Adam Lawrence recently paid a visit to Canada’s most legendary course, and was thrilled by the plans being hatched there.
Stanley Thompson’s most famous creation, Highlands Links in Cape Breton on Canada’s far eastern seaboard, is in the middle of a radical transformation.
Thompson’s masterpiece, located in the remote village of Ingonish on the world-renowned Cabot Trail, has been changed significantly since it was built by Parks Canada in the 1930s.
And, as with so many classic courses, tree growth has had a major impact on the way the course plays. Being part of a national park, both funding and permission for significant tree surgery and other works has been hard to come by.
Now though, if course general manager Graham Hudson and his partner in crime, Canadian golf architect Ian Andrew have any say in the matter, that may change.
Already, extensive tree clearing is revealing some of the vistas that Thompson’s genius routing – surely one of the best pieces of design in golf history – had set up, only to be blocked out by later growth.
The second hole is a fantastic example of this: most photos show a great golf hole with no real view of the water, but clearing undertaken in the last year now lets golfers see that the ocean is only fifty yards or so away from the fairway.
Elsewhere on the course, the early results of this work are evident too. On the ninth hole, tree removal behind the green has reinstated a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.
But there is much more to do, not least on drainage; Hudson is lobbying Parks Canada for the funding needed to undertake a much more comprehensive programme of works that would enable the course’s greenkeeping team to deal better with the heavy rains it gets, and make it feasible to present the course in a way that befits its name.
A more comprehensive look at the Highlands Links restoration project will appear in GCA issue 23, to be published in January 2011. Subscribe to the magazine.