From Bali to Nova Scotia Adam Calver was charmed by the chance to be involved in Canada’s first true links course

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 4:15 PM

We wrote about Adam two years ago when he was Director of Agronomy at Nirwana Golf Club in Bali. It was a fascinating story featuring the rituals and daily life surrounding the managing of this fabulous golf course on the magical island of Bali.

Adam told me that it was hard to leave such an idyllic place, but a chance meeting with Ben Crenshaw turned into a job offer that he couldn’t refuse.

“I met Ben golfing in Bali in January and spent time chatting with him about his project. He called me a month or two later and presented me with this opportunity and it was a pretty easy decision with the team that is involved Mike Keiser, Matt Ginella, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Everything they have worked on and built together has been the best in the world.”

Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser have built Cabot Links, Canada’s first true links course, a development started in 2009 and officially opened to rave reviews in 2012 in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

“My role as Director of Agronomy and Construction at Cabot means that I am leading the project management and the grow-in for the 2nd golf course Cabot Cliffs, while also overseeing the turf department for the Links Course. I really enjoy the construction side and of course, being involved at the start is a rare and wonderful opportunity. I worked in Dubai turning the desert into a forest for the Jumeirah Golf Estate courses Fire and Earth from 2007 to 2010 and that was a hugely challenging project, but there’s a special bit of pride for me in coming back to my own country and building something on this scale. Particularly as Canada has not had much golf course development in the last 6 years!

I am now back in my own country and a 16 hour drive from my home town – which is the closest I have lived to family in 15 years. Even though we’d never met before, Ben and I discovered that we grew up within 15 minutes from each other, as we stood on the 15th tee at Nirwana Bali Golf Club.”


How is the project going?

“We are aiming to finish the grass, again, all fescue, at the end of this year and will be open for play by the end of 2015.”

The partial opening of Cabot Links was in 2012 so the first seasons full play was last year. Already ranked No. 42 in the Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Golf Clubs, it was a big surprise for the club to get into the rankings quite so soon.


The Place and the landscape.

The west coast of Cape Breton Island is a rugged, oceanfront landscape with sprawling hills surrounding impressive valleys, leading out to the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The local community is rich in history and culture. During the first half of the 19th century, approximately 50,000 Highland Scots immigrated to Cape Breton Island. They brought their Gaelic language and a rich culture and island life has ensured that it has flourished.

“Inverness is an old coal mining town but the mines closed years ago and the population has decreased year by year. There are now around 1800 residents in the region – half as many as there were in the early 1900’s when the mines employed 480 people.

Working with the community here is a very big part of our success in trying to generate a new economy, employing as many local residents as possible to secure a thriving future for the town and the next generations.

We have already built the first phase of accommodation, three on-site restaurants, the club- house, and a ‘local’ café in the town. This project has made a big difference already and we are only half way there.”


Back in Canada after 15 years all over the world.

Adam is an ambitious man. In our last interview he told me he wanted to experience as many different climates as possible, to work with all cultures, soil types and challenging conditions. From the start of his career in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Adam worked on the West Coast of British Columbia. From there he moved on to Arabian Deserts of Dubai, Bali and then Indonesia for the last 3 years.

“Every climate presents its own problems. Winter shuts us down a bit here, although we are fortunate to have a crew who worked through the winter to get the prep work done. Now we are starting the growing months so we will be seeding in May to early June. This is much shorter than in the Southern Hemisphere. Our playing season runs from May to November where we can see day time highs reach into the upper 20’s and even low 30’s with 17 hours of day light you can get a lot of golf in a day.”


What’s the biggest change from the Southern hemisphere?

“The speed of growth is slow, so we are trying to speed everything up. It is really the opposite end of the spectrum from the tropics where we try to slow it down.

Cabot Links is such a great course, all along the ocean. Rob Whitman did a fabulous job in a particular situation. Being an old coal-mining site he was limited in what earth could be moved but what we have here is dramatic. True Links land running firm and fast, built between the ocean and the town it looks like the course has been here for decades. The holes are spread out between the sea and the village of Inverness. Every hole offers an ocean view and six holes play directly adjacent to the beach.

Cabot Links is the first true links course in Canada. With wall-to-wall fescue, also a 1st in Canada, we wanted to create the look and playability that made links courses so popular and come back to golf as it was invented.

The Cabot Cliffs course looks similar to Cabot Links in the sweeping sand dunes at the southern end but the northern end is very dramatic because of the high elevation with 80ft cliffs overlooking the ocean where it has already been compared to Pebble Beach.

Adam has just purchased his 6th set of Bernhard grinders in as many years.

“Our design requires large swards of fescue to be maintained at short heights in order to provide the firm and fast playing conditions our guests love. Maintaining a high quality of cut on the mowing units is essential to our conditioning.”