As co-founder of Cabot Links in Nova Scotia, Canada, Ben Cowan-Dewar has been integral to the most anticipated golf course opening of 2012. The 33-year-old Toronto native visited and studied most of the world’s finest golf courses as the founder of Golf Travel Impresarios, a niche company aimed at executive travel throughout the world. That experience led him to search for a project that would reflect his passion for great designs. He found his dream property in 2004 on the coast of Nova Scotia and collaborated with Bandon Dunes founder Mike Keiser to create Cabot Links, which opened last summer. Cowan-Dewar has played 86 of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World, but is confident he’ll play all 100 before he’s through.
How old were you when you played your first Top 100 course, and what do you remember about it?
It was Seminole. I was 12 years old and I remember nearly everything. Months prior, I had been reading and rereading the entry in the World Atlas of Golf and the day did not disappoint. Complete with wind and a caddy full of Hogan stories, it remains one of my great memories of time spent with my grandfather.
What course most influenced your thinking about golf course design and how did it do so?
Probably a tie between National Golf Links of America and St. Andrews. The former because of so much architecture that it created, the latter because of its natural use of the land. Both courses have so many of the ingredients that make golf great: multiple options to play each hole, terrific settings, great turf and, of course, wind.
What's your favorite memory/story/anecdote from playing a Top 100 course?
Seminole (see above) is a favorite, but the experience of playing in Japan with the lunches, the baths and such gracious and knowledgeable hosts will stay with me. Japanese golfers have an incredible golf culture, unique to anywhere else I have travelled.
What's your worst memory?
It's pretty hard to have a worst memory when playing any course in the world Top 100.
Okay then, what was the worst weather you endured on a Top 100 course?
Machrihanish. Near freezing and rain. It was an excellent day.
What's your Number One course to play in the British Isles, and why?
St. Andrews. I cannot think of a course that reveals more on each subsequent visit and few places are as thrilling to tee it up.
Same question for the USA.
National Golf Links. It has a great collection of unique, fun and extremely interesting holes. The options for play mean that seeing it with a different set of pins, wind or any other variation makes it feel like a totally unique experience.
What's the most overrated course or biggest disappointment among the Top 100 candidates you've played?
Medinah. Extremely one-dimensional and lacking in soul and character, despite having pretty decent land among Chicago courses.
What course do you think is overlooked for Top 100 consideration that deserves to be in?
There are quite a few, but I think Nirwana Bali in Indonesia is a fine international example. Done by Greg Norman Design when Bob Harrison was running Australia/Asia, it's definitely that firm’s best with an all-world setting.
What was your best score on a Top 100 course?
My 3 & 2 win at the Old Course against Cabot Links golf architect Rod Whitman.
What courses remain on the top of your list to play?
Augusta and Fisher’s Island
Pick your favorite hole from all Top 100 courses.
Is it too easy to say 16 at Cypress Point? If forced to say just one, that would have to be it.
What’s your favorite publicly accessible course in the Top 100 ranking?
It would be a coin toss between Pacific Dunes and Pebble Beach, both of which I always look forward to playing.