Cape Breton Highlands Links
Nova Scotia, Canada

Ninth hole, 335 yards, Corbie’s Nest; Thompson’s appreciation of the United Kingdom links is readily apparent with this interesting adaptation of the Alps Hole. In this version, the green placement on this dogleg right is such that the flag is blind from the right side of the fairway (the shorterroute to the green) and is readily visible from the left side of the fairway (though the shot is likely to be a club longer).

The ideal tee ball finds the plateau on the hillside on the outside of the dogleg right...

...with a view of the 9th flag being the golfer's reward.

Tenth and 12th holes, 145 and 240 yards, Cuddy’s Lugs and Cleugh,respectively; Golf course architecture at the highest level is about variety and Thompson was a master (some say the master) at building variety into his one shot holes. Be it the 4th and 15th at Jasper Park or the 10th and 8th at Banff or the 14th and 16th at Capilano or the 10th and 12th here, there is often a nine club difference found within the set of his one shotters.

A pitch down the hill suffices at the 10th whereas...

...the long 12th often requires a wood and is level from tee to green along the stream.

Thirteenth hole, 435 yards, Laird; A wonderful tee to green study in sidehill architecture, which is something that Thompson also excelled at Capilano Golf and Country Club, the 13thends with the only non-Thompson green on the course. Thompson’s original punchbowl green drained poorly and collected ice during the long Cape Breton winters so it was replaced in the late 1960s with a raised, flatter green. Still, on the whole, the greens at Highlands Links are full of character and variety though few people focus on their merits given the course’s setting.

Thompson incorporated the dominate landform seen above into both the tee ball and...

...the approach where the hump can be used to feed one's approach onto the putting surface.

Fourteenth hole,400 yards, Haugh; Perhaps the most under appreciated hole on the course, the 14th is bunkerless and highlights one of Cape Breton’s most appealing attributes: its rumpled, crumpled topography.

The view from the back tee at the 14th.

Fifteenth hole, 540 yards, Tattie Bogle; As alluded to in the 7th hole description, this hole downwind offers a thrilling chance to get home in two. To do so, the golfer must flirt with the forest and the shoulder of a hillock on the left but if he can carry the ball 260 yards, his tee ball will catch the back slope of the hillock and be propelled within 220 yards of the green. In addition, he is likely to draw a level stance. The actual playing of the 15this every bit as spectacular as the view of Whale Island in the distance.

The bold play off the 15th tee is over the shoulder of the hill in order to...

...bring the green in reach in two from the perfect angle.

The bunkers that protrude left out from the green leave awkward length recovery shots and must be avoided.

Sixteenth hole, 460 yards, Sair Fecht; The last of the bunkerless holes, Thompson does little in guiding the golfer as to how to play it. Some locals play down the left side as the chance for a level lie is enhanced. Others go down the right of this wide fairway as it shortens the hole but they are at the mercy of the humps and bumps that Thompson created down that side. If a twenty foot embankment located some fifty yards shy of the green can be carried, the golfer may find himself in fine shape to record a four. However, if the ball just fails to scale the embankment, the golfer will be left with a blind shot from an awkward stance. Canadian writer and architect Jeff Mingay is so taken by the merits of this hole that he contributed a detailed In My Opinion piece on it that can be accessed by clicking here.

This view down the 16th fairway captures the outrageous topography that mother nature created and Thompson mimicked at Cape Breton.

Turn one's head one way on the 16th green and the view is of mountains and steeples.

Turn it another and the view - almost inconceivably - becomes of the shoreline and water.

Seventeenth hole, 190 yards, Dowie Den; Tucked in its own natural amphitheatre, the 17th green has some of the best interior contours of any of the greens. In particular, the back right plateau might well possess the single finest hole location on the course with the regulars knowing how to bank the ball on to it.

Other than the long 12th along the stream, all the one shotters at Cape Breton play downhill, including here at the attractive 17th.

Eighteenth hole, 410 yards, Hame Noo; Home now!! As always, Thompson followed the best land forms in routing the holes and in this case, the tee and green are on the high spots some 20-30 feet above the fairway, 390 yards apart. If the golfer carries the left fairway bunker, he is rewarded with the ideal angle into the rolling green, which is open across its left front.With the entrance road to the Keltic Lodge eight paces from the right edge of the green, it takes a brave man to chase after the right hole locations.

With the road and the large green side bunker on the right, the golfer wants to place his tee ball down the left of the fairway, past the well placed left fairway bunker.

The wildly undulating green makes for tough putts to win one's match.

Among Thompson’s Famous Five (Banff, Capilano, Jasper Park, St. George’s, and here), Highlands Links is perhaps the least known as it stands alone as a true outpost in world golf. Yet, it is far and away easier to reach today then when Thompson and Cornish worked on the course. For instance, from Boston, Massachusetts, a two hour flight to Halifax followed by a one hour flight to Sydney puts the golfer onto Cape Breton Island. From there,a two hour drive north along the spectacular coastal Cabot Trail places the golfer at the course.

Players are always looking for a fresh experience, and it doesn’t get any fresher and more invigorating than on the northeastern tip of Nova Scotia. Because it is such a standalone experience reminding the golfer of no other course in the world, it is a journey that every golfer should make.

Located on the same peninsula as the golf course, the majestic Keltic Lodge is nine hundred yards from the 1st tee.

No wonder golfers head here in the fall. This photograph was taken on the walk from a cabin to the Keltic Lodge for breakfast one mid-October morning.

The End