The attention lavished on Cape Breton's two newest golf courses, Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Inverness, might lead a person to believe that golf is thriving on the island.

However, that attention hasn't always translated to revenue or members for older golf clubs, which have been feeling the strain of both competition and a declining local golf community.

That's required a change in attitude and business model.

One of the oldest clubs in Canada, the 122-year-old Lingan Golf and Country Club near Sydney, for one, has transformed its operation in recent years by shifting away from focusing on exclusive memberships to embracing occasional players and non-members.

Like so many heritage golf clubs, Lingan once denied membership to minorities and women.

Those days are of course long gone, but a more inclusive outlook has not meant a leap in membership numbers.

"Golf courses have really had to come up with new ways to attract people," said Lingan general manager Donnie Rowe. "It's trying to find ways to entice people to come out and play nine holes or use the practice facilities or just other things to get them to come out to the golf course."

Rowe said that includes offering tee times to non-members who just pay green fees to play. Those fees have become an important part of Lingan's revenue stream.

"It used to be that they had 800 members; they didn't have room for green fees," Rowe explained.

"Now we're down to 500 members. There's room to send people out. You know, the golf course is here. You might as well send people out and play it."

There's also less competition and more co-operation between clubs.

"We don't have to have this sort of cut-throat, we're trying to take advantage of everybody...that's not the way it works," Rowe said.

Lingan has teamed up for the last several years with the Seaview Golf and Country Club in North Sydney to sell coupon booklets offering the use of both courses. Other island courses have done the same.

"I know last year, La Portage in Cheticamp, Highlands and Bell Bay did one that was very, very successful," said Rowe.

The Cape Breton Highlands Links is in Ingonish Beach and the Bell Bay Golf Club is in Baddeck.

The new Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs courses in Inverness have grabbed most of the golf spotlight in Cape Breton since their openings earlier this decade. They've landed on several lists of the best courses in Canada, North America and the world.

Still, Rowe said, there's room for the older courses if they remain creative about drawing in players.

"We're sort of a small, little community here of golf courses and it just benefits everybody if we work together."

Information Morning Cape Breton, Charlie Cuff