Cape Breton Island has grown in recent times from relative obscurity in the golf world to one of the most up-and-coming golf destinations in the world with courses like Highlands Links in Ingonish, Bell Bay at Baddeck, The Lakes in Ben Eion, Le Portage at Cheticamp and Dundee Resort offering a variety of spectacular and challenging holes.
One of that quintet, the scenic Thomas McBroom-designed course at Bell Bay Golf Club, sits outside the lovely village of Baddeck in Cape Breton, offering golfers spectacular views across the shimmering Bras d'Or Lake to the surrounding hills and mountains.
Bell Bay began as a pipedream in the mid 1980s for two local golfers, Sandy Campbell and Scott MacAulay and their vision of a golf course was soon shared with three others (Bruce Anderson, Carlyle Chow and John Temple) who – after much hard work – helped turn their collective dream into reality in 1997.
The course has a fine collection of par threes: Hole 6 is a long one-shotter, the downhill 8th (“Paragon”) plays through a tree-lined bowl, the green to hole 14 is protected by water to the front left of the putting surface and the 182-yard 17th (“Banshee”) has a forested ravine and creek between tee and green.
As testing as the Bell Bay course is from start to finish, it really picks up the pace on the inward half. Endorsing this view, professional Ted Stonehouse says, “the back nine is what we're known for, especially the last four holes. That's what people talk about. Some golf writers say it's the best closing sequence in Canada.”In recent years, Bell Bay has hosted both the Canadian Club Champions Championship (2006) and the Canadian Amateur Championship (2005).
The golf is merely formulaic and that is truly puzzling because the site could have provided much more. The routing is purely functional golf and nothing more. The green sites are also pedestrian like -- large circular discs with little differentiation to mandate a higher level of approach play.
The most fascinating thing about Bell Bay is the community of Baddeck. The town is the real star and it's one visitors need to thoroughly enjoy and explore.
by M. James Ward