Andy Mossack plays the magnificent Cabot Cliffs links on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton coast. Voted #11 in Golf Digest’s World 100 Greatest Courses.
If Mother Nature was a golfer there would be absolutely no doubt that Cabot Cliffs Golf Course would be her design masterpiece. Set across the clifftops of Cape Breton’s rugged Atlantic coastline overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this is not only a feast of genuine links golf, but the views are nothing short of extraordinary.
Particularly if, like me, you timed your round to finish around sunset, and the last three holes which run alongside the ocean are bathed in a stunning golden hue. Quite magical I can tell you and a beautiful homage to Nova Scotia’s Celtic roots.
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course is part of the Cabot Cape Breton development, a very impressive golfing resort in aptly named Inverness, on Noval Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Aside from Cabot Cliffs, there’s also Cabot Links (voted #35 in Golf Digest’s World 100 Greatest Courses), The Nest, a ten-hole links par 3 course, a whole range of luxury lodge rooms and villas, and three restaurants.
It has other developments around the world including Cabot Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, Cabot Revelstoke in British Columbia, Cabot Citrus Farms in Florida, and Cabot Highlands in Scotland.
For me though, Cabot has to be its spiritual home, with Cape Breton’s legendary Cabot Trail running past its doorstep, one of the top ten drives in the world.
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course is the jewel in the crown, 6,835-yard par 72 designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, which fully exploits a coastal clifftop landscape that is a gift from the golfing gods.
Apart from the unusual layout that offers three par threes, three par fours and three par fives in each front and back nine, there are so many Kodak golf moments, you’ll be hard pressed to pick a winner. Let’s not forget too, the course is totally open to the elements, so an Atlantic wind and frequent rainy squalls are a given.
The best holes? From a long list of mighty golfing treats, here are my picks for what it’s worth, but take it from me, there’s nothing bad or boring on this course, each hole is a gem.
Hole 2: 402 yards. Par 4
From a lofty tee you’re faced with a mighty drive over a small forest and gorse to a fairway dominated by a large dune surrounded by a natural stream. The centre of the fairway is not recommended, you’ll need to be over to the left or right if you want to have a shot to the green.
Hole 4: 151 and 202 yards. Par 3
This is the first time you’ll be playing towards the ocean, and this hole is a double green with two lengths depending on where the flag is. Either way, your tee shot is over some dense jungle on to a green that is either short but difficult, or long but a lot easier. It’s the Ingenuity that gets my vote.
Hole 9: 126 yards. Par 3
This is a beautiful short hole that feels like you’re hitting it straight into the Atlantic. Perhaps it is in my list because I hit my tee shot to 6 inches and birdied it, but the green is surrounded by bunkers and if you hit it long your ball will be sleeping with the fishes. All I can say is the sun was right in my eyes and I lost sight of it the minute I hit it. To find it next to the pin was a joyous surprise.
Hole 16: 176 yards. Par 3
The Cabot Cliffs signature hole, and for good reason. Your tee shot is a knee trembler across a wide 100-foot-deep chasm filled with crashing surf to a green stuck out on a promontory in the Atlantic. Talk about drama. There is plenty of wind here too, so jeopardy everywhere you look. The fainthearted can bail out to the left and just might get a lucky bounce down to the green. But unlikely.
Hole 17: 239 yards. Par 4
“You’re not going to believe where I’m telling you to aim.” My caddy told me. And I didn’t. Another shot across ocean to an opposite cliff where the obvious line would be left and safety. “Hit it straight at the greenside bunkers and you might get a hole in one.” Yes, this par 4 is driveable, but even if you are a little short, the fairway will gather the ball and propel it on to the green.
I was short and left of the green and my caddy again came to the rescue. “Just putt it with plenty of left to right.” It was beautiful to watch as the ball kept on going down and around coming to rest a foot from the hole.
Hole 18: 492 yards. Par 5
What a finish. By now the sun had all but disappeared below the horizon out at sea, so the light was fading fast. This hole runs its entire length along the ocean, just like Pebble Beach. Eroding clifftop and ravines all along the right make the drive perilous. Keep the ball above ground and you’ll be rewarded with a potential par, providing you make the approach to the green. It’s a narrow snake-like green that clings to the cliff face, so you even when you get down to putting, you could putt it straight off into the ocean!
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course is a masterpiece of design and Crenshaw and Coore have surpassed themselves. But look what they had as a canvass. Naturally sculpted land straight out of central casting.
Any golfer, low or high handicap, will play here and never forget it.
Images (C) Andy Mossack, Jacon Sjoman and Brian Oar.
Tell me more about Cabot Cliffs Golf Course
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course, 39 Whitman Way, Inverness, NS B0E 1N0, Canada
T: 1-902-258-4653 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cabot Cliffs Golf Course is open March to October. 18 holes from $CAD190 depending on season and time of day.
For more information about Nova Scotia and Cabot Cape Breton please visit Nova Scotia Tourism.