Will Cabot Cliffs exceed Cabot Links?

Cabot Links managing director Ben Cowan-Dewar points to the cliffs where designer Bill Coore has proposed a remarkable par three.

It is hard to determine whether a great geographic setting will turn into a great golf course. That much is certainly true. The world is full of courses that should have been great given their location, where all the architect had to do was get out of the way and the playing field should have simply resulted in a terrific course. But there are tons of instances where that is not the case.

What does that mean for the second course by the team of Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser, one that looks like it’ll surely go forward next year, with a likely soft opening the following year? With Bill Coore on the project — arguably the best golf architect in the business — there’s tons of potential that the second course at Cabot will eclipse the first one. No guarantees — but lots of promise.

Site of the discussed cliff top par three in Inverness, NS.

The land is fascinating. Apparently Keiser wanted the first course at Cabot to be built there and it is easy to see why. The site — with more than a mile of ocean frontage — runs along gnarly seaside cliffs and plunges down into a dune-filled river valley. The drama of the cliffs — which would rival the highest points at Pebble Beach and surely eclipse those fond at Bandon Dunes — is quite remarkable. Already Cowan-Dewar has discussed a potential par three routed off the cliffs to a point that juts into the ocean.

To me the more intriguing prospect is the area with the dunes. Will the team be allowed to build there or will the land be deemed environmentally sensitive? How close to the ocean and to the river will they be allowed to go? Is there a chance environmental authorities will keep them out entirely?

The natural dunescape where the second Cabot course could potentially reside.

Clearly some of the land is going to be used, as clearing has been done on a wide tract at the top of the cliffs. And Coore has visited the site several times to investigate possible routings, with Keiser there recently to consider routing options.

It looks like the site should yield a stunning course. But right now that’s all it is — a site. However, I’d be surprised if Coore failed to turn it into anything other than a great course. Though it is early going, the site should better that of Cabot Links and yield a stronger course, though one that will be very different than the first effort.

Beyond that I wouldn’t want to speculate. Many find Bandon Trails, the third course at Bandon Dunes, to be the weakest of the bunch, so there’s no guarantee Coore (and potentially design parter Ben Crenshaw) will hit it out of the park in Nova Scotia.

Clearing at the cliffs at Cabot.

But the potential is there — and there’s a distinct possibility the best course in Canada lies a short drive north of the course currently being heralded by many as the best we’ve seen in our borders.


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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.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I agree the site has amazing potential. Bill Coore has a become very comfortable over the last few years and I hope he doesn’t play it too safe, especially with Keiser watching his every step. Thats a great photo of the natural dunescape. That could have potential like his course in Tasmania.

  • From the most anticipated course opening in Canada in years to the even more anticipated course opening in Canada in years and they are yards apart! Hopefully a 2014 September trip will come to fruition. With the second Inverness course, the drive up to Highlands will look longer….

    • “the drive to Highlands will look longer”, not really if Keiser or a good operator takes over and puts some money into it.

  • While some people indicate that Bandon Trails is the weakest of the bunch at Bandon Dunes, people do have to realize that it is a fantastic track and still better than 90% of the courses in the US. Anything that Coore/Crenshaw have touched are wonderful pieces of work and I have no doubt something special will come out of this new build at Cabot Cliffs.

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