On one side of me is the Gulf of St. Lawrence; on the other the majestic Cheticamp Mountain range, literally at the entrance of world famous Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Its hard not to smile. More golfers need to experience this place, I say to myself. More should come here to play and see what is all around me.
The reasons are unfolding. So much more is there to Le Portage than merely the challenge Robert and David Mootes 18-hole design provides. This is an opportunity, a rare chance to combine golfrich atmosphere with an Atlantic Canada setting normally reserved for picture postcards. Tying it all together is the quaint Acadian village of Cheticamp, a small French community where culture and history date back to the 16th century. Le Portage? On any Cape Breton golf sojourn this place needs to be considered. Golf here is affordable, the setting is unique and most importantly it’s good fun.
Constructed and overseen to this day by the community of Cheticamp, it sits on a rolling forested plateau amid the majestic setting that surrounds it with enough golf to challenge any players skill and shot-making ability. Club amenities-wise, the driving range is brilliant. You hit balls straight into a Cape Breton Highlands backdrop while the large practice putting green near the clubs entrance is a pre- or post-round gem. It served us well for a laugh-filled 9-hole putting match prior to moving to the opening tee.
Once on the Moote-designed course (with an assist from pro emeritus Terry Burns) what I most enjoyed was Le Portages strong routing, shot values and greens. Ah, those putting surfaces. Nicely defined, they strike an ideal balance between contour and speed, while never appearing overdone.
There are plenty of memorable holes throughout the course, including the 2nd, called Le Cap-Rouge, and the 10th, called simply Cheticamp. It was the short and beguiling 17th, La Pere Fiset, where my round took a wrong turn from being over-aggressive. No matter. At the end of the day the score was still fine, the beer cold and the clubhouse brimming with locals eager to say bonjour. Golf talk filled the air. Later it was fresh seafood at nearby Le Gabriel Restaurant & Lounge to complete the day.
Where Le Portage ranks in the hierarchy of Cape Bretons golf product is immaterial. Golf needs Le Portage. Public clubs just like it across the country are the games foundation, its core. Leaving Le Portage on this day, one thing is certain: I look forward to going back.
A veteran golf writer and past president of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Rick Young is currently the business analyst for SCOREGolf.