Shocking: Cabot Links is Canada's best new — but where does it rank in the country?

It wouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who even remotely follows the golf business to see Cabot Links take the top spot in Score Golf’s best new course in Canada poll.

After all, no course in Canada — perhaps ever — has captured as much attention or media coverage. All that and the course is really, really strong as well, with interesting nuances built into a broadly conceived course that rolls over an expanse of land between the ocean and Inverness, NS. And despite the opening of Gary Browning’s Blue Devil, and the good things I’ve heard about Tom McBroom’s Southwood relocation, in all honesty neither course had a shot at wresting the top spot from Cabot.

Interestingly, Score made the decision with its new course ranking to list its mark — in the case of Cabot that puts it at 8.57 out of 10. It is worth noting that’s almost exactly the same score Sagebrush received when it opened. Score doesn’t post its marks on its Top 100, but Sagebrush now sits at 11 in the country, a big jump from its initial spot on the list, when it debuted at 28.

So where does that put Cabot?

Considering that I only take into account the course — not the clubhouse, practice facilities (there aren’t any in the case of Cabot) or other amenities — I think Cabot is solidly in the Top 3 in Canada (see SCOREGolf’s list here). Yes, my view is different than many, but I’d put it alongside St. George’s, Highlands Links and Hamilton GC. I think the imagination present in the course sets it apart from the likes of the National, which has fewer options. I have great affection for Hamilton, but also recognize it desperately needs a bunker restoration and changes to its fairway lines. Highlands Links is the best routing in Canada, and has many of the country’s greatest holes (#2, #6, #7, #13, #15), but has struggled with conditioning. Even with improvements to the bunkers undertaken by Ian Andrew, the 6th hole was a mess when I was there in the summer. Most people would not be able to overlook the conditioning struggles at Highlands.

To my way of thinking, that puts Cabot in the very elite in Canada right out of the gate. If it rivals St. George’s then that would likely give it a spot in the Top 100 in the world.

The question is whether it hits that lofty mark? I think it is stronger than Bandon Dunes, David McLay Kidd’s course that kicked off the resort in Oregon, and that currently sits #60 in the world. On the other hand, I think Cabot lacks some of the drama of Kingsbarns, the Scottish creation of Kyle Phillips, that sits at #54. So that range might be where it lands. (See Golf Mag’s list here)

That said, there are detractors of Cabot, or at least those who think it might not quite fit into the “great” category. I ran into a senior golf writer in Florida recently who didn’t seem to think that much of the course and was really put off by its remote location. I told the writer it was easier for him to get to than Bandon (the writer lives in NY), but he didn’t seem to buy into that.

My take is that though it may take a couple of years, Cabot will eventually emerge in Canada’s Top 4. Frankly one of the things holding it back is that many still haven’t seen it. And even then, in the minds of many it’ll be hard for it to eclipse St. George’s or the National or Hamilton. And some raters won’t care for links golf, which could hold it back.

But from my standpoint Cabot was interesting, always entertaining, a constant challenge and a course that demonstrated more of its character each time you play it — and that is greatness in the making.

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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.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • No argument with Cabot Links being the best new course in Canada and, I beleive it is already world calibre (with The National). Once Cabot Cliffs is on line and the airstrip is done, they could both end up in the world’s Top 100 and will be in Canada’s top 10.
    I prefer to it Highlands and St Georges and on par with Hamilton. The National still sits in a league of its own (a sentiment shared by the VAST majority of course raters, golf professionals and designers).
    Also, I don’t believe Score considers clubhouse, practice facilities, beverage carts or other amenities in calculating the Top 100. You’re not alone in your rating methodology RT.

  • Your column makes a good point for Cabot, but to me it will take some time to make top 5 in Canada and Top 100 in the world. I have not played Cabot, and I know ratings lists don’t have deductions for missing amenities and they seem to gain points by not allowing cart golfers, but it does take time (exposure).
    Of course I might be completely obsolete in my judgement. I do hope Ben has the winner he deserves!

    Far more important, WHERE DO SIGN UP TO SAVE THE OLD COURSE ?

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