The first hole at Cabot Cliffs overlooks a significant part of the course. As you approach the first tee, you’ll gaze right out towards the ocean, while in the distance you’ll see the village of Inverness and immediately get a sense of the width of the course. We feel the first hole, a par five, conveys the message that the course will give you options, room to play, and entice you to hit a variety of shots. This is a hole that gets you into the round in a beautiful fashion. It will allow most players to start well, and if there’s skillful play, you might accomplish something more.
This is one of the most highly individualistic holes we’ve created in our career, and it is also one of the most unique golf holes we’ve ever seen. On its face it has views of the ocean, which makes it breathtaking, and a width that suggests the fairway is impossible to miss. However, there’s a mystery to the hole and it doesn’t reveal itself right away. It gives you options, and depending on where the flag is, you’ll have to make the correct decision off the tee or face a challenging approach. There are holes where how they are played is dictated by a prominent feature. That’s the case on this par four, where a central natural dune that fronts the green really impacts how you play the hole. The fairway is massive, but you have to choose where you want to be to best attack the pin. For some players, what you think is best isn’t necessarily the most desirable spot, but depending on where the pin is, you may not want to be in the middle of the fairway, and instead play well to the right or left. It is a hole about decisions—and those decisions will surely impact your score.
The first hole gives you magnificent views of the ocean, while the second hole brings you closer to it. The third turns away from the ocean. Given that, it wouldn’t seem as dramatic, but this is a hole that will surprise you. The combination of the natural valley that runs through the fairway and the higher ground on the left really forces decisions off the tee. Playing down into the valley is an obvious shot, but the left side presents a better angle at the green, though the approach will be partially blind. Different players will tackle this one in their own unique ways. That’s a theme that is consistent throughout the course—we like to give you options and let you decide what you’re up for. Do you want to be on the top left of the fairway with an easier approach, or would you prefer a far safer tee shot in the valley, but faced with a tougher approach? It is a subtle hole, but one of our favourite designs on the property.
Players will notice immediately there are two greens on this hole, which is unique. On the scorecard the left-hand green will appear as the longest par 3 on the course. But in reality, it plays far shorter than its listed yardage. There’s a large bunker in the foreground from the tee, but any ball that carries the left centre of that hazard will bounce on the firm turf and roll onto the green. On the scorecard it looks difficult, but compared to other one-shot holes on the course, scores will likely be lower. As the hole was being built, there was a pile of earth to the right of the main bunker. We had originally wanted the hole to line up with the river, but struggled to make it work in their routing. Eventually a decision was made to add a second green to the right that lines up with the river, and the result is spectacular, with a strong left-to-right feel to the hole. The right green is equally beautiful, but significantly shorter, and more difficult than the longer version of the hole. In the end, there are two great holes in one. How often does that happen?
A great Cape hole in the classic sense. When you turn the corner at Cabot Cliffs after the third hole, you’ll have played away from the water and now for the second hole in a row you are heading towards the dunes and ocean, making this one of the most spectacular settings for a green. Certainly one of the most photogenic holes on the course, the fifth can play longer if you are conservative with your tee shot, or much shorter if you bite off a significant part of the ocean marsh. The longest hitters will tackle the inward bunker and it is possible that the most aggressive drivers could be close to reaching the green with an appropriate wind. There’s a tantalizing sense that you get very close to the green with a 290-yard carry over the bunker. It is a big carry, but there is also plenty of room to play it short and hit a mid-iron into the green, which has one of the most interesting green sites on the course.
An interesting and unusual hole in the classic sense, akin to something you might see in the British Isles. After the drama of the 5th, this hole parallels the ocean and plays into the prevailing wind. The green is situated in the bowl of a group of dunes. The front part of the green is visible and the back area drops down. The front pin is likely the most difficult, though players might elect to play short and run the ball in. For those players who have been all over the world, this is a hole whose genesis they’ll recognize. For those who haven’t, this will give them a true sense of links golf.
