Shot in the arm
How two world-class golf courses helped resuscitate a tiny Nova Scotia town’s economy
Business success stories can be hard to come by on Cape Breton Island. But the Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs golf courses fit that description.
The two 18-hole courses (Cabot Links opened in 2012 while Cabot Cliffs debuted in 2016) have turned the community of Inverness from a ghost town into something of a boom town as golfers flock to courses that have been ranked among the top 100 in the world by several golf publications. “It’s definitely changed the whole atmosphere in Inverness,” says Paul Smith, a local realtor. “The town as a whole is much more upbeat. Two new stores are opening on main street right now. When I first came to Inverness it seemed something was always closing.”
The success has led to steady construction on the Cabot properties and a large uptick in employment at the courses. Cabot Links general manager Andrew Alkenbrack says when Cabot Links opened there were 24 rooms on the property. Now there are 72, as well as 19 villas (five new ones opened in June.) He says management is now deciding what accommodations to build on the Cabot Cliffs property.
The two courses have also become major employers in the area. Alkenbrack says Cabot Links started with just 12 employees. This season between 375–400 will work at the two courses, including 50 who work and live in Inverness year-round. That’s significant in a town with just 1,300 residents. Alkenbrack is hoping to see close to 40,000 rounds of golf shot during the 2017 season, which lasts from May until late October. As the legend of the two courses grows, that goal seems well within reach. “In the early days people were convinced nobody was going to come here,” Alkenbrack says. “But we’re doing at least a few things right.”