Cape Breton Highlands Links
Nova Scotia, Canada

Third hole, 160 yards, Lochan; The idyllic 3rd plays over the corner of a lake that was created by a barriochise. The green is well back from the water and the principal challenge is in placing the ball on the correct side of a hogback that crosses the green on a 1 o’clock to6 o’clock axis. Three putting becomes a real issue when one finds his ball and the hole on opposite sides of the hogback.

The merits of playing golf in such a beautiful environment as Cape Breton can not be overstated. The hogback that divides the green is just to the left of the flag, making the effective target not nearly as big as one might first think.

Fourth hole, 325 yards, Heich O’Fash; Given the rigors of the 1st and 2nd hole, and given the comforting appearance of the 3rd, the golfer may take one look at the yardage on this hole and relax. What a mistake (!) and Joe Robinson has seen more 8s on this hole from good players than any other hole on the course.Indeed, its name Heich O’Fash means heap of trouble. Such short two shotters are an absolute must for any great course with the absence of such a hole the obvious short coming of the Black Course at Bethpage. Along with other greats such as Cypress Point, Pine Valley and The Old Course at St. Andrews, Highlands Links possesses several excellent holes under 350 yards in length, starting here at the 4th. The original Thompson tee is to the left of the 3rd green but was abandoned due to its proximity to a pull hook from the 3rd tee. From the original tee, the hole played dead straight to the green 295 yards away. The new tee behind the 3rd green adds a left to right bend to the hole and 25 yards in length making the green no longer drivable. Thus, the good golfer is less tempted to be greedy, which is a shame as that’s when the fireworks can occur. Regardless, the green complex atop a knob highlights Thompson’s genius for routing a course. While an appealing sandy arealies30-40 yards to the right of the fairway, the most interesting land form is the knob, and thus Thompson followed nature’s lead in placing the hole here.

Any approach shot that doesn't find the putting surface is likely to be shrugged well away from the 4th green. The mounds around the green mirror those of the distant mountain peaks.

Fifth hole, 165 yards, Canny Slap; Named Canny Slap by Thompson as he routed the course,the hole was designed with the option in mind for the golfer to use the hillside to the left of the green to bound his ball toward certain left hole locations.During his June 2002 visit, Cornish pointed out that the front left portion of the green had been lost to time and with it, a very good front left hole location just over a bunker.Hopefully, this portion of the greencan be restored to its original size, thus increasing the need/desire to use the bank left of the green.

With the green benched into the hillside, drastically different recovery shots result depending on whether one is short or long with his tee ball.

Sixth hole, 540 yards, Mucklemouth Meg; Along with its short two shotters, another stand out collection of holes is the three shotters at Cape Breton. In fact, as compared with any other course with four par fives, the ones at Cape Breton may well constitute the finest set in the world. Not only is each one excellent in its own right but cumulatively, they are both diverse and distinctive from one another. As a show of how competitive the four par fives are with one another,many locals were surprised when the 6th hole was listed in George Peper’s The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes ahead of the other three. To their way of thinking, its fairway along the shoreline is flat, which is so uncharacteristic of golf at Cape Breton, and many place the other three par fives ahead of it because of their unique topography. Still, the diagonal carry off the championship 6th tee, added in 1996 by Canadian golf architect Graham Cooke, is undeniably a thrilling white knuckler. During the mid-1990s, Cooke and his then-associate Steve Miller orchestrated a renovation of the Highlands Links that reversed years of neglect under a Parks Canada mandate that disallowed the trimming or cutting of trees. The renovation included the removal of several hundred trees, the reconstruction of all the bunkers, the addition of several new tees (including the aforementioned4th tee) and the installation of a continuous cart path. Prior to 1996, Highlands Links was strictly ‘walking only’ and though the paved paths are a scar upon the landscape, people who would otherwise not make the seven mile walk now get to enjoy the course.

The required 230 yard diagonal carry from the new championship 6th tee is daunting, especially into the prevailing wind. Thompson's original tee is farther left and plays down the length of the 6th fairway.

The bunkers at Cape Breton play 'bigger' than their actual size, thanks to some clever mounding by Thompson.

Seventh hole, 570 yards, Killer crankie; As with the other Golden Age architects, Stanley Thompson believed in giving the player plenty of room off the tee. For instance, the 2nd hole enjoys an 80 yard wide corridor. In comparison, the 7th, whose corridor is only slightly greater than half that, seems tight, which leads to nervous, guided swings from the tee. However, after several rounds, the golfer comes to appreciate that he should swing out as the fairway widens at the landing area and that the slopes actually gather golf balls in toward the fairway, making the hole less intimidating to play than it appears. As with the 15th, technology has perhaps even helped this hole as downwind the golfer can reach the green in two shots by playing down the dangerous tree lined left side and getting a kick forward off of the back side of a hillock. Many critics consider this the finest three shotter in Canada, in part thanks to the steep back to front pitch and bowl contour of its green.

Thompson takes the golfer away from the shoreline and into the hills with the long, twisting three shot 7th.

Where else would a golfer rather find himself than at Cape Breton during peak autumnal colors in mid-October?

The view back from the green with the day's hole location in the front bowl.

Eighth hole, 320 yards, Caber’s Toss; Not a hard hole by any means but a very fine one nonetheless, the ideal tee ball clears the crest of a hill 150 yards short of the green and bounds down toward the green. Indeed, with dry conditions and the wind at one’s back, the green can be driven. The subtle green is a fooler though as Thompson built it up its rear portion to the point where golfers become confused as to which way their putts break, convinced the ball wants to fall toward the back of the green with the natural downhill slope of the hole. Though many a good golfer may be close to the hole after one or two shots, plenty of fours are carded as a result.

A scant two holes ago the golfer was along the shoreline and now look at the view!

This view doesn't capture how sharply the terrain tumbles down toward the 8th green...

...but this view does! Landing a bump and run approach shot 30 yards shy of the green is great fun.

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