Cabot Links debuts in world Top 100


Golf Magazine unveiled it list of newcomers to its world Top 100 golf course list yesterday. Along with Donald Trump’s course in Scotland and a Coore/Crenshaw design in China, Cabot Links, located in Inverness, NS, cracked the list at 82.

The course, designed by Rod Whitman, is a splendid and occasionally brilliant links built on a former mine site on the west coast of Cape Breton. I wrote in 2011 that Cabot was likely the best in the country — the Golf Magazine ranking would seem to support that.

Think of this as the Academy Awards for golf courses. The panel at Golf Mag is well-travelled and knows its golf. The world list doesn’t change that much or that often — and cracking it is a rare achievement. I kind of suspected Cabot would make the jump, though I know others who argued the course is more akin to a Tier Two links (think Nairn or Enniscrone) and doesn’t warrant a spot.

cabot2_bunkerI think it is very solid and stunning in places, with great holes along the coast and the bay, and only the decidedly awkward 18th as a drawback.

Cabot’s debut is pretty impressive — and the highest for a Canadian course ever. Interestingly in recent years there have only been three courses on the list — Hamilton (for a brief time before falling off), St. George’s (which sat 90th on the list in 2011) and Highlands Links (which resided at 98th).

Apparently it is now one of two courses on the Top 100 list. Highlands Links, which ranked in the 60s on the list at one point, has fallen off, the victim of inability on behalf of the federal government to figure out what to do with the course. GM Graham Hudson has done the best he can given his limitations, but the Federal Government, and specifically Parks Canada, have not given the course the resources it needs to succeed. Conditioning has been suspect over recent years– and that’s probably what knocked Highlands off the list. Imagine the Top 100 list as the Michelin Star rating for golf courses. Highlands has lost its star — and it is unlikely to get it back.

One thing worth noting about Cabot Links is that two of its principals — Ben Cowan-Dewar and Ran Morrissett — are members of the Top 100 panel. An interview with Ben is here. 

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Jeff Lancaster

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I think St. George’s moved up to 87. Sad to see that Highlands has dropped out…has potential to be perennial top 50.

    • The fact the St. Geroge’s is ranked ahead of The National, Hamilton, Coppinwood and Jasper (to name a few as there are several more) indicates this survey is seriously flawed. Cabot does deserve to be there. St George’s does not.

    • Entitled to your opinion, J, but you’d be in the minority on that one (obviously, considering the list is built on the opinions of 100+ people). The survey can’t be ‘seriously flawed’ because opinions can’t be flawed…they are merely opinions, and you know what they say about opinions…

      To give you my mine, St. George’s is at least a notch better than all the courses you mention and deserves to be ranked ahead of some of the American parkland courses ahead of it (ie. the host venue for the PGA this week). So I guess that balances us off.

  • Robert,
    It’s interesting to note that the rating for Highlands falls when in fact the course has seen many improvements over the past 4 years. I’d like to see the list of criteria that the raters use to make their assessment. Does anyone have access to this list?

  • Greg,

    It’s a combination of conditioning, the bar being raised on people’s expectations on remote courses and the internet making bad news immediate and public. Raters who came ten years ago, came back last year and the conditions disappointed them.

    • Ian, I understand that conditions will always be a factor when rating a course but I would like to understand what weight course conditions rate in the overall rating system (I am assuming there are a number of criteria used when rating a course?)

      Not being a rater myself and thinking about the number two rule in golf I would think that variety of holes, green diversity, strategy off the tee and on second shots, ambiance, challenge for single digit handicap player and dubs, …….. would all carry a much higher rating factor than conditioning. Maybe I’m wrong? What do you think?

  • Greg, like you, I would place conditioning somewhat down the list of my priorities when considering the overall merit of a golf course. Any time I have played HL it’s in such poor condition that I can’t quibble with it being dropped from the GM top 100.

  • Cabot Links seems to be a world class course from what I’ve read about it. However, I would take the musings of a US golf publication relative to rankings with a grain of salt. Is it surprising that Golf Magazine has more than 50 of the top 100 courses in the US. I don’t think so. Why is Bandon Dunes, the same kind of course as Cabot Links, more than 20 places higher? Well, it’s because it’s in the US and Cabot Links is not. It’s as simple as that.

  • @al – Cabot has been open for 13 months while Bandon Dunes has been open for about 15 years. How many raters have been to Cabot yet? Give it some times and the second course at Cabot Cliffs.

  • Great point, Wayne. I was just using the Bandon Dunes-Cabot Links comparison to make the point that the quality of US courses and the level of difficulty is often overstated by American chest thumping. But there are likely better examples and your point is well taken.

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