Northumberland Links moves up in the rankings: More enhancements on the horizon

Northumberland Links Golf Course on Nova Scotia’s North Shore has once again raised its profile, not only on the provincial golf scene, but also nationally. The host of several provincial championships over the years, this course is known for its playability and challenge. Both of these aspects are enhanced by the steady breezes, sometimes soft and sometimes stiff, off the bordering Northumberland Strait.

The layout has been ranked the fourth best public course in Nova Scotia and the 40th best public course in Canada by the golf website, Beyond The Contour – Golf Beyond Architecture. The fourth-place ranking places Northumberland in some rarefied company behind Cabot Cliffs, Cabot Links and Highlands Links. The Cliffs was ranked 1st nationally, the Links 3rd and Highlands Links 4th .

The noteworthy rankings, put together by a panel of golf industry experts, are a testament to the dedication and work of the staff and crew at Northumberland, says course superintendent John Mills, a fixture at the golf club for nearly 35 years.

Northumberland Links has quietly built on its reputation of being one of the best courses in the Atlantic region since it opened in 1964 as a nine-hole layout. In 1988 Northumberland was expanded and redesigned by Canadian architect Bill Robinson who designs with the philosophy of letting the land dictate the layout, a much similar view to Canadian great, Stanley Thompson.

The views of the ocean and the close proximity to the water, which give the course its links flavour, were an integral part of the outward nine but in 2022 the nines were reversed and now offer golfers an everlasting memory of the course’s ocean setting.

A familiar focal point of many course designs is a signature hole. Not surprising, the Northumberland Links hole that is a real attention grabber is the Par 3, 13th, called the ‘Lobster Pot’. The hole runs parallel to the ocean and is open to all the torment the sea can throw at you.

Par 3 13th – Lobster Pot

Another hole which caught the attention of the ranking panel was the long 7th. Flanked by a creek up the entire left-hand side, this layout works its way back toward the Strait and PEI, which is often visible in the distance.

Added to the rolling fairways and elevation changes of the course are the greens at Northumberland. They have as much variety and diversity as the fairways. Readable, sloping and undulating, the high quality on these bent grass greens makes for consistent speeds throughout. All of these traits have created 18 great holes of golf, each presenting its unique shot challenges.

Mills believes the course can climb even further up the ranking. Mother Nature may have presented the opportunity. Hurricane Fiona struck Nova Scotia in September 2022 and while it left all holes along the ocean unscathed, it knocked down over 60 acres of forest that bordered the fairways in the upper portion of the course.

Mills and the club’s board of directors saw the opportunity to enhance the course by expanding its links characteristics of fescue and seaside views to all 18 holes.

This summer not only will golfers experience even more spectacular views of the ocean as they play a more open concept course, they may also be experiencing the start of an exciting new era for Northumberland Links.

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Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a freelance writer based in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax. In December 2009 he retired after 41 years with The Halifax Chronicle Herald. He covered competitive golf regionally for the paper in his early days as reporter and over the years has freelanced golf travel articles to a number of major golf and business publications. He is a member and a director of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada.

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