New Courses to Look Forward to in Cape Breton and North Carolina

St. Andrews (Image: St Andrews Links Trust)

The Old Course in St. Andrews: Then, now and forever the world’s No. 1 golf course.
(Image: St. Andrews Links Trust)

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore work their design magic at Cape Breton’s Cabot Cliffs; a new Gary Player course to add to your North Carolina playlist; and, at long last, a ranking of the world’s top 100 courses serious golfers can trust.


Now here’s a golf course ranking I can get behind.

In a recent column, I expressed the curmudgeonly viewpoint that golfers shouldn’t take course reviews and rankings too seriously, since, in my experience, few panelists have even a basic knowledge of golf course design principles and history. But the recent ranking of the world’s top 100 courses by UK-based Golf Course Architecture magazine is clearly worthy of the attention of serious golfers.

The magazine surveyed 250 architects from around the world — individuals who have spent countless hours, even lifetimes, studying the nuances of successful design — in compiling a list that placed the Old Course in St. Andrews in the top spot. Rounding out the top 10, in descending order, were Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Augusta National, National Golf Links of America, Royal County Down, Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach, Royal Dornoch, and Royal Melbourne (West). Two Canadian courses, both Stanley Thompson designs, made the top 100 — Toronto’s St. George’s at No. 81, and Vancouver’s Capilano at No. 91. From 1 to 100, none of the selections will get an argument from me. I wouldn’t dare.

A Canadian course that didn’t make Golf Course Architecture’s top 100 list, but is almost certain to be included in the next ranking, is Cabot Links, the superb Rod Whitman-designed true links that opened to rave reviews in the Cape Breton town of Inverness in 2012.

At a time when new course construction has ground almost to a halt across North America, it’s heartening to look on as Cabot’s owners, Canadian entrepreneur Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser of Bandon Dunes fame, oversee the construction of the property’s second course, Cabot Cliffs. The Nova Scotia government has lent $8.25 million towards the course’s $14-million cost, convinced the investment is more than justified by the dozens of new jobs being created in a once hardscrabble town now blossoming thanks to golf.

The designers of Cabot Cliffs (scheduled to open in 2015) are Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, a dynamite duo who, among other acclaimed projects, did the masterful re-do of Pinehurst No. 2, the site of both the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens in 2014. I’ve walked the site of the new course, spectacularly set high on cliffs overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and can’t wait to see the finished product.

Gary Player (Image: Gary Player Design)

Gary Player
(Image: Gary Player Design)

And another noteworthy new course, especially for everyone who loves North Carolina, to my mind one of the most beautiful and welcoming of U.S. destinations, is The Cliffs at Mountain Park Golf Course in Greenville. It’s a links-style design by Gary Player that stretches 7,218 yards from the tips. The Black Knight himself was in attendance at the opening ceremony Sept. 27. Player’s course will make an interesting side-trip for Canadians heading to Pinehurst next summer to take in the major championships.