It’s already been successful enough for exploratory work to begin on a second course on the oceanside cliffs north of Inverness. Respected designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have tinkered with a layout that includes a par three to a soaring promontory that could become one of the most photographed holes in Canada. Proper work could go ahead as soon as next spring.
Bouncing through the property in a truck, Cowan-Dewar is thinking about when, rather than if. He’s talking about the second course, but it could be a hotel expansion, improved air access, a fully developed tourist economy or any number of ambitions for this part of Cape Breton.
“We’re pretty optimistic.”
IF YOU GO
Well-heeled golf visitors in private planes are already using the small airport in Port Hawkesbury, and there are hopes of expanding a strip north of Inverness to lure commercial flights. Until then, most visitors will arrive by car or fly into Sydney (WestJet and Air Canada; a two-hour drive from Inverness), Halifax (31/2 hours) or Moncton (five hours).
Award-winning Nova Scotia architect Susan Fitzgerald and interior designer Alexandra Angle teamed to create a geographically respectful yet stylish 48-room lodge. Rooms have wall-to-wall windows, L’Occitane bath products, soft Italian terry bathrobes, a Nespresso machine, goose-down duvet and pillows, walk-in rain showers and, with some rooms, outdoor terraces. (855) 652-2268; cabotlinks.com/accommodations; peak-season rates run from $225 to $280; off-season rates (Oct. 15 to June 29) start at $165.
A few hours is barely enough to scratch the surface at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site – you'll wish you had a full day to explore the site, where dozens of reconstructed buildings with enthusiastic staff depict the lives of 18th-century French officials, merchants, tradespeople and soldiers. Or go lighter on the history and enjoy the period restaurants and ocean-view trails. pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/ns/louisbourg/index.aspx
Cabot and Ceilidh trails:The summer ocean breezes of Cape Breton's Gulf coast give way to fall, when vast walls of colour adorn the highlands. Winter and spring are quiet, but these routes are open all year. novascotia.com/en/home/ourregions/scenic_travelways/default.aspx
Cape Breton Highlands National Park:It's 116 kilometres along the Cabot Trail from Cheticamp to Ingonish, but budget several hours to several days to properly explore the park's viewpoints, hiking trails, side routes and beaches. pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ns/cbreton/index.aspx
If golf’s your only game, you’ll want to make time for the following courses:
Cabot Links: True links golf and stylish modern lodging along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Standout holes include the par-5 13th, which encourages a running approach through a giant navel in a double green that tests all a golfer's creativity. 1-855-652-2268; cabotlinks.com; $65 to $130.
Highlands Links: Not a true links, but Ian Andrew's bunker restoration and tree removal (see photo) have restored mountain and ocean views and left this Stanley Thompson gem in its best condition in years. 1-902-285-2600; highlandslinksgolf.com; $54 to $89; (adjacent lodging at the classic Keltic Lodge, 1-800-565-0444, kelticlodge.ca).
Bell Bay: A strong alternative by Thomas McBroom in centrally located Baddeck. 1-800-565-3077; bellbaygolfclub.com; $46 to $79.
The Lakes: The new darling of working-class Sydney, astride a ski hill with views across the Bras d'Or from lakeside Ben Eoin. 1-902-828-4653; thelakesgolfclub.ca; $45 to 79.
Le Portage: A long-time local favourite beneath the highlands at Cheticamp. 1-902-224-3338; leportagegolfclub.com; $41 to $59.
Guy Nicholson’s visit to Inverness, courtesy of Golf Cape Breton, was his fourth in nine years. He’s looking for real estate (not at silly prices).