IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Bell Bay Golf Club in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
THE LAYOUT: Thomas McBroom, one of Canada's most noted designers, crafted 18 exceptional holes on Cape Breton Island with sweeping views of the Bras d'or Lake -- North America's majestic inland sea.
Also in view across Bell Bay is Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic for Beautiful Mountain), the estate of Alexander Graham Bell, where the inventor of the telephone spent the latter part of his life and died in 1922.
The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site houses the largest collection of Bell artifacts and archives in the world.
Bell Bay Golf Club, which plays to 7,037 yards from the back tees, has a course rating of 74.3 and a slope of 136. However, Bell Bay is eminently playable for all golfers, with a rating of 69.9 and a slope of 125 from the white tees.
The season at opens in May and runs through October, weather permitting, at Bell Bay, which was voted best new course in Canada in 1998 and hosted the 2005 Canadian Amateur Championship in addition to the 2006 Canadian Club Champions Championship.
GENERAL MANAGER: Michael Gillan.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Bell Bay Golf Club received international recognition in 2001, when the Wayne Gretzky and Friends Invitational was held there and televised on the Golf Channel.
NHL stars Gretzky, Brett Hull and Joe Sakic played a match against Mike Weir, the left-hander who won the 2003 Masters and is considered the best Canadian golfer of all-time.
Every hole at Bell Bay is named for a ship that sailed the Seven Seas from Baddeck, which was settled by Scottish shipbuilders. The course starts with three strong par 4s, measuring 407, 415 and 433 yards from the back tees.
The best of the opening threesome is No. 3, a 433-yard hole named for Scrapper, a legendary craft built at Bell's laboratories at Beinn Bhreagh. The hole gets its difficulty from the second shot, which is uphill from between 135 to 175 yards into the prevailing wind.
No. 6 is the most challenging of the par 3s at 227 yards from the tips to a green guarded by seven bunkers. The hole is named for Typhoon, a 45-foot ketch that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a then-record 15 days in 1920. The voyage was made even more remarkable because it was accomplished entirely under sail after the engine failed two hours into the trip.
When you make the turn at Bell Bay, the best is yet to come, especially what the locals call "The Final Four." But before the golfer gets there, he must navigate No. 13, a 508-yard par 5 named for the brig Challenger, which was built in Baddeck in 1848 and lost at sea the following year on a journey from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Boston. Like the ship, many golf balls find a watery grave in the lake that runs nearly the last half of the hole and guards the left side of the green.
The last four holes are considered one of the best windups in Canadian golf.
No. 15 is Perseverance, a daunting 463-yard par-4 with one of the smaller greens on the course. The hole was named for a brigantine built in 1845 that was later re-rigged as a schooner.
The 16th hole is Argyle, named for a brig built in Baddeck that was given the name of a town in Scotland. This is the shortest par 4 on the course, at 365 yards, but perhaps most scenic, routed through a densely wooded corridor of trees that is especially impressive when the fall colors are in their glory.
But the best at Bell Bay is saved for the absolute last. No. 17 is the signature hole, while No. 18 has the signature view.
On the 182-yard, par-3 17th, called Banshee, the tee boxes are perched on a hillside and the shot must carry a spectacularly wooded ravine. Banshee was a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose wailing warned the clan of danger. The cry is similar to that heard from golfers as their tee shots disappear into the ravine.
The 18th hole is named for Bradalbane, a 101-foot barque that is believed to be the largest and best vessel built at Baddeck. It was instrumental in Rev. Norman MacLeod's expedition to New Zealand in 1857. There is a spectacular panoramic view overlooking the Bras d'or from the tee box on the 566-yard par-5 hole, and the prevailing wind from behind the golfer allows him to let out the sails with the driver.
OTHERS COURSES IN THE AREA: For the perfect golf doubleheader, play Bell Bay and Highland Links in Ingonish Beach, a classic Stanley Thompson layout on the edge of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Highland Links was selected as the No. 1 course in Canada in 2000 by Score Golf magazine and has been rated one of the top 100 courses in the world several times by Golf magazine.
Also worth the trip are Dundee Resort and Golf Course in West Bay, Le Portage Golf Club on the banks of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Cabot Trail in Cheticamp, Passchendaele Golf Club in Reserve Mines, Lingan Golf and Country Club (established in 1895) in Sydney, and Seaview Golf and Country Club in North Sydney.
WHERE TO STAY: The Inverary Resort in Baddeck, known for its Celtic charm and lakeside boardwalk, offers stay-and-play packages for Bell Bay Golf Club, as do Glenghorm Beach Resort in Ingonish and Ceilidh Country Lodge in Baddeck.
