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.
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?
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.
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.