Cabot Links
Nova Scotia, Canada

Sixth hole, 465/ 435 yards; Cabot’s 6,805 yards from the back markers are not excessive but remember that par is a tight 70. As usual, the best markers from which to play are well forward for most and that is especially true here. This 80 degree dogleg left begs the brave golfer to cut the corner. Played from a forward tee, the carry becomes reasonable and the golfer puts himself in prime position for one of the most inviting approach shots anywhere.

Forget the ocean holes! For many this is the best hole on the course.

As a true Cape, the same water hazard threatens both the tee ball and the approach. The fairway is straight ahead but the flag well to the left becomes a dangerous siren. Greedy tactics off the tee can lead to trouble or reward the heroic player with a short iron approach.

Where there are boats, there is wind. Flighting a ball low through the wind from a sloping fairway to a green open in front constitutes one of the most engaging shots in the game. In this case, it is made all the more picturesque by the working harbour in the background. Utilizing the broad slopes that feed off of the hillside on the right certainly makes sense as there is no reason to flirt with the hazard left.

Seventh holes, 190/155 yards; Want to understand Keiser’s commitment to surpassing the recreational golfer’s expectations? Look at the evolution of this hole. When construction began, this small seven acre triangle was in use, providing ice for the local fishermen at the working harbor. Later the opportunity to acquire this plot became available and was seized upon. Though Whitman had already built a par three, Keiser instructed him to build another on the newly acquired land.  The result is an improvement as the new hole better capitalizes on the seaside setting. Though the old seventh was in use for only eight months, several gentlemen had scored hole-in-ones. Imagine their return next season and the discovery that the site of their conquest is gone!

The new seventh is better knit to the oceanside setting than its predecessor. Only sixteen paces in width, its green comprises the smallest target at Cabot.

Eighth hole, 580/515 yards; The wetlands dominate this low section of the property and played a key role in the routing process. One thing Whitman wanted to avoid was a forced carry approach shot in a windy location. Thus, he mulled over various ways to incorporate the wetlands other than as a fronting hazard for a green. He succeeded here by giving the golfer a perfect lie from the tee to make such a carry. Similar to the drive on second hole, the key objective is to get in a position to carry a ridge on one’s second. When played downwind, the Double Green is often in reach. The innumerable contours within the massive green create great flexibility. Hole locations found in an attractive gathering bowel front left can be readily accessed while those top back are much more challenging. The green’s random contours look like the wind shaped them but in truth it was Whitman’s protracted efforts over a full month that slowly developed them.

To the left is a boardwalk that wanders the length of the hole. To the right are wetlands, part of the diversity of hazards that confront the golfer at Cabot.

 

According to Whitman, one of the tenets of good design is to first pick out the ‘must keep’ green sites. This one, the fifteenth and sixteenth are among those that he found and incorporated into the final design.

The numerous dips and swales throughout the Double Green may remind the golfer of the famous putting surfaces at St. Andrews.

Ninth hole, 360/320 yards; The absence of central hazards is one of the great crimes of the Dark Ages of design (loosely defined as the period between 1950 and 1985). Simply put, architects rarely employed them and instead blandly placed hazards to the sides of fairways voiding all options. Disregarded were the timeless lessons learned from The Old Course at St. Andrews where numerous bunkers are surrounded by fairway grass. The Golden Age architects were wiser. Beginning with the two bunkers placed in the left center of Woking’s fourth fairway, central hazards were created by man to lend holes strategic interest. At Woking, the mere existence of the two bunkers necessitates a decision by the golfer but it is the front left greenside bunker combined with the right tilt of the green that makes the hole nothing short of brilliant. So is it at the fifth, where two dominant central hazards work in perfect concert with the green contours.

At the ninth the wind determines which of the two central hazards forty-five yard apart is in play that day.

The green angles from right to left and a wicked false front feeds balls short left. If the hole is located forward the good player must control the ball’s spin or he may face a fifteen yard chip back up the hill after repairing his pitch mark on the green. The niftily placed front left bunker is a fooler as it is a full seven paces from the front of the green. It not only hides the green’s false front but visually tricks the golfer into coming up short on the uphill approach.

