Saturday, October 08, 2005

More on Cabot Links

Robert Thompson
On Golf
At a time when many new golf developments look and play like they are built from a cookie cutter that creates the same design repeatedly, a new project in Nova Scotia has the potential to become Canada’s next great golf course.
The project, which will be built in the Cape Breton town of Inverness, has the opportunity to be one of Canada’s few true seaside links, akin to many of the great courses in Scotland and Ireland.
“It is such an amazing, unique site,” says Rod Whitman, the Canadian golf architect who is designing the course and has worked on award-winning clubs like Alberta’s Blackhawk and Wolf Creek. “It is exactly like a site in Scotland. It will certainly have a British flavour.”
The course is being built as part of an initiative between Toronto entrepreneur Ben Cowan-Dewar, who is currently raising money to start construction, alongside the provincial and federal governments. The Cape Breton Growth Fund, an organization whose goal is to help promote economic growth in the area, said earlier this week that it would contribute $2.5-million.
The announcement is the latest in a series of attempts to get a golf course built on the site, which had previously been a mine and was capped using government money. A group of investors attempted to build a Jack Nicklaus course on the site, but their proposal was deemed too costly and failed to attract investors. A second attempt, using Canadian architect Graham Cooke, also floundered.
“Golf architect Michael Hurdzan, who saw it years ago, said it was one of the best sites for golf remaining in the world,” says Cowan-Dewar. “There’s a lack of coastal sites for golf, especially in Canada, making this a rare opportunity.”
Previous investors had dreamed of creating an expensive resort on the site, something Cowan-Dewar says would have been incongruous with the rustic nature of the location. Rather than spending tens of millions on the location, Cowan-Dewar has envisioned a course similar to that of Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon. Bandon Dunes has three Scottish-style courses at a remote location. Golfers from around the world have sought them out for their authentic links flavour.
Aficionados regard links golf, which is played on vast sandy areas adjacent to the ocean, as representative of the true nature of the game. Unlike North American golf, which forces players to hit high shots to hold greens, links golf allows players a great number of options, including running the ball along the hard ground. Many of the world’s best courses – like The Old Course at St. Andrews or Muirfield in Scotland, or Royal Portrush or Royal County Down in Ireland – are links.
Whitman has conceived of a course with fantastic seaside views, punctuated with pot bunkers and sandy dunes.
“The first hole is something you’re going to be able to put on a magazine cover and everyone who sees it is going to want to play the course,” he said.
Aside from its authentic links appeal, the Inverness project should also attract golfers making the pilgrimage to Highlands Links, the great Stanley Thompson designed course located in the north end of Cape Breton.
All that’s missing now from the Inverness project is some additional investment, which Cowan-Dewar hopes to secure in coming months. Several parties have expressed interest in participating in the project and the aim is to have the course open late in the summer of 2007.
“When you’ve got this sort of site and the golf course we have proposed, I think it has the possibility of being compared to the great courses in the world,” said Whitman.
Cowan-Dewar is convinced the project will go forward and create something new and unique in the Canadian market place. The town of Inverness is so pleased with the new proposal that they’ve signed an agreement giving Cowan-Dewar’s group control over the property.
“This will be a course where you have ocean views from all 18 holes,” says Cowan-Dewar. “The recipe for great golf is there, now we just have to build it.”
National Post
rthompson@nationalpost.com

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