rank with the best in Canada (2, 8, 9, 14-16) and partners Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser have nailed the details on both the course and the facilities.
This is a course I’ve seen developed over seven years. When I first went to Inverness with Cowan-Dewar, he didn’t have financing in place and the project was more of a dream than reality. He’s made that dream come true – and if a second course goes forward as discussed, Cabot Links could truly become Bandon Dunes East.