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Andrew completes Highlands project

Andrew has restored Thompson's dragon and fireball bunkers on the fifth hole

Architect Ian Andrew has completed the restoration of Stanley Thompson's original design elements at the famed Highlands Links course in Cape Breton, Canada.

The two year project has seen Andrew, assisted by the course's in-house crew, rebuild most of Thompson's original bunkers, plus a considerable amount of tree clearing and green space recapture.

Andrew completed the project in early September by restoring Thompson's bunkers on the par five sixth hole, known as 'Mucklemouth Meg', and by returning the two bunkers on the right side of the par three fifth green to Thompson's vision of a dragon and a fireball.

Highlands' crew continues to struggle against adverse weather conditions, though – the work on the sixth hole was delayed several days by 75mm of rain, which left the low-lying fairway almost entirely covered with floodwater, and forced the architect and his team to excavate by hand a 60m long trench to drain water from the left hand bunkers. Other holes, including the tenth, eleventh and twelfth, which lie in the in the valley of the Clyburn Brook, also suffered from the rain.

Course owner Parks Canada has announced its intention to seek a private operator for the course and its associated hotel, the Keltic Lodge, and is believed to be about to issue a formal RFP document. Members of the greens crew, many of whom have worked at the course for many years, have been given notice of termination of their employment contracts.

Though the formal restoration project is complete, more work, especially additional drainage and tree removal, remains needed at Highlands Links, and Andrew told GCA he was hopeful that a new operator would continue with the process. With the opening this year of Cabot Links, around 100 miles from Highlands, the spotlight of the golfing world has shone on Cape Breton, and some commentators have suggested that Cabot's management would be a good fit to operate the older course. But owner Ben Cowan-Dewar downplayed that idea to GCA.

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