Five new courses to watch for in 2012

Cabot Links, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada

Cabot Links, Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada

Given the state of the economy, golf and otherwise, any course opening or restoration is a perilous endeavor. Thank goodness there are still (a few) intrepid operators out there. Here are writer Evan Rothman’s five newcomers to watch for in 2012.

Cabot Links

Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada

It’s a pretty safe assumption that Cabot Links already ranks as the world’s greatest 10-hole course, having welcomed golfers to its abbreviated layout since July. By summer 2012, when the remaining eight holes are scheduled to open, Cabot Links, which bills itself as “Canada’s True Links Golf Course,” might very well be known as its country’s finest course, period.

This is authentic, majestic, links golf, elegantly and inventively designed by Canadian Rod Whitman on a dramatic oceanfront setting that rivals Bandon Dunes not only for remoteness but also beauty. (Bandon Dunes’ developer, Mike Keiser, played a role here and wouldn’t argue the point.) Walking only. A caddie corps at the ready. A charming town, Inverness, adjacent. Cabot Links promises to be the Great White North’s next must-play destination.

$100 (estimated and subject to change); cabotlinks.com

Streamsong Resort, Golf & Spa

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Streamsong Resort

Polk County, Fla.

If the third time is indeed the charm, Central Florida’s Streamsong Resort should be a rousing success. The previous two sites with courses from Tom Doak and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw – Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania – rank among the golfing world’s greatest getaways. Indeed, taken together, the two firms boast four of Golfweek’s top five Modern designs (those opened since 1960) and eight of the top 15.

Unlike those earlier triumphs, Streamsong isn’t blessed with waterfront acreage. What it does boast is a landscape uncommon to golf, thanks to the land’s previous function as a phosphate mine. The sweeping sand dunes, ridges, contours and lakes, created with anything but an eye toward birdies and bogeys, are being put to just that use by men who prefer to work with the land rather than reshape it. “The client has been telling us it needs to be ‘Bandon Dunes South,’ Doak has said. “. . . It just might get there.” Rest assured golfers will be lining up to get there for the scheduled fall 2012 opening.

Greens fees not yet set; streamsongresort.com

Salish Cliffs Golf Club

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Salish Cliffs Golf Club

Shelton, Wash.

Just 20 minutes from Olympia and 75 minutes from Seattle, this 7,269-yard par 72 is the latest amenity to the Little Creek Casino Resort, owned and operated by the Squaxin Island Tribe. Its designer, Gene Bates, is perhaps best known for Idaho’s Circling Raven, No. 2 in Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play state ranking, and the renovated Bayonet Black Horse, a highly regarded 36-hole facility near Monterey, Calif. Salish Cliffs, which had a soft opening in September, should attract similar plaudits.

The course’s dramatic elevation changes, totaling 600 feet, test club selection and shotmaking abilities while providing spectacular 360-degree views of the Kamilche Valley. Sixteen of the 18 holes stand alone, surrounded by lush Northwest forest. A 15,000-square-foot double green shared by holes 9 and 18, and the use of bentgrass tee-to-green and ryegrass in the rough are just two examples of unconventional thinking and a winning attention to detail.

$89; salish-cliffs.com; 360-462-3673

La Costa Resort and Spa

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La Costa Resort and Spa

Carlsbad, Calif.

What was the North Course at La Costa is now the Champions Course, and the new moniker is just the beginning of the updating taking place on this celebrated 1965 Dick Wilson design by the architectural team of Damian Pascuzzo and Steve Pate in association with Jeff Brauer. Pate has especially fond memories of the place, having won the PGA Tour’s 1989 Tournament of Champions at the resort, which is itself in the midst of a $50 million renovation.

Though the integrity of Wilson’s design is being preserved, four holes are entirely new, as are all of the tees, greens and bunkers. More than 30 acres of turf have been eliminated to conserve water, often replaced with native grasses, while the roughs and native areas were planted with drought- and salt-water tolerant Paspalum. Two new lakes and a modern drainage system have been added to improve playing conditions; fairway contours have been considerably altered as well. Added length has updated the course for elite players, but six sets of tees mean children and beginners can navigate the layout as well.

$175-$205; lacosta.com; 800-854-5000

Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course

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Max A. Mandel Municipal

Laredo, Texas

Max A. Mandel, who died in 2002, was a widely respected Laredo businessman and philanthropist. The new course, designed by Robert Trent Jones II (pictured below right on the site), sits on Mandel’s former farm 12 miles north of the city along the Rio Grande. The Mandel family donated 390 acres, water rights and $1 million to help create this gift for city residents and pay tribute to a man who played a large role in the making of modern Laredo.

Jones’ well-varied creation, scheduled to open in early 2012, stretches from 4,673 yards to 7,069 yards, with five sets of tees and a dedicated “juniors” teeing area on each hole to promote family play. Several holes feature stirring views of the Rio Grande. The 10-acre practice facility is, to say the least, a rarity among munis, with a 350-yard driving range, five target greens, a 10,000-square-foot practice putting green and a chipping and bunker practice green.

Green fees and contact information not available at press time.

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