Nova Scotia

Cape Breton golf courses give 2020 season mixed reviews

It's been an usual season for some Cape Breton golf courses, but most are finding ways to make it work during the pandemic.

'70 per cent of our business right now would be from Ontario as well as the U.S'

Golfers are shown on the 17th green at Cabot Cliffs. Cape Breton golf courses are offering mixed reviews for the 2020 season. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Golf courses around Cape Breton are giving the summer of 2020 mixed reviews.

Cabot Links in Inverness has had some struggles resulting from regular clientele being from outside of the Atlantic bubble.

Highlands Links in Ingonish Beach is seeing more people from Nova Scotia on the course and Lingan Golf Club, outside of Sydney, is on par with most other years.

Ted Stonehouse, director of golf at Cabot Links, said it is great to accommodate those from within the Atlantic bubble, but their number of rounds are down from past years.

"Seventy per cent of our business right now would be from Ontario as well as the U.S," said Stonehouse.

Fewer employees at Cabot

Stonehouse said Cabot Links has hired fewer employees because of the downturn.

"We would typically have about 600 staff at this point at the resort and we're at about 325 this year," said Stonehouse. "Typically, we'd have about 220 caddies and we're at about 103."

Highlands Links has been unable to open all of its restaurant facilities due to physical distancing.

Kevin Hurd, general manager at Highlands Links, said there is a restaurant open above the pro shop and the Highlands Sitting Room is open on weekends. 

"The numbers dictate," said Hurd. "We've had to adjust things as we go, which has been a challenge, but things are going well and things have been very well received."

Without weddings and other large events being booked at Keltic Lodge this summer, Hurd said it has opened up more reservations. He said casual golfers from Nova Scotia are now making reservations for the course and the accommodations.

"When the Atlantic bubble opened we saw a little bit of a bump from that, but not too much," said Hurd. "It's primarily been Nova Scotians, and it's just been incredible how much they've come to support us."

More rounds being played at some courses

Donnie Rowe, general manager at Lingan, said there has been a 10 per cent increase in business at the course.

"It's been just a really busy year," he said. "It seems like with not a lot of other options people are [playing golf] to sort of get a little bit of exercise and some enjoyment."

Rowe said the majority of their golf is played by members but some of the business is from green fees. He said it does appear members are playing more rounds.

Stonehouse said Cabot Links is already on pace to have a great 2021 because people from outside of the Atlantic region have been moving reservations to next year.