First opened for play in 2010, the Lakes course overlooks the beautiful Bras d’Or Lakes in Cape Breton, with holes cut into the side of a hill that doubles up as a ski slope in the winter. The fairways have been set out in two distinct loops of nine, with many dramatic elevation changes factored into the design by architect Graham Cooke.
Golfers are recommended to use a cart when playing here, as the terrain verges on the severe side in some spots where walking can be problematic. Spectacular vistas over the lake to the north are plentiful and views from the 6th tee in particular are rated by many to be amongst the best in Canadian golf.The architect had this to say about the Lakes: “Each hole has its own special look. Consequently, the golfer will play with an expectation of what lies ahead or around the next bend. This diversity is a product of both the design and the setting: rock outcrops, long mystical views, crashing streams and grassy meadows all combine to make golf at The Lakes both exciting and rewarding.”
It's very hard to break thru when the headliners include the likes of Cabot Links, Cabot Cliffs and Highlands Links on Cape Breton Island. Credit Graham Cooke in crafting a routing that clearly provides a range of different movements. For just about all players -- the round of golf is best enjoyed via a power cart usage.
The bunker style is rather bold and often times quite modern looking. Shaping shots is called upon but the range and diversity of the shots required while good generally, lack the detailing and nuance found at the aforementioned big three courses on Cape Breton Island.
There are exceptions -- the par-4 6th is done well on a host of levels. The views when standing on the back tee showcase the Bras d’Or Lakes. Really enjoyed the heavy dosage of risk/reward that the hole provides from the tee.
The two sides provide a good balancing act where length and accuracy are tested in equal measure. The inward half provides a range of movements and overall Cooke has crafted a quality array of different green sites that challenge approach shots while still providing other avenues of attack beyond a solely strict aerial attack.
One of the best holes at The Lakes comes with the 14th - a stellar mid-length par-4 that poses an array of challenges.
The Lakes concludes with an interesting ending -- two par-3 and two par-5 holes. Overall, the layout is certainly worth checking out since it's near enough to the large community at Sydney. No question the competition is quite keen on Cape Breton but The Lakes is anything but pedestrian. Architectural mavens may find it less enthralling but for the broader golf market The Lakes will not disappoint.
One final item -- be forewarned when playing -- at certain times of the year the bug infestation is akin to a zombie movie -- you're under constant attack.
M. James Ward