The newest trend in golf travel today is all about new places to take our game where we can enjoy unique opportunities to explore new courses, cultures, and cuisines and create golf experiences like no other. Golfers today are finding new undiscovered golf travel destinations that were often overlooked in the past. Nova Scotia has joined the list as one the most popular new golf travel destinations in North America and abroad for that matter.
The new world-renowned courses of Ben Cowan-Dewar, Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs on Cape Breton Island along with the iconic Cape Breton Highland Links may have captured the spotlight for Nova Scotia golf, but it also grew overall awareness of all the spectacular golf courses across this epic Canadian Atlantic province.
The name Nova Scotia originates from Latin, meaning “New Scotland.” In 1773, the first significant migration of Scottish settlers in Nova Scotia landed on the shores of Pictou. It is estimated that more than 50,000 Gaelic settlers immigrated to Nova Scotia by 1870 and for that reason, Pictou became known as the “Birthplace of New Scotland.”
From Scotland to New Scotland came the game of golf, the first written attestation to golf in Nova Scotia comes in 1873, when three bank clerks, all Scots, set up a three-hole course in the South Commons in Halifax. However, an organized game of golf wouldn’t happen in Nova Scotia until 1895. Walter Crowe, a Truro native, had seen the game played in the US and brought it north to Victoria Park.
Today there are over 65 golf courses in Nova Scotia from parkland to links courses, to rolling hills and mountainside designs. The landscape, vistas, and coastal regions are pristine and nothing short of magnificent.
Nova Scotia is in every sense the “Pebble Beach of the East,” with literally dozens of courses that will captivate your senses, challenge your game, and leave you with incredible memories.
Cape Breton Island has been ranked the #1 Island in North America by Condé Nast Traveler readers, and #1 Island in Canada by Travel + Leisure readers. As Canada’s only authentic links golf course, Cabot Links is just one of the reasons golfers are flocking to Nova Scotia. Its sister course, Cabot Cliffs, hugs Cape Breton Island’s dramatic coastline and was named #11 on Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses for 2021 and #1 on SCOREGolf’s 2021 Top 50 Canadian Public Courses.
Nova Scotia is made up of a mainland peninsula and Cape Breton Island, which is connected via a causeway across the Canso Strait. It is known for its huge fishing industry, picturesque lighthouses, and endless shorelines. The coastal towns, infinite seafood options, and epic viewpoints make this Atlantic province a must-see, must-play, must-stay adventure for all golfers.
Nova Scotia offers unlimited golf opportunities, great resorts, and truly unique travel experiences. There are over 8200 miles of coastlines to explore here with numerous courses offering ocean and lakeside vistas in every direction. Quite frankly, it is often difficult to focus on golf with so many amazing things to see and do in every region of Nova Scotia.
Golfing Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is almost as large as New England, not including Down East Maine. Planning more than one golf excursion to this great place is almost a certainty to fully enjoy all it has to offer. There is the Southwest Region, Halifax Region, North Central Region, and Cape Breton Island Region.
It is best when you are planning, to choose only one to two regions to play unless you can stay for a few weeks or more. Mixing regions is the most logical plan here, except for Cape Breton Island which should be a golf vacation adventure unto itself.
All great golf trips begin with planning, so below we will review the regions and offer our suggestions for courses, resorts, and communities to visit. Not only will your dollar go farther in Nova Scotia, but many of the great courses here are reasonably priced as well.
The Southwest Region
Bay Ferries high-speed catamaran ferry, The CAT, departs from Bar Harbor, Maine and will drop you in Yarmouth, on Nova Scotia’s southwest tip. From the grand sea captains’ homes that line the streets and fishing boats in the harbor, to the fresh seafood served up at local restaurants, Yarmouth is a quintessential seaside town. There are numerous options for hotels and inns for a night or two.
Play Yarmouth Links, one of Nova Scotia’s oldest links-style golf courses with panoramic lighthouse and ocean views.
Venture along the eastern shore of the Bay of Fundy to Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa which offers great Stay & Play golfer packages. Play the great course designed by top Canadian course designer Stanley Thompson. Churchill’s Restaurant here is phenomenal.
Head west along Route 8 to White Point Beach Resort located on a mile long white sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean. This seaside getaway was originally built as a hunting and fishing lodge in 1928 with most of its guest coming from Boston via steamship. Their small golf course is a great 9-hole practice track with ocean views.
Continue along the Lighthouse Route to play the Sherwood Golf & Country Club, one of Nova Scotia’s best-kept secrets in Chester, and Osprey Ridge Golf Course near Bridgewater, a masterpiece by designer Graham Cooke.
