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Cape Breton golf: Growing the family

An update on the golfing scene on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

photos_articles_97.jpgThere are good things brewing with Cape Breton golf. It’s not that there weren’t good courses already on the island with the likes of The Highlands Links, Bell Bay and a number of other very good tracts, but there is a new addition to the Cape Breton’s golf course family this year and a second addition soon to be born. And as the new come on stream, the Island’s golfing jewel is being polished up.

The new family member is The Lakes at Ben Eoin, (thelakesgolfclub.ca) just outside Sydney. Built on the side and the base of the Ben Eoin ski area, this Graham Cooke design opened in May and according to Jason Sweeney, director of golf operations, the new course has been well received.

Overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes, Cooke routed his design through the hills, smartly incorporating the many natural features of the terrain and taking full advantage of the views of the lake. The course plays just over 6,900 yards from the very back tees but there are five distances and sets of tees to choose from down to 4,801 yards. It’s a definite test of ability and possibly in places a bit intimidating for the high handicapper. There are some forced carries over creeks and environmentally sensitive areas but the key to scoring well on the course, like most mountain style courses that feature a lot of side hills and fairway mounding, is position off the tee. It’s a great addition to the Cape Breton golfing landscape.

On the west side of the Island at Inverness, Cabot Links (cabotlinks.com) is well under construction. Builder Ben Cowan-Dewar hopes to have 10 holes open for play in 2011 and a full 18 in 2012. This course will be an absolute gem and likely, according to many golf scribes, the closet thing to a pure links course in Canada and even North America.

It will have a lot of Scottish links similarities with the west side of the layout bounded entirely by a beach. The course is wide open with a few small trees and bushes and the wind, like most links-style courses, will play a major factor. The seaside course, designed by Alberta’s Rod Whitman, will play just under 7,000 yards from the back tees to a Par 71. It will have the distinct feature of having views of the ocean from all 18 holes, a rarity at any oceanside course. Cabot Links will be totally public, totally walking and will feature fescue grasses on greens, tees and fairways, another feature commonly found at seaside courses.

Cowan-Dewar has always had a dream to build a world-class golf course, and with major partner Mike Keiser, developer of Oregon’s Bandon Dunes, he will soon realize his goal.

While new courses are a great addition, Stanley Thompson’s Highlands Links, which turns 70 in 2011, continues to dazzle golfers from around the world. Consistently rated in the world’s top 100 public courses by major golf publications, the course this season is in outstanding condition. Graham Hudson, manager of operations, and course staff, are continuing their tree cutting program, opening more views to the ocean and eliminating trees that have infringed on greens and trees hampering the growth of grass. The tree cutting and additional care given the course is paying off in the exceptional condition of this memorable layout.(highlandslinksgolf.com).

Visit the course websites for additional information.

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