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If you look at national and international rankings, the top golf course in Canada is Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia.
But if Bradley Allen has his way, that won’t be the case for long.
Allen was part of the team that built Cabot Cliffs, which opened in 2015 and was named North America’s best new golf course by Golf Digest.
He served as a superintendent at the course for nearly a decade before packing his bags in 2021 and moving across Canada for a new opportunity with Cabot in British Columbia.
He’s now the golf course superintendent at Cabot Pacific, part of the massive Cabot Revelstoke resort development that is currently being built in the BC Interior mountain town.
Well-known for being a highly sought after ski destination, Revelstoke will soon be home to a golf course that is sure to gain recognition as one of the best in the world.
“I joke with everybody that if Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links are one and three in Canada, all I care about is that we’re better than Cabot Links,” a chuckling Allen told NowMedia.
The top-ranked Cabot Cliffs and its nearby predecessor Cabot Links are both mainstays in the top five of Canadian golf courses and nestled comfortably in the world's top 100.
So the bar is set high, but with renowned golf architect Rod Whitman at the helm and the Cabot reputation behind it, producing a golf destination in Revelstoke is the expectation.
“We have a very unique site and Rod is going to make the best of it,” said Allen, who adds that this endeavour is a bit of a full circle story for the architect who designed both Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links.
Long before Whitman became interested in golf architecture, he grew up in central Alberta and often got the chance to play in Banff and Jasper, home to a pair of the world's nicest mountain courses.
“Rod has now gone on to become a great golf course architect and this is going to be his first mountain golf course opportunity,” Allen explained.
“He has an extra piece that he feels he can get out of this property because he just loves the mountains so much.”
And even though the property is still months away from looking anything like a golf course to the casual viewer, the renderings of what’s to come have Allen giddy with excitement.
“It is 10 out of 10,” he noted. “You ask Rod what his favourite holes are and he says it’s like choosing his favourite kid.”
Those holes that Whitman can’t bring himself to choose a favourite from, at least not yet, still need to take shape, but those who have followed this project closely since the beginning may be wondering why that hasn’t happened yet.
When the Cabot Revelstoke resort was announced in the fall of 2020, it came with the expectation that it would be ready for golf in 2023.
The 2023 golf season has come and gone in the BC Interior, with the exception of a few low-elevation municipal courses, and the ETA for Cabot Pacific is now considered to be 2025.
While the pandemic and economic turmoil could easily be blamed for the delay, Allen points to BC bureaucracy as the main reason why the date has been pushed back to the middle of the decade.
“Our timelines for most of the work we've done in BC, everything that I've encountered, it just doubles,” he said.
“The things that we have to have in order to have things permitted or approved or reviewed or consulted with, they just take time, lots of time.”
When Allen arrived in Revelstoke in the fall of 2021, he figured they’d get right to it, but quickly learned that wouldn't be the case and he’d need to do a lot more to appease the powers that be in BC.
That meant hiring a good team of consultants, an environmental group and a team of engineers, as well as resurveying the golf site and creating detailed designs and plans to be reviewed by the City of Revelstoke.
He called it an enormous project in itself to get to where we are today, and something he didn’t expect to take this long since it wasn't the case for building Cabot courses in Nova Scotia, Florida or the Caribbean.
However, he says that they’re finally at a point where things are really going to start to ramp up and he’s very excited for 2024.
“I've started the golf construction on six holes,” he told NowMedia.
“We have it all mass balanced, I've been working these last few months on importing material off site, getting it all staged and ready for the spring and our development has already been through council.”
He said that momentous work on the golf course and Cabot Revelstoke residential development will all start at the same time next spring.
“It’s going to be a three-ring circus to be truthful. It’s going to be great.”
When talking to Allen about Cabot Pacific, it’s easy to hear the excitement in his voice and it’s enough to make any golfer equally as excited about what’s to come.