The 7th hole has the most intimidating tee shot on the course, but once players have encountered it, they’ll recognize it isn’t nearly as long as it appears. And for the first time at Cabot Cliffs, golfers will encounter the forest, something that appealed to us as designers. Truthfully the hole is very representative of the topography of Cape Breton. We liked it and there is no question this will be the most demanding par five on the course. But like the tee shot, the hole is more forgiving than it appears and there is plenty of room to play. The contouring in the fairways, developed by Cabot Links designer Rod Whitman, adds intrigue, with a linear roll in the middle. If you are right of the roll, you’ll have a good look at the green on your approach, but those left of it won’t see much of the green. It meanders through a valley and up a hill, concluding with a subtle green that is nestled hard against a ravine to the left.
This is a hole that really connects the journey through the Cape Breton landscape, something we found particularly interesting. Initially there was a discussion of making this a long par four, but the decision was made to create a par five. The green was made so the hole could rotate between either a two- or three-shot hole, depending on the circumstances. As it is, the hole flows downhill with a huge fairway with a centre-line hazard and ends at an infinity green that looks like it’s hanging on the cliff next to the ocean. Cabot Links designer Rod Whitman crafted a Biarritz green at the end—with its notable dip in the middle of the putting surface—that was tempered in the design process. However, the hollow in the green will make shots to the back of the putting surface very challenging, while front pins are more accessible.
Surrounded by small, skinny bunkers on the left and back, and with its green set right against the cliffs, this is surely one of the most spectacular holes on the course. The hole is short, but the design was heavily influenced by the crosswind and how the green fits into its cliff-top location. Wind will surely make it a challenge, despite its length, so the green is open to the front left. That means golfers don’t always have to play over the bunkers, but can take a safer route. Beautiful and incredible, and devilishly beguiling, the 9th will surely be one of the holes that many discuss after their round.
A hole that really connects you to the ocean after the short adventure on the 9th, the 10th hole is influenced by both the cliffs and the ravine that fronts the green. The fairway plays tight to the ocean all the way to the green, challenging you to play along the cliff and deal with the edge all the way along. Still, it is a hole that gives you options—there is plenty of width. If you want to challenge the green in two, that option is there, but for the rest of us the question is whether to play around the ravine or take it head on. You’re actually better off to play short of the ravine and closer to the cliff and have a perfect angle at the green. The hole asks, “Am I willing to play close to the cliffs all the way along for a better angle?” If you shy away and play right, your angle is not nearly as good. The way the green is contoured, if you are at the right, it isn’t advantageous if you’re trying to get it close. The left corner close to the cliff puts you in the best position to tackle the green.
While the 10th hole gets you back to the clubhouse, the 11th hole really changes the aesthetic. There’s the forest on the right, rumpled dune-like features, and a fairway that wanders up the hill. The green is a bit of a saddle and collects balls, which will be important considering you might play this up a slope and into the wind. The fairway steadily rises uphill on the approach, meaning you may need more club, and you can’t necessarily see the bottom of the green or the contour on the approach. Your vision is telling you one thing, but the reality is different—and that makes it difficult to make a confident swing for the skillful player who is trying to get the ball close to the hole.
Like a rollercoaster, Cabot Cliffs has ebbs and flows, and this hole elevates the visual element as it turns you back to the ocean once again. That said, it is a long par three and missing the green is going to make for a tough recovery. Truthfully you’ll prefer to be in the bunker right of the green than down the hill to the left, which will lead to a very difficult pitch. The 12th is visually interesting and is a very demanding par three, and once again the wind will be a big factor. It will play easier with the wind coming from the left than the right. Regardless, walking off with a three at 12 should leave you very happy indeed.
