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DIANE KNOX: Synergy for new owners of leading north links course as Scottish golf courses have been showcased on the worldwide stage

By Diane Knox

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Diane Knox at Scottish Open 2016.
Diane Knox at Scottish Open 2016.

After Scottish golf courses have been showcased on the worldwide stage over the past fortnight with the Genesis Scottish Open and then The Open Championship, I feel as though I’ve been part of many conversations “ranking” the best ones.

As I’m sure you know, Americans flock to Scotland to experience real, authentic links golf. According to VisitScotland, the golf tourism industry is worth over £220 million per year, and employs in excess of 4400 individuals.

Once visitors have been, and they meet a Scot back on home turf, they want to talk all about their experience. Or if people are planning their golf trips, they often ask me for recommendations “off the beaten track” – and by that they mean away from St Andrews, Carnoustie and surrounding areas!

Of course, I’m always so happy to talk about golf in Scotland and share my knowledge, with a complete local bias.

Castle Stuart is always top of my list. I mean, how can it not be?! Not only is it a stunning 18-hole property on the most perfect piece of land running along the Moray Firth, but it’s been a four-time Scottish Open venue and poses a fair challenge to the average amateur golfer.

I tell people the location is ideal, especially if they choose to fly into Inverness Airport, and there’s a plethora of accommodation options not too far away. However, they may soon be closer than we think…

Castle Stuart Golf Links was recently bought by Cabot, a Canadian development company who own courses in Nova Scotia and, more recently, have added Florida, St Lucia and Scotland to their portfolio. Not bad company to be in!

Cabot Links, their signature property in Canada, sits in a rural community with a very familiar name – Inverness! The course opened in 2011 and is classed as Canada’s only true links course. The development of this, and another golf course called Cabot Cliffs, significantly boosted tourism and the overall population of Inverness – a town that had experienced real economic hardship since the coal mines became obsolete.

Earlier this year, Cabot acquired their first US golf property in Florida, west of Orlando, and their newest acquisition is Castle Stuart, which will be rebranded as Cabot Highlands. Well, the course will retain its name but the resort will be known as Cabot Highlands. In 2024, they plan to open a second 18-hole course on the site, as well as boutique accommodation and real estate.

The second course will be designed by renowned course architect Tom Doak, who also designed The Renaissance Club which recently hosted the Scottish Open.

What a fantastic boost for not only golf fans and visitors, but tourism in the Inverness area. I’ve attended all four of the Scottish Opens at the course, and have so many fond memories of walking the fairways. I saw Phil Mickelson win there, and he then went on to win The Open at Muirfield the following week. Plus, the clubhouse is a sight to behold; I always think it looks like a big lighthouse overlooking the links and Chanonry Point (a great watchtower to look for the dolphins).

This move should really cement Castle Stuart as a firm addition to the Scottish golf itinerary. Plus, I love the fact the original Cabot golf property is in Inverness, Nova Scotia. I may, in turn, be adding that one to my list!

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