Scotland, Bandon Dunes linked halfway in an unlikely golf destination: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

By Brandon TuckerJuly 23, 2012, 3:44 pm

INVERNESS, Nova Scotia – Between the winding, coastal roads and ferry rides across lochs, the abundant seafood and even the accents of the islanders, a visit to Cape Breton evokes a charm with the familiarity of the British Isles.

But rather than menus offering fish 'n' chips or haggis, this isle's shoreline comes stocked with lobster. Visitors can enjoy traditional lobster suppers boiled in sea salt, spoonfuls of lobster chowder appetizers or even lobster with eggs at breakfast. You could probably even garnish a martini with a lobster claw. 

The town of Inverness, home to the new Cabot Links, is the same name as the Scottish Highlands largest city, a direct result of an influx of Highlanders settling here in the 1800s. Today, the town is even home to a single malt whisky distillery and inn, Glenora Distillery. For a first-time American to the isle, the accents of the locals on the eastern edge of Canada is surprising; their tongues are more Scottish compared to the Canadianspeak you'd find around Ontario.

Golf courses and residents here are few and far between compared to the isles overseas, where a course is around every corner. There are less than ten 18-hole courses on all of Cape Breton, but two of them are among North America's finest. One has been in existence for seven decades, while the other is enjoying it's first summer in operation.

Stanley Thompson's Highlands Links in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

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Since 1941, golfers have made the journey from throughout the northeast to Cape Breton's northern shore to play one of North America's most coveted classic courses, Highlands Links. Commissioned by the National Parks Service in 1939, course architect Stanley Thompson was given a marvelous piece of national park land to craft a gem that has stood the test of time.

Highlands Links is not a 'true' links (in fact, Thompson originally named it the 'Mountains and Oceans Course'). But despite soft turf and holes that wind along a valley river and through dense trees, there are traditional links characteristics here: fairways are riddled with huge humps that yield few flat lies and greens have gentle, natural contours. The course also has an St. Andrews-esque, out-and-in routing. From the 10th green, you're six kilometers from the clubhouse.

Hole names come with an old world flair like 'Canny Slap' and 'Hame Noo.' The sixth is a personal favorite hole name: 'Muckemouth Meg' (even though the dogleg around a small lake swallowed up four of my golf balls). The seventh, 'Killiecrankie,' is one of the most demanding and gorgeous par 5s anywhere: a narrow, 570-yard roller coaster through trees to an elevated green. A brute of a hole with the finest 21st century golf clubs, it's a mystery how anyone with persimmons could have possibly reached this hole in three shots comfortably.

But Thompson's agenda when building the course didn't have much of 'easy' in it. Even the walk, for pre-golf cart era design, is quite challenging. The distance between the 12th green to 13th tee is a quarter mile, but it's the most pleasant walk between holes you could imagine: a narrow path under trees that winds along the Clyburn River. In total, a walk at Highlands Links is an 11kilometer trek, just as it was back when the course opened to vacationers coming from New England seven decades ago.

'Golf was an all day affair,' described Graham Hudson, manager of operations at Highlands Links. 'The golfers would take caddies and bring a picnic.'

Pure links golf comes to Canada at Cabot Links

A spectacular three-hour drive down the coastal Cabot Trail from Cape Breton Highlands, Cabot Links stakes claim as the only true links course between Bandon, Ore., and Ireland's west coast.

Ben Cowan-Dewar, a Canadian golf tour operator and entrepreneur based in Toronto, was tipped off about an abandoned coal mining site in Inverness from a state official during a dinner in 2004. Developing the coastal site into a course and hotel would become his first golf course project. He called on a reliable partner in Mike Keiser, the man behind the golf mecca that has become Bandon Dunes in Oregon, who assisted with the vision and the checkbook. With a 48-room hotel and 18 holes now open, a second 18-hole course, Cabot Cliffs, may break ground as early as next spring.

'This [development] is going to save the town,' said my caddie for the round, Neil MacEachern, a born-and-raised Inverness local who worked for the phone company 30-plus years before retiring to become a caddie at Cabot Links. 'You wouldn't have to pay me to do this job.'

In fact, the majority of the 140 jobs at Cabot Links have been filled by locals. The head housekeeper, for example, was hired largely because she had a reputation in town to keep an exceptionally clean house. The last coal mine closed in 1958, but residents are finding work on this land once again – and for plenty more than the $1.25 per day the miners earned.

It's likely a mere formality until Cabot Links becomes Cape Breton's second to join the Top 100 ranks (Highlands is rated No. 42 outside the United States by Golf Digest). The course, designed by Rod Whitman, presents a player-friendly but proper links test full of wispy grass, deep bunkers and shoreside breeze to be negotiated. Among the design traits are a massive, 30,000-square foot double green shared by the 13th and fourth holes, plus wall-to-wall fescue turf. Every hole has a view of the gulf, while at the south end of the course, No. 10 and 11 present scenic diversion beside a calm harbor. From there, Nos. 13-16 all play along one-mile-long stretch of gulf to the left, where the course and beach is separated by a public walking path, much like many links abroad. To the right, the town of Inverness's skyline is dominated by separate protestant and catholic church spires, helping to add more ageless charm to a links that's shining new.

More golf in Nova Scotia: Glen Arbour Golf Club

Getting to Cape Breton

The easiest way to get to Cape Breton, located just north of the mainland of Nova Scotia across the Port Hawkesbury Bridge, is to fly into Halifax International Airport (YHZ). Flights to most northeast cities like New York, Boston and Philidelphia are operated daily, as well as midwest cities like Detroit and Chicago. From Halifax, it's about a three-hour drive to Cabot Links and five hours to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Another option is to fly into Sydney (YQY) a small town located on the west side of Cape Breton that has connecting service from Toronto and Halifax. If you fly into Sydney, you can play another new course, The Lakes Golf Club, which opened in 2010. Designed by Graham Cooke, the course plays alongside a forested ski hill and overlooks scenic Bras d’Or Lakes.

For more information, visit www.golfcapebreton.com

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.