- Neil White
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
“This is just like Scotland,” exclaimed Mrs W, as we trundled around the 61st best golf course in the world
I presume that William Alexander, the first Earl of Stirling, who named Nova Scotia (New Scotland), would have been as pleased by the comparison as designer Rod Whitman who unveiled Cabot Links ten years ago.
Cape Breton, in the north of this Canadian province, has many strong echoes of the homeland with its forests punctuated by small towns and even the occasionally whisky distillery.
Meanwhile, the first course opened by the seaside of Inverness creates echoes of golf at Castle Stuart and Skibo Castle.
However, in contrast with our rounds in Scotland, it was very busy at Cabot.
The service here is something to behold. Smiles are positivity abounded as soon as we arrived and continued throughout.
And there are many links with the UK - incredibly, the pro shop manager turned out to be from Skegness and was in the same school class as our future daughter-in law!
We had journeyed more than four hours and both were suffering heavy colds when we took on Cabot Links but benefited from its reviving qualities.
However, in all honesty, it did take a couple of holes before we could see what the fuss was about.
The opener, a par-five alongside the residents’ villas, is a very gentle introduction and the second is a long par-three which demands a straightforward belt down the left-hand side to avoid sand.
The third is where the fun begins – a short par-four out to sea with a water hazard tight on the right and a small dune directly in front of the green which blocks out the flag from those who hit too far down the left.
The sixth is one of the most picturesque holes I have played anywhere – a dogleg left par-four alongside a crystal blue inlet with a boatyard to the rear of the green.
Sadly, we played on a dull day and my photos did not do it justice.
The eighth is wonderful – a par-five alongside the beach with a tough carry over thick grass from the tee before ascending to a double-green, defended by bunkers. I was thrilled to nail a par.
There are many chances to score at Cabot Links thanks to wide fairways and large greens. However, it required more talent than either Mrs W or I possess to judge the pace on the putting surface which could either be very fast downhill or surprisingly slow going the other way.
Both of us suffered the calamity of putts which flew past the hole and ended up over the green.
The 11th is a cracking par-five which rises and dips and demands accurate play to avoid bunkers and mounds before a sharp right turn into a green framed by the ocean.
Arguably the trickiest tee shot is on the 13th which goes straight up over railway-sleeper-lined bunkers. A decent shot away should result in a score.
At less than 100 yards, downhill, the 14th is the shortest par-three of my travels so far but one of the most dramatic and I made a complete hash of it.
The tee is elevated and beyond the green all that can be seen is water. Having watched the pair before us strike too far, I blocked my shot and it flew right into the rough. I look forward to playing it again.
By this stage, having booked a late tee time on a dull day, we were struggling to see the true beauty of the beachside holes at 15 and 16 but both required attentive play to avoid balls slipping down the cliff.
The finale at Cabot Links is, as the Scots would say, bonnie – not because it is particularly outstanding but because of the experience of playing in front of the residents’ lodges and the clubhouse.
I doffed my cap in appreciation at the applause I received for my second shot in the 18th – an unexceptional strike with a fairway wood - and loved the applause for my snaking off-the-green putt which landed a foot from the hole.
This bonhomie summed up our day at Cabot Links and continued in the club’s pub next to its reception.
Tales from the course were regaled, tunes were sung with ever greater gusto as the beer flowed and then we adjourned to our room overlooking the aforementioned 18th.
It was a exciting day which we look forward to repeating.