The Halifax Region
Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, is an eclectic vibrant Atlantic Seacoast city with great hotels, restaurants, and plenty of things to do. Take in the province’s most visited destination, its 2.5-mile boardwalk along the city’s bustling waterfront for great day and night festivities.
Halifax is blessed with the largest number of golf courses in Nova Scotia which makes it a great base for a three or four-day stay.
Play the links-style, Cornish and Robinson-designed, Hartlen Point Forces Golf Club, one of the most challenging courses in the province.
A must-play is The Links at Brunello in Timberlea, it is truly a gem with impeccable conditioning and has been listed in the “Top 25 in Canada” by Golf Digest.
For a cityside course, try the Donald Ross designed, Brightwood Golf & Country Club. The restaurants in Halifax are a seafood lover’s dream. Try 5 Fisherman, Salty’s, McKelvie’s, or The Waterfront Warehouse. For steak, hands down it’s CUT Steakhouse on Salter Street.
Northeast / Central Region
The North Central region of Nova Scotia is nestled between the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Bay of Fundy, and the Minas Basin.
On the Northumberland Coast, Fox Harb’r Resort is Nova Scotia’s only 5-Star resort with spectacular facilities and some of the finest golf in Canada. The Graham Cooke golf course is simply epic by all golfing standards with a true mix of links style and parkland-designed holes. Fox Harb’r is planning an additional 9 holes along the Northumberland Strait to make it a truly authentic links course by 2025. If you’re staying at Fox Harb’r the food is a delight at every level, outstanding service and terrific amenities abound!
Play the awesome Northumberland Links course in Pugwash, just a short distance away with views that rival Pebble Beach.
Be sure to get to Amherst Golf Club, this course dates back to 1909, and was designed by Henry Vardon Associate, Fred Richwood.
Another great Stanley Thompson design is Truro Golf Club.
If you are venturing north to the Highlands, play Abercrombie in New Glasgow along the way.
Cape Breton Island Region
Along the dramatic coast of Cape Breton Island, Cabot Cape Breton features 46 holes of exhilarating golf and is one of the best resort experiences in Canada. With two acclaimed “World Top 100 Courses,” 72 rooms of award-winning accommodations at Cabot Links Lodge, 19 upscale Golf Villas, and exquisite dining in three on-site restaurants, Cabot Cape Breton is intended to excite and inspire at every turn.
Cape Breton Highlands Links Golf Club is a historic masterpiece by Stanley Thompson and a tribute to Scottish golf. The Keltic Lodge, as a homage to Stanley Thompson, created the Stanley Thompson House with suites for guests at the resort. The resort is themed in traditional Scottish decor, and there is a wide array of accommodations at all price points here.
The Highlands Links course, ranked as one of the “Best in Canada” by many, is 6500+ yards with a slope of 141, a real test in golf. The vistas are beyond extraordinary, and the golf experience is incredible.
Just south of The Keltic Lodge is The Lakes Golf Club & Resort at Ben Eoin with a spectacular golf course just west of Sydney. It is an excellent resort with a truly memorable design by Graham Cooke that makes golf at The Lakes Course so wonderful. The resort’s Founders Restaurant is a culinary delight of amazing seafood and great steaks.
Must-Do Drive from Halifax to Highlands
On your drive by car from Halifax to the Cape Breton Highlands, take the Cabot Trail which rises from the sea to the mountains along the Atlantic coastline. This 185-mile coastal route that weaves in and out of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is considered one of the best and most scenic drives in the world. If your golf vacation is taking you to the Highlands be sure to extend your stay for both Halifax and coastal exploration.
Nova Scotia Golf Travel – Getting Here
The Canadian exchange rate stretches your dollar to $1.35+, which is a huge economic incentive for golf trips here. For Northeast golf travelers going to Nova Scotia the CAT Ferry out of Bar Harbor Maine, at only $199.00 each way for your Car or SUV, is a bargain over flights and rental cars, and the per-passenger rate is very reasonable as well. From New England, New York, and regions south, it is a full day plus drive and the ferry will be cheaper and much more enjoyable.
Direct flights are available to Halifax from several major cities in Canada, the United States, and abroad. You can get here by train from across Canada or take convenient ferries from Bar Harbor, Maine, and Saint John, New Brunswick.
If you are heading to Cape Breton Island, fly direct to Sydney from Toronto or fly to Halifax and spend a few relaxing days enjoying this great Canadian city and some great golf facilities here.
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