This week, we continue our “golf course spotting journey around the World” series and head out to Nova Scotia, described in the popular folk song Farewell to Nova Scotia as the ’The Sea-Bound Coast” which is appropriate as there is nowhere in Nova Scotia that is more than 67km away from the ocean. This lends itself to an amazing environment for true links golf, potentially crazy weather, and spectacular ocean views on many of the courses highlighted here. It is also the home of legendary hockey player (and avid golfer) Sidney Crosby.
Truly the tandem of Cabot Links and Cliffs has been the talk of Canada. Cabot Cliffs was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and debuted in Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses in the world at #19. The same visionary team that has created a ‘bucket list’ visit on the US West Coast in Bandon Dunes, Oregon is also responsible for this new destination in Atlantic Canada.
The complex is located in the small town of Inverness, NS on Cape Breton Island with a population of only 1200 people. Defenceman Al MacInnis, legendary Hall of Fame hockey player and recently ranked in the top 100 players ever in the NHL with one of the most feared slap-shots, is from the town of Inverness.
This part of the world offers some stunning golf courses, with views that will leave breathless. Experiencing the back 9 holes of Cabot Cliffs will make you pinch yourself and wonder if those mushrooms you had during lunch were from Amsterdam.
Cabot Links and Cliffs
From the minute you arrive to the Cabot golf complex, you just know you’re in for a very special treat. The main clubhouse unfolds next to the 18th hole of the Links course and the overall scenery makes you feel like you’ve reached the “Canadian home of golf” to say the least. With 2 world class golf courses at your fingertips, you’re just itching to get that driver out of the bag and head out to the 1st tee.
The Links course offers a spectacular setting with many risk and reward holes along the way. There are way too many postcard holes to mention, but the short par 3 14th against the ocean backdrop gives you a great chance for a hole-in-one attempt (even if you end up sculling your shot into the ocean, somehow the calm sea breeze and view will whisper into your ear that everything will be just fine).
There is a good chance you will see helicopters come and go along the southwest corner of the Links course during your round as they bring golfers from all over the world looking to cross Cabot off their own bucket list!
The Cliffs course has become a world renowned venue, pretty much since its inception to the golfing world. The course is fantastic all around but it’s really when you play holes 15-18 when you go through a truly jaw dropping moment. The final four holes are the best possible finishing holes for a golf course.
The beautiful downhill par 5 15th leads you back towards the shoreline and also gives you a good chance to reach the green in 2. Hole 16 is a spectacular par 3 that will take a long time to play as you will be busy taking many, many photos. 17 invites you to hit a tee shot up and over the massive cliff along the ocean. A good placement (and a little luck on the roll downhill) will reward you with a birdie opportunity and 18 is a reachable par 5 depending on the prevailing wind. If the wind is against you, it may be reachable in 5 😉 These holes undulate along the shoreline, giving you some fantastic opportunities to slice that ball into the ocean, pull out your camera and snap a few perfect shots to make your friends envious back home.
Cabot Links is a must play venue if you ever end up in this part of the world.
Cape Breton Highlands
Located at the Cape Breton National Park, this Stanley Thompson designed golf course is a true gem surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife. Depending on the wind conditions, you will immediately face a true test of golf, where a bogey is easy but making par will require agility to shape your shots according to the course conditions.
The course has a truly interesting history and has hosted several tournaments along the years. Nature is very much present across the entire course and it’s no surprise to run into a moose family while searching for that snap hooked golf ball in the woods. Paying a visit to Cape Breton Highlands is also a memory lane visit to the rich golfing history of this part of the world.
Cabot Cliffs, Cabot Links and Highlands Links were recently ranked as the top 1, 3, and 5th best public courses in Canada. An incredible achievement for the area in such a large country!
For those of you who live busy lives and don’t find the time to take scenic drives across the beautiful Nova Scotia shorelines, here’s an alternative golfing option that’s very easy to get to. With it’s own private runway and a full fleet of private jets and other aircraft, you’ll be in and out in a flash.
If you have been to Canada, you most likely have seen and had a Tim Hortons coffee and donut (Tim’s or Timmies as the Canadians call it)! Once again hockey finds its way into this discussion as Tim Horton was an NHL hockey player who started the coffee and donut shop back in 1964. He partnered with a gentleman named Ron Joyce in 1967 and in 1974 Joyce took over the business when Horton died in a tragic car accident driving home from Toronto after he played in a game between the Maple Leafs and the Sabres. Joyce grew the business dramatically over the years eventually merging and selling into the Wendy’s burger chain in 1995.
So we will call this the course from Tim Horton’s as Ron Joyce realized his vision for this beautiful Graham Cooke designed course, and added a full spa, shooting range, and marina in 2000. Joyce grew up in neighbouring Tatamagouche and has been quoted as saying it was something he wanted to give back to the community he was brought up in.
The course and it’s surrounding facilities are truly amazing and equipped to give you an amazing stay and play experience. The course itself is a great blend of Scottish links and traditional parkland golf, with a fantastic combination of natural beauty and a challenging course layout. This venue has been a frequent go-to-course for several industry leaders, professional athletes as well as former presidents. In other words, before you start shouting at the group in front of you for their slow play, make sure there’s no secret service agents following the group.
The first time Larry played at Fox Harb’r in 2004, Bill Clinton was just leaving the resort after a presentation to many of Nova Scotia’s business leaders. Ron Joyce also spends time at Fox Harb’r and maintained a residence there so it is possible you may bump into him during your visit. The neatest experience (after the great golf!) was the two times Larry & his golf buddies boated across the Northumberland Strait from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and moored at the Fox Harb’r marina. It was a 45 minute crossing in calm water, 2 hours in the waves… Golfing, boating and Canadian beer! It doesn’t get much better than that… unless you shoot a 63. Which is what Tiger did at Fox Harb’r to set the course record!
The Links at Brunello
Nova Scotia offers a wide range of high quality golfing venues that will make your play experience truly memorable. Such is also the case with The Links at Brunello. Located at just a 15 min drive from Halifax airport, the course provides a challenging round of golf with a layout of holes that are all unique and individual in nature. There’s a wide range of tee’s to play from, giving golfers of all abilities a great experience at the links. The overall facilities at the golf course are in pristine condition, with great practice facilities and a constant supply of practice balls for those keen to blister their palms before heading out to the links.
The Links at Brunello is the victim of not so perfect timing. If Cabot Links/Cliffs didn’t come onto the scene in the past couple of years, this would be the new course that would be getting all of the attention in Nova Scotia. It is another stellar track courtesy of one of Canada’s top course designers Thomas McBroom. McBroom stormed onto the Canadian golf course landscape with the best new course in Canada in 1984 (The Links at Crowbush Cove in Prince Edward Island). Another course of his in Nova Scotia was also awarded best new course in 1998 (Bell Bay, in Baddeck, NS).
We should have added it to this bucket list but we already had three courses on Cape Breton alone! He has gone on to have 16 of his courses ranked in the top 100 in Canada. These include Larry’s home course Tower Ranch in Kelowna, BC and Tobiano in Kamloops, BC.
This success for McBroom courses has found its way to GameBook’s home in Finland. Kytäjä Golf’s South East Course was ranked best new course in Finland in 2007. The North West course finished third in the same ranking.
All-in-all, Nova Scotia is a truly hidden gem, simply waiting to be discovered.
– Arto & #GBambassador Larry
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