Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island harbors one of golf’s best-kept secrets— and is about to get another one.

On the west coast of Cape Breton Island, the small rural community of Inverness, Nova Scotia, bears little evidence of its coal-mining roots. Today, the main industry of this town is tourism and fishing, but it is also home to one of golf ‘s best-kept secrets.

Cabot Links, the only true links golf course in North America, opened in the summer of 2012. Designed by Rod Whitman, the course sits atop a former coal mine, and provides a breathtaking view of the beaches that surround it. Th e design takes full advantage of the rugged Nova Scotia terrain, incorporating its undulating landscape and sandy soil into the unpredictable course. Although a relative newcomer to the golf world, the course has the feel of its older cousins back in Scotland.

“We’ve always been a destination, but are still relatively unknown,” says Andrew Alkenbrack, general manager at Cabot Links.

However, word is quickly getting out. It captured the top spot on Canadian Golf Magazine‘s “Top 100 Golf Courses of 2015,” and ranked No. 42 on Golf Digest‘s list of the “World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.” Golf Magazine also placed it on the magazine’s list of “Top 100 Golf Courses in the World.”

Alkenbrack says that the appeal of the course can’t be narrowed down to any one particular thing.

“[It’s a] combination of the quality of the golf and the uniqueness about the brand of golf that we provide.”

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Cabot Links is a walking course, which only adds to the unique design and feel of the course. “That exists elsewhere, but it’s a bit different here,” Alkenbrack comments.

And, as acclaimed as well as Cabot Links has been, it now faces some worthy competition—on its own property.

Cabot Cliffs, which will officially open on June 7, is just as spectacular as Cabot Links, but provides an entirely different experience. Holes jut out on dramatic cliffs perched high above the ocean, while rolling sand dunes and the stiff wind coming off the water complete the experience.

Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, it is, in Alkenbrack’s words, a clear reflection of their “purist and minimalist” instincts.

“The courses are so playable and enjoyable, because they are fair and good shots are rewarded,” he says.

The challenges, of course, only add to the thrill of the game. And while the 16th and 17th tees are considered the most mentally challenging, Alkenbrack says that, “with as many holes as we have on the water, any tee shot can bring trouble on the right day!”

One of the many appealing features of Cabot Cliffs is that it offers two very different settings within the same course. The front nine of the course captures the true feel of a links course, much like Cabot Links, with their location near the beach. The back nine take players to a more rugged setting, winding up the hillside to the dramatic finishing holes on the cliffs.

MORE THAN A GAME

When the clubs have been put away for the day, Cabot Links still offers a rich guest experience. Its remote location—almost 200 miles from the Halifax Airport—goes a long way toward creating the feeling of complete escape. Walking trails and access to the beach provide amazing outdoor recreational opportunities, and many enjoy taking advantage of its reputation for fishing. The 48-room Cabot Links Lodge is designed to provide low-key luxury for all guests, with unblemished views of the ocean or golf course. Nearby, the more private Golf Villas offer a sanctuary, complete with their own kitchens and private decks with outdoor fireplaces.

To complete the experience, dining options include the casual Cabot Public House, which serves up comforting pub fare and locavore-bottled craft beers against a backdrop of local music, and the Cabot Bar, with its quick, casual menu of salads and seafood that also includes a robust offering of carefully selected wine and spirits.

But it is the Panorama Restaurant, aptly named for its unbroken view of the entire surrounding area, that provides the most memorable and lasting experience. Award-winning chefs use fresh, local ingredients for a menu that is beyond compare.

Alkenback says the most popular dishes are the lobster ravioli, Cape Breton seafood—and any of the other maritime-inspired fare. They share the well-rounded menu, with items like grilled rib steak, Roasted lamb loin and stuffed chicken breast.

He says that while Cabot Links is a golf destination, it also offers so much more— and that is what keeps people returning.

“It’s food and beverage, attention to detail on the rooms, as well as the Cabot trails,” he says. “We’ve built a culture here filled with warm, genuine hospitality. Guests [ form] relationships quickly, and we love having them around. It’s the highest compliment we can receive when they return!”

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All photos courtesy Cabot Links