Perched atop a jagged cliff-walled promontory that juts into the swirling Gulf of St. Lawrence, the 16th hole at Cabot Cliffs is something people are going to talk about. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s something they’ll rave about. The hole is an intense, do-or-die challenge that’s already considered one of the world’s most prized par 3s.
But, in terms of rave-worthy holes at Cabot Cliffs—the sensational second course at the celebrated Cabot Links project in Inverness, N.S.—the 16th is just one of many. Strung along Cape Breton’s rugged northwest coast, Cabot Cliffs is a topographical masterpiece, boasting forested glades, low-lying dunes, deep ravines and ragged cliffs with expansive views of the sea.
“Authentic links land is so special and so rare,” says Joe Robinson, head professional at Cabot Links. “To be able to utilize this breathtaking landscape for golf, well, we’re still pinching ourselves.”
Though it opened briefly last year for preview play, Cabot Cliffs will begin its first official season on June 7. The course was designed by legendary golf architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who gave it an equal routing of par 3s, par 4s and par 5s (six each). But the duo, known for creating some of the best golf courses in the world, has always had a particular soft spot for that 16th hole. “Looking at that green site, I saw the potential for an extraordinary par 3,” says Coore. “Within seconds, I was on the phone to our developer, urging him to secure that piece of land.”
They got the land, of course, but it came with some building challenges.
“The sinkhole [now filled in], severe slopes and sheer drop-offs surrounding the green created challenges we’ve never faced before,” says Coore. “Our first priority was making sure people could play the hole safely.” Consequently, the collection of bunkers that ring the green aren’t there to punish golfers; they’re meant to collect the balls and keep you from getting too close to the cliff’s edge.
In addition to the 16th, there are seven other awesome holes that cling to the cliffs and wave-smashed rock of the Cape Breton coast. Still, as good as those seaside holes are, the inland holes are arguably better in terms of their shot values and design. The par-4 5th hole, for example, follows the natural contours of an ocean marsh and, from both a strategic and aesthetic standpoint, is sheer perfection.
“We knew we’d likely never have another opportunity like this,” says Coore of designing a course in such an inspiring location. “We wanted to get it right.”