Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cabot Links Review

There are plenty of faux links courses in the US. If there is a links-style courses in Las Vegas you know they are everywhere. Heck the best links-style course in the US is often tabbed as Sand Hills in Nebraska (and I am not one to argue!). Still, when one travels to Nova Scotia, Canada to play the Cabot courses - and especially the Links, a "true" links course - you really see what you have been missing when playing the faux links courses.

The course just feels connected to the sea in a way these other courses can only approximate. The bunkers feel carved out of the dunes. The cape hole on the sixth hole actually go around an actual cape-cove!

I played Cabot Links in 20mph winds in the morning and utterly calm conditions in the afternoon, making it two completely different courses (as all good links courses will do). In short, I felt I was playing in Scotland, yet here I was in North America - truly a transcendent experience.

The Links (like its sister, Cabot Cliffs) starts off with a gentle handshake of a par 5.

After a longish par 3 second with a crazy swale in the middle

the fun really begins on the short par-4 third hole with crazy swamp danger off to the right.

The 4th hole is my personal nemesis. Playing uphill this hole is just hard, triply hard in that aforementioned wind. In either condition I was struggling to get up there but once you gain the high ground you have one of the most beautiful views on the course.

Holes 5 and 6 are fantastic playing along the cove with lobster boats (or at least I thought they were lobster boats - I was so obsessed by lobster on this trip that I turned everything into lobster).

The 8th hole is just a brute. A long forced carry over marshland, then an uphill shot to a double green making this par 5 a real tester.

The course has a lot more teeth than a typical resort course (more on that in a bit) and it shows it in full with the 8th hole.

The fun picks up again on the 10th hole, a fantastic short par 4 with a blind tee shot over a hill to a downhill green. I loved every bit of this hole, it is quintessential links golf and so much fun to play!

The course has a long stretch of holes coming up with super long par 5s and 4s which you think are tough until you get to the par 3, 14th hole which will test your nerve like no other at only 90 yards straight downhill.

This hole was so devious that when I played it, only one person hit the green of a foursome. So fun, so pretty, so ridiculous (in a good way)!

The last stretch was very reminiscent of the last stretch at Bandon Dunes. Play along the water for 16, start to turn in-land for 17 and then 18 is playing back to town/the resort with the folks eating at Cabot's restaurants getting a full view of your approach shots into 18.  Of the three holes, 16 along the coast is the favorite due to the eye candy but I added bonuses points for beach access right by the 16th green (if you have time to dip down to the Atlantic, do it! ).

Overall, Cabot Links is a great course. I love that you don't have to fly all the way to Scotland to play a Scottish course - and the sea views are amazing. I wish the routing of a few holes was softened a bit because the course has too much of an edge for the typical resort golfer, and it would be great to get the greens running slightly faster (they were still working to overcome some tough agronomic issues coming out of a tough winter) but those are minor quibbles to an overall fantastic experience at Cabot.

For more information on the Links, check out this, well, link!: https://www.cabotlinks.com/golf/cabot-links/

Monday, June 10, 2019

Desert Aire Course Review

When you travel to the high desert in California you may pass through the towns of Palmdale/Lancaster. There you will see desert scrub brush as far as the eye can see but occasionally your view will be broken up by a stand or two of cottonwood trees. One such stand contains the funky but fun course of Desert Aire in Palmdale.

For years I have been wanting to play Desert Aire because of their email game. Getting semi-weekly emails in my inbox telling me about too good to be true deals, fund leagues and skins games and generally imparting a vibe that 9 holes in the high desert can be an awfully fun time.

I finally got to check out the course on a hot weekend taking advantage of a 2fer Saturday (in the afternoon it was 2 for 1 greens fees and 2 for 1 food and drink). The course is a pretty straight ahead parkland style course with trees framing the holes but there was challenges to be had.

You have to be smart with your driving as the cottonwood trees (and some Joshua trees!) really influence your second shot. Indeed the 9th hole has tree placement slightly reminiscent of Pebble's 18th. The greens are also a little tricky as they keep them longish to protect against the desert heat but they get baked out and sometimes it almost feels like you are putting in Scotland.

At the end of the day, the conditioning of the course and the routing isn't fantastic by any stretch but if you lived in Palmdale and were just new to golf, this course would quickly become your favorite place to play. Some of the holes (particularly the 5th and 6th holes) have some challenge and teeth to them and the rest of the holes give you enough of a challenge that I was glad to have played 2 rounds of 9 holes here.

Golf needs more courses like this, 9 holes for a quick, cheap round and while the golf won't crack any top 100 lists it serves a purpose of getting golfers out and about and that has a value all its own.

For more info on Desert Aire, check out the link: http://www.desertairegolfcourse.com/