This is one of our favourite holes, though it might confound players who see it the first time. While it goes away from the ocean, players who look back will see the water and the previous holes in all their glory. The key to this hole is the hill that is in front of the green, meaning you’ll be able to see only the top of the flag from the fairway. It felt like the most interesting thing to do was to create a saucer or bowl green behind the hill and create some Old World charm. If you’re short on your approach, you’ll watch the ball come back to you. But for those who make the shot, there will be a child-like anticipation in seeing the result. It is a different kind of hole from anything else on the course and is part of the package that makes Cabot Cliffs come together.
Players will immediately notice the large rock hump that sits surrounded by bunkers and is the main feature of this hole. We found the rock while clearing the hole and weren’t initially sure we were going to incorporate it into the design, but in time, everyone came to like it. What impact does it have on the hole? Our sense is that people will play more conservatively because of the rock, though it really shouldn’t come into play. That means you might hit more club than you need to, which will also make a difference in how the hole plays—and will, perhaps, bring the back bunkers into the equation.
There’s a lot of fairway on this hole, but how you play it will be determined by the route you take off the tee. While there is more area to the right, aggressive players who want to try to get to the green with their second shot will need to be on the higher ground on the left, an area protected by bunkers. We think people who have been around golf will think there must be a reason to play up the left, while those who play down the right will have a blind second shot. The fairway naturally presented itself this way, and those who hit to the left will have a clear view of the green and be able to manage the centre hazard. It was there naturally and we took advantage of it. In fact, the hole is highly reachable for a strong player and you don’t even have to carry the central bunker. You can play right or left of it and get it running. If the turf is firm, hitting it over the green will be a factor. Once you’ve arrived at the green, you’ll notice there’s a beautiful contour right in front that defines the pin placement. For an accomplished player, this will determine whether you play right or left to get closest to the flag.
There is no question this is an extraordinary spot for a hole, but the conundrum during the design phase of Cabot Cliffs was whether we could make it work given the elevations and area for the green. Truthfully, this is another hole where the flag position and wind will dictate how it is approached. There are ways to play your tee shot far to left and be surprised when the ball rolls down the slope and towards the hole on the right. Given that, the 16th is a hole that people will want to play a few times to understand. By then the intimidation of the tee shot should have subsided. The far back left is the most difficult hole location, significantly more challenging than the one on the right, which looks like it is hanging out over the ocean.
This is another hole where the tee shot appears daunting, but the real challenge is recognizing the shot is also uphill, making the carry greater than you think, especially if you are taking a route close to the green. But once you’re over the cliff, the land helps you dramatically, propelling your ball towards the putting surface. The 17th hole revealed itself immediately after we walked from the area that became the 16th green. We remember thinking, “My God, this has to be a hole.” We wanted it to be a short four that would be a lot of fun and receptive. There’s a huge fairway to play to and people who are strong and courageous can drive the green. The feature that really defines the hole is the juxtaposition of two bunkers down in front of the green. If you play wide left, you’ll have to contend with those bunkers, making your pitch more of a challenge than it initially appears.
This is a hole that just cried out, “Here I am.” There is more of an angle to the cliff here than on the 10th, making it more visible, and the ravine in front of the green is an incredible feature. It is a hole that anyone who plays golf will love, and it’s a great finish. At the same time, we wanted people to have fun and enjoy the conclusion, so making it a three-shot hole made sense. One of the keys here is the narrow, serpentine green. Players who play away from the ravine and the water will face a tricky shot back towards the cliff with only a slight area of green to receive the ball. Will they make the bold play when faced with the ocean as a backdrop? We expect there will be a lot of flubbed chips as they come towards the green!
|Tee Name||Length||Gender||Course Rating/Slope Rating||Front Nine||Back Nine|
|04 Hybrid SO||5534||Men||68.6/129||34.3/127||34.3/130|
|06 Royal Blue||3785||Men||62.5/106||31.6/108||30.9/104|
|08 Hybrid SO||5534||Women||74.2/136||37.1/136||37.1/135|
|10 Royal Blue||3785||Women||64.6/108||32.7/112||31.9/103|
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