Lisa Longball – Motivational Speaker & Golf Entertainer

Lisa "Longball" Vlooswyk
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Cabot Links – Could Be Better Than Bandon Dunes

When I heard that Bandon Dunes owner, Chicago greeting card giant Mike Keiser, was going to partner with the charismatic Ben Cowan Dewar and build the only authentic links course in Canada, Cabot Links in Nova Scotia, I had to make the pilgrimage.

Cabot Links (Rob Howard)

Cabot Links (Rob Howard)

I took the red eye flight from Calgary to Halifax and landed at 6:00 am. I hopped in my rental car and made the 3 hour trek to Cabot Links. Much like Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links is situated in a remote area not located near a major center which adds to the mystique and the marvel of the property. It is not meant to be convenient, it is meant to be a destination.

In fact, plans are underway for the second course on property and there is room for more. The second course will be a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design named Cabot Cliffs. The views are spectacular. It will also sport a hotel complex, with a potential opening date of mid-2014. This may just become Bandon Dunes North.

I traveled through to the small quaint town of Inverness, Nova Scotia located on the west shores on Cape Breton Island. Coal was the major resource in the area but when the last mine shut down in the 1990’s the town experienced some tough times with fishing and tourism as their major industries. Cabot Links, now ironically built on top of the old mine, is the shot in the arm that this community desperately needed.

I was thrilled my room was ready early so I could check in. No detail was missed in creating a golf community atmosphere with the 48-room simple but luxurious accommodations at the Cabot Links Lodge. The building blends into the surroundings and is not ostentatious, constructed from local materials such as cedar and heavy timber.

As I walked past all the doors to my room, I was delighted by the golf quotes that adorn each door.

One read, “I could not wait for the sun to come up the next morning so that I could get out on the course again.” -Ben Hogan; another stated “Even God has to practice his putting.” -Unknown. What a great touch.

When I entered my room, I literally gasped. As I looked down the hall, all I could see was this breathtaking view of the golf course through an impressive floor to ceiling window. I dropped my bags and walked over to the window and just took in the view in awe. The undulating fairways a mere chip shot from my room and golfers strolling down the hole.

I quickly got changed and went out to the course. My tee time wasn’t until the next morning but I had to walk out to the first tee. The starter’s podium was located in the midst of fescue and rugged terrain. Beyond was the expanse of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. All you could see was sea and sky going on for what looked like an eternity. I just simply stood and stared.


The Site For The New Cabot Cliffs (Mike Rossi)

After walking around the property, I was absolutely giddy to play; but alas, I had to bide my time. I went to the Panorama dining room named for its absolutely spectacular view of the course and sea. Although I am an Alberta beef girl, I was seduced by the scrumptious seafood. The scallops were to die for and there is a concentrated focus to bring in many ingredients indigenous to the area.

I was like a kid on Christmas Eve that night awaiting one of the first tee times of the morning with head pro Joe Robinson formerly of Highlands Links, the most famous course in Cape Breton prior to Cabot Links. Robinson was a true 60 gentleman. His son was on his bag and it would be his first of two rounds that day, the dream job. My caddie was the retired high school principal in the area and was delightful.

The early morning light made for a magnificent first tee shot. Course architect Rod Whitman who has also designed gems Sagebrush, Wolf Creek and Blackhawk truly kept the natural sea side rugged landscape as authentic as possible. Every single hole is in sight and sound of the sea and five are adjacent to the beach offering phenomenal vistas.

I was fortunate to not have to battle typical links style winds that day which made me focus on being creative with my shot making. Cabot Links is made to be a hard fast course and the undulating greens and fairways make you play more of a ground game versus high towering shots suited for courses with lush thick rough and carpet like fairways. These fairways will dole out bumps and bounces that are least expected. A caddy is well worth its weight in gold.

The first hole is capped off with an infinity green that appears to disappear into the ocean and slopes front to back with a stunning view in the background. Bump and run shots and putting from off the green are well advised around this whole track.

As you play through the holes, you feel like you have been transported to Scotland or Ireland. The fescue rough, pot and rough edged bunkers all reminiscent of courses where the game was first played. The landing areas seem generous in spots, but it is imperative to be on the right side of the fairway as many of the approach shots are death with well-guarded highly contoured greens.

The second hole plays out to 620 yards from the tips and can be a beast. The 4th hole, a seemingly easy tee shot will lull you into submission, but you face a double green that boasts the most severe contours on the course. The 8th is a drivable par-4 with many options and a tough long uphill par-4 caps off the front nine.

The back is kick started with a beautiful downhill par-3 that is birdie-able. This is followed up by one of my favorite holes on the course — #11. It is a dog leg left , level with the water that wraps around the harbour with lobster boats bobbing in the back ground. It is hole after hole of a true test of golf and mettle. If you let your guard down, even for a second, you can double bogey in a hurry.

The 16th hole is a picturesque par-4 that is one of the best on property. Even if you are a manly man, you will find yourself pulling out your cell phone taking a picture on this hole like a teenage girl. Finally, the 18th hole will bring out the show boat in you. The green is set in view of the restaurant and club house creating an ever present gallery. You will find yourself tipping your hat if you hole a good putt.

Cabot Links is one of the best courses I have ever played. I believe it may even be better than its sister courses at Bandon Dunes, and believe me that is a bold statement. I also would hazard to guess that it will be a ‘top 25 in the World’ course very shortly. It is bucket list worthy and it is Canadian!

The Other Cape Breton Gems

Cape Breton is home to some of Canada’s finest golf. When you make the trek to the island to play Cabot Links ensure to include on your itinerary the following 3 courses:

Highlands Links (Destination Cape Breton)

Highlands Links (Destination Cape Breton)

Highlands Links: This stunning Stanley Thompson design set in the midst of the Cape Breton Highlands and the Atlantic Ocean has been voted one of Canada’s top golf courses time and time again. Although it is another 2 hours to the tip of Cape Breton in Ingonish, it is worth the drive. It is a beautiful trip up the Cabot Trail that will have you stopping for photo ops. Late Canadian Pro George Knudson said of the course, “It’s the only course I’d be happy to walk without clubs.”

Le Portage: Located in the Acadian village of Cheticamp, this gem is only a 45 minute drive from Cabot Links. Again a beautiful drive weaving through fishing villages and maritime culture. There are fantastic views on the course of the highlands, tree lined fairways, and various elevated tees and greens that provide a fun and challenging experience for golfers of all abilities. Don’t miss saying hello to the delightful head pro Dave Deluzio that makes an effort with his staff to make every golfer feel like it is their home course.

The Lakes Golf Club (Destination Cape Breton)

The Lakes Golf Club (Destination Cape Breton)

The Lakes Golf Club: This course is only a few years old but no stranger to acclaim. Course architect Graham Cooke said, The Lakes presents the golfer with eighteen distinct postcard views. Rock outcrops, hustling streams, gorgeous views of Bras d Or Lakes, grassy meadows and lush fairways make this a must play. The PGA Tour Canada agrees and will be hosting an event this year. A Festival of Golf is planned around the tournament September 2-8, 2013… A great time to visit.

Lisa is a 7-Time Canadian Long Drive Champion for women and is currently ranked top 5 in the World. Lisa is a Golf Entertainer at corporate and charity events and Keynote Speaker at conferences and meetings.

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