Inverness, Nova Scotia – Links golf is to me the most appealing golf of all. While playing Cabot Links , I’m reminded of all the reasons I’ve felt this way since I first visited Scotland in the early 1970s. I was taken with the open spaces, the wide and long views over the links I played, the way my feet felt on the firm terrain, the bounce in the ground and of the ball, the integration of the courses with the towns and villages, and the sea views. Cabot Links offers all this, and I’m sure the sense of attachment to the village of Inverness will only deepen. The developer Ben Cowan-Dewar and his partner Mike Keiser are making sure of this in many ways.
Here’s one way, and while it has nothing to do with the course itself, it has everything to do with why the project has been a success since it opened a year ago. As we approached Inverness, John R. Fontaine, the gentleman driving us in from Halifax, pointed out a building on the right side of the road. He said this would soon be the new Dancing Goat. Dancing Goat? Well, it’s a café/bakery/gathering spot in Margaree, Cape Breton, some 30 minutes from Cabot Links. Ben, who lives with his wife Allie and their two children – a third is on the way – in Inverness knows that such a place can become a focal point in a community. The main street in Inverness needs such a spot. Ben and Keiser went to the folks who own The Dancing Goat and asked if they would like to open in Inverness. Ben and Keiser are providing financial support. The second Dancing Goat is expected to open in July. Being a fellow who spends many hours in cafes, I know I’ll be a regular when I return to Cabot Links.
Then, of course, there’s the main attraction now in the old mining town. That’s Cabot Links itself, of course. Logan Taylor, the young man who took care of my wife Nell and me during our first dinner in the Panorama Restaurant that overlooks the links, told us that his grandfather Wallace remembers talk about a possible course on the property from back in the 1950s, when the mining operations stopped. The property was left a mess, but the government cleaned it up before Cabot Links took shape. Logan’s grandfather, now 94, was part of the opening ceremonies on June 29, 2012. Now, 11 months later, Cabot Links is talked about everywhere in golf circles, and Cabot Cliffs, a second course, is starting to take shape about a mile down the road. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are designing the course.
While at Cabot, I used my trusty set of nine clubs: Driver, three-wood, 3, 5, 7, 9, pitching and sand wedges, and putter. That’s my usual complement when I walk a course. I guess I’m old school. I don’t mind having an idea of the yardage to a hole, but on the other hand I don’t care to have a specific yardage. I grew up in the era of 150-yard markers or bushes at the sides of fairways. That was plenty of guidance. Anyway, links golf is less about yardage than it is about feeling the shot and using the contours of the ground. That’s true right from the first hole at Cabot Links, which we were playing at 325 yards. I’m a play it forward kind of golfer. Back tees are a thing of the past for me. Speaking of tees, I like the simplicity of the markers that point the golfer to the next tee at Cabot. Understatement is preferable to exaggeration, simplicity to adornment.
The tee shot at the first is blind in the sense that one hits over a rise in the ground to the fairway beyond. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional blind shot in golf, and a lot that’s right. Tom Simpson, a terrific and too little-known English architect who lived from 1877-1964, put it this way: “Good visibility is indispensable if the holes are to present a problem which needs to be thought out with thoroughness in the matter of attack. But visibility should not be unduly stressed, and blindness of a kind can be a virtue.” Now that’s golf writing.