First-class lodging also can be found at Dundee Resort in West Bay, Castle Moffett in Baddeck, the Maritime Inn in Port Hawkesbury, Chanterelle Country Inn in Baddeck and Haddon Hall Resort Inn in Chester -- Nova Scotia's version of the French Riviera near Halifax, where many of the Titanic victims are buried.
ON THE WEB: www.bellbaygolfclub.com
THE LAST RESORT: Hawks Landing Golf Club in Orlando, Fla.
THE LAYOUT: The Hawks Landing course, which wraps around the Orlando World Center Marriott, opened in 1985 and was designed by Joe Lee, who also created the Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista courses at Disney World.
However, Hawks Landing was reworked in 2001 by Robert Cupp II and is much different than the original course. Four sets of tees, modern architectural techniques and water on 15 of the 18 holes provide a fun and challenging round for players of all abilities.
The 6,602-yard course is relatively flat and plays to a par of 71, with a USGA rating of 72.6 and a slope of 131. The greens are slick and the breaks subtle.
This is one of those immaculate resort courses that make you wonder why every layout cannot be groomed like this, with aquatic vegetation, native grasses and Chinese tallow, palms, oak and pine adding to the landscape.
Hawks Landing is home to the renowned Bill Madonna Golf Academy, and you can book a lesson with Madonna, one of the most respected instructors in the nation.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Mike Hodgins.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: There seemingly is water everywhere at Hawks Landing, but not to worry, because there are no exceptionally long forced carries off the tee and all the hazards are considered to be lateral, so simply take a drop and add only one stroke.
After three straightforward holes to start, welcome to Hawks Landing on No. 4, a 535-yard par 5 where two large water features come into play all the way to the small green. Birdies are available if you get there in regulation because you won't have a long putt.
Nothing fancy about No. 7, a par 3, except that it plays 229 yards into the prevailing breeze. Don't be fooled by the three bunkers to the left because they are 35 yards short of the green, but you can't see that from the tee.
The ninth hole, a 407-yard par 4, is another one where water stares the golfer in the face on every shot, although the pond in front of the tee should not come into play. But be careful on the long approach shot because there is water left and behind the green.
No. 12 is 412 yards from the back, but considerably shorter from the other tees, to a tight driving area guarded by another pond and a waste bunker on the left, and out of bounds on the right. However, a precise tee shot down the left side and an accurate approach can lead to a rewarding birdie.
Hawks Landing saves the best for last, a 565-yard monster that rates No. 1 on the card. After a tee shot over a large body of water, the second shot must be squeezed between bunkers on the left and a lake that begins at 125 yards out and protects the full width of a wide, shallow and undulating green.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Disney offers golfers five courses, including the Magnolia and Palm, where the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is played in November.
Also at Disney are the Lake Buena Vista, Osprey Ridge and Oak Trail courses, the latter a nine-hole walking course.
Celebration Golf Course is not on Disney Resort property but is a nearby cousin designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. in the town of Celebration built by the Disney Corporation.
Also in the neighborhood are Royal St. Cloud Golf Links, Kissimmee Bay Country Club, Mystic Dunes Golf Club and Falcon's Fire Golf Club in Kissimmee, the Crooked Cat and Panther Lake courses at Orange County National Golf Center, and 45 holes at the Grand Cypress Resort, all in Orlando.
Not far are ChampionsGate Golf Club, designed by Greg Norman, just west of Orlando, and Reunion Golf Club, with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson -- another new development west of Orlando on Interstate 4.
WHERE TO STAY: The Orlando World Center Marriott, built on 220 lush acres of tropical landscape, is only a mile and a half from Disney World and near Orlando's other tourist attractions, including Universal Studios, Sea World and Discovery Cove.
In addition to its 2,000 hotel rooms and suites, the largest Marriott in the world offers its guests fine dining, a full-service spa and fitness center, and a convention center.
Guests at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Contemporary Resort, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Resort, Caribbean Resort, Beach Club Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn and Yacht Club Resort receive vouchers for free cab rides to and from the Disney courses.
Also nearby are the Celebration Hotel, the Wyndham Orlando Resort, the Renaissance Orlando Resort, the Omni Orlando Resort and Spa, the Grand Cypress Resort and the Grande Lakes Orlando. At Universal are the Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel and the Royal Pacific Resort.
ON THE WEB: www.golfhawkslanding.com
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- Bell Bay Golf Club
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