Tenth hole, 385/325 yards; Few better vistas exist to start a second nine than here as the fairway heads straight toward the water on this gentle dogleg to the right. It is an old fashion position hole, both for the tee ball and approach. Golfers these days tend to try and overpower courses as opposed to playing shots; rash tactics here can lead to a surprising range in scores. The angled green falls toward the back left away from the golfer and judging where to land your approach is a shot that never grows old.

This is the thrilling view from the tenth tee. A fade played off the distant Margaree Island is ideal.

Following the natural contour, the tenth green slopes from front right to back left. The two forward bunkers are situated well away from the putting surface and cloud the golfer’s judgment of where to land his approach.

Eleventh hole, 620/490 yards; Reminiscent of the fourth at Bethpage Black and the sixth at Pebble Beach, the tee ball must be placed far enough down the fairway so that one’s second shot can climb onto the plateau that begins some 130 yards short of the green. Failing to surmount the precipice necessitates a blind approach to a green fiercely defended along its right by a deep depression. Similar to his friend Bill Coore at Kapalua, Whitman helps golfers of all levels by expanding the ground away from trouble, creating lots of fairway that sweeps left around the depression before ultimately feeding seamlessly onto the putting surface. The fescue fairways release low chasing shots perfectly, allowing the emphasis that Whitman puts on the ground game to be fully realized. Skeptics of building a course that is only open from late April to early November miss the point of Cape Breton’s superior climate of low humidity and cool evening temperatures that yield ideal conditions for grasses conducive to good golf (i.e. weather more akin to that in the United Kingdom than the lower two thirds of North America). Without such playing conditions, a hole like the eleventh would merely photograph great. As it is, Cabot plays as well as it photographs with balls gleefully bounding along the tight fescue turf.

The eleventh, one of Keiser’s favorites, works well in part because of the acres of short grass that balances out the terrors on the right. At 75 yards in width, the fairway is one of the broadest on the course and accounts for some of the 60 acres (!) of short grass that is maintained. The real challenge is up ahead where the golfer needs to carry the ridge on his second in order to…

…enjoy this view for his third. If the golfer can get to this position in two, the pitch from ninety yards might set up a birdie.

As seen from behind, the golfer gains a sense of how much the second green falls away to the rear.

Twelfth hole, 450/410 yards; The property at Cabot is rectangular with its long side running along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Hence, it was a given that a majority of the playing corridors would flow along this north/south coastal axis. Early in the routing process Whitman found the wide valley running north/south in which the third fairway now meanders. Sandwiched between the dramatic eleventh and thirteenth holes, Whitman kept this hole’s appearance ‘quiet’ yet it is one of the toughest pars on the course.

After avoiding one of the largest fairway bunkers off the tee, the golfer faces an approach to a green that Whitman benched into the hillside. The wind is less in play down here than on the holes played higher on the bluff.

Thirteenth, 440/405 yards; Whitman’s masterful routing and wonderful tee placements provide a series of attractive views down many of the fairways. His tees are often positioned on natural high spots in stark contrast to other modern architects who build up enormous tee pads that are unnatural and jarring to the eye. The only tee shots at Cabot that climb are here and at the eighteenth. Generally played downwind, a well-struck tee ball soars past three sleepered bunkers cut into the far ridge, providing a most delightful (and welcome!) sight. On top, one of the great views at Cabot unfolds with the Gulf as the backdrop to the massive 27,600 square foot Double Green. This technically qualifies as an inland hole and is a shining example of one being as memorable and providing as much fun golf as a coastal hole.

Though played uphill to a blind fairway, the tee shot at the thirteenth is one of the most attractive on the course. It is also the most austere!

The approach shot is thrilling in any wind because the architect didn’t dictate how it must be played. With bunkers left and all of Cape Breton Island to the right, the golfer is offered numerous choices to come at this honker of a green. The firm running fescue fairways guarantee that all shot options are available.

As seen from behind, the golfer gains a perspective as to the Double Green’s orientation to the fairway. When played downwind, the golfer may well decide to play a draw that lands 10 or even 20 yards short and to the right of green and let the contours feed the ball well into the Double Green.

continued >>>