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CAPE BRETON, NS — Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links are two of the best golf courses in Canada, but they have one downside: winter.
Young Toronto entrepreneur Ben Cowan-Dewar is creating a solution to this problem by building a similar quality golf course atop the cliffs of St. Lucia, an island far from the cold winds that currently sweep the cliffs of Cape Breton.
Italian explorer John Cabot has never been to St. Lucia, but his name will be prominently there when Cabot Point Golf Course opens in spring 2021.
Cabot didn’t play golf, but his name is now recognized around the world thanks to Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links on the rugged island he “discovered” in 1497 and mistook for China.
It had been tasked by King Henry Vll of England with finding a new route to China when it ran into the east coast of Canada.
He immediately recognized the tourism potential of this beautiful land and he carved out a route through the wilderness that became world famous for its magnificent vistas and called it the Cabot Trail.
Well no. It happened about 400 years later.
But Cowan-Dewar immediately recognized the potential of these tall cliffs topped with rolling sand dunes when he first saw them 2,000 feet above. It wasn’t that high, but the aerial camera that took pictures of the rugged Cape Breton coastline was.
Cowan-Dewar saw the photos at a banquet in Toronto as he sat next to Rodney MacDonald, Nova Scotia’s tourism minister and MPP for Inverness, a small mining town badly affected by the shutdown mines.
MacDonald — who later became premier of Nova Scotia — was looking for bright young entrepreneurs to bring business ideas to his impoverished town. That is why he attended the banquet organized by the Young Presidents Organization.
Cowan-Dewar was a YPO member and attended the banquet researching potential sites to create an award-winning golf course. It became the perfect marriage.
When Cowan-Dewar showed the photos to Mike Keizer, an American billionaire and golf course developer, he quickly had a partner to create his dream course.
Keiser made his money by creating greeting cards out of recycled paper.
The two golf courses they opened in Cape Breton are now ranked by Golf Digest Magazine as the ninth best in the world — Cabot Cliffs — and the 43rd best in the world — Cabot Links.
Partners are hoping for a similar rating for Cabot Point in St. Lucia in the Caribbean, where golf is played year-round. It will have a resort and golf village similar to those found at Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links.
Cowan-Dewar expects its new golf course and resort to generate 1,000 jobs when it opens on the West Indies island, which is home to 160,000 people occupying 617 square kilometers of land, about a fifth the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state.
He said 90 per cent of the golfers who played at Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links last year were from outside the Maritimes. “2019 was a banner year for us in Cabot – we welcomed guests from every province and territory and from almost all 50 states,” said Cowan-Dewar, who was recently named president of Destination Canada, a government agency. designed to attract international visitors. in Canada.
Both Nova Scotia courses are built above the abandoned coal mines in Inverness, on the west side of Cape Breton Island, overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The population of the rural beach town increased by 2.2% to 1,248 people between 2011 and 2016, mainly due to new tourism jobs associated with the golf courses.
The two courts employ more than 500 locals, he said. No golf carts are used at Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, creating many caddy jobs, but a golf cart can be made available for golfers with medical needs.
The coal mines belonged to Sir William Mackenzie, a railway builder born in Peterborough. He built a railway from Inverness to Port Hawkesbury to export coal.
He also built a trans-Canada railway from Vancouver to Inverness called the Canadian Northern Railway, but he ran into financial trouble in the 1920s and the Canadian government, which had backed his bonds and merged him with the Grand Trunk Railway, in Canadian National. Railway.
A 1.5 kilometer warm, shallow sandy beach stretches along one side of the town, and a promenade separates the beach from the golf courses. The 18 holes of Cabot Links, designed by Rod Whitman, offer ocean views. A few miles north of Cabot Links is Cabot Cliffs, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
Highway 19 passes through the city and is part of the Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic roads in the world, which passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Both Cabot golf courses include a residential portion with upscale homes overlooking the links and the sea coast that are for sale and for rent. Travel & Leisure magazine named Cape Breton the #1 island destination in the continental United States and Canada.
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