“One thing that I like about this site that I compare to Cabot Cliffs is we have a journey in our routing here,” he explained.
Allen speaks of three topographies on the site, which he went through one by one.
There are six holes where golfers will see a lot of rock cropping and the design team will integrate that into the sides of those holes with fescue features and bunkering.
Another six holes feature water and natural creeks that flow through with interesting little bridges and trails that will take people through the course.
Then there are six holes that are flatter, although Whitman will shape them, which will offer up dramatic and endless views over the Columbia River basin.
“The way the routing works is you start off in the rocky section, you go through the creek holes, you end up with mountain vistas, then you play back the other way,” Allen described.
“Nine out, nine in. You go through that journey twice within your golf round. It's going to be really neat that way.”
When asked about signature holes, Allen pointed to a pair of par threes that are the penultimate holes on each nine.
He called the eighth “a monster,” as it plays 260 yards over a canyon from the tips, although closer to 220 from the main tees, and it’s all carry over a canyon nearly the entire way.
If you’ve ever played Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama, BC, it’s comparable to the signature hole there, a 200-yard par three called Cliffhanger.
The 17th, Allen explained, is very similar but a lot shorter, although you’re now dealing with 70-80 feet of elevation down to the green.
At this time, 12 holes have been cleared of trees and six or seven of them have been shaped, which means two-thirds of the Cabot Pacific blueprint is really starting to come together.
Allen spent much of last winter clearing holes and burning off the wood debris that comes with that task, something he can only do when it’s not bird nesting season from April 15 until Aug. 15.
“This winter I’ll repeat it, which means next spring I’m rockin’ and rollin’,” he said.
He has six holes left to do, including what he calls his favourite in the par-four 14th, which will pave the way for what will be an incredibly busy 2024 for Allen, Whitman and the rest of the team.
He promises that there will be some sort of golf at Cabot Pacific in 2025, but it remains to be seen whether that will mean 18 holes fully delivered to what they’re expected to be.
“I have six holes that are really, really difficult. I, along with the golf architect (Whitman), are probably the only ones that see truthfully how difficult that could be,” Allen explained.
“We could have a great year next year and everything moves along wonderfully, and it takes about two years to turn over a golf course.”
People will be golfing Cabot Pacific in some form in 2025, but what about the rest of Cabot Revelstoke?
Cabot developments are far more than just golf and that is certainly the case in Revelstoke, where there will be six residential buildings with 79 residences for sale.
Each building will feature a mix of units from two to five bedrooms that draw inspiration from European ski chalets.
They will have dreamy views of Mount Begbie, the Columbia River and more of what makes the area in and around Revelstoke one of the most beautiful places in the world.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg and you can learn more about living at Cabot Revelstoke here.
Back at the course, the clubhouse will feature a full-scale restaurant, pro shop, full-service spa with pools and hot tubs, and other recreation options.
The practice facility will be a unique situation, Allen said, as it will not be connected to the main hub of the rest or the first tee.
“It will be over by the seventh hole and it will be its own identity,” he noted. “It’s going to be really, really neat.”
The driving range and the rest of the practice area won’t just be a place to hit balls, warm up and leave, but rather a facility that will stand on its own as somewhere golfers want to spend time.
“We’re doing unique things like leaving trees within it so if we design it to be a short course you'll have interesting views and features, much like a golf hole would,” Allen explained.
Only three-and-a-half of five hectares have been cleared and it hasn’t yet been fully vetted in terms of design, but golfers can picture a facility similar to Topgolf or Calgary’s LaunchPad.
There’s clearly still plenty of work to be done, but Cabot Pacific has all the makings of a world-class course that will likely set a new standard in BC.
“I think we just have to keep our heads down and believe in the site we have and the architects we have and make it all work,” Allen said when asked how they ensure the Revelstoke course will live up to the reputation behind the Cabot name.
“These things don't happen by accident, we put a lot of our heart into it to make it all happen that way.”