IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Bell Bay Golf Club in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada.
THE LAYOUT: Thomas McBroom, one of Canada's most noted designers, crafted 18 exceptional holes on Cape Breton Island with sweeping views of the Bras d'or Lakes -- North America's majestic inland sea.
Also in view across Bell Bay is Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic for Beautiful Mountain), the estate of Alexander Graham Bell, where the inventor of the telephone spent the latter part of his life and died in 1922.
The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site houses the largest collection of Bell artifacts and archives in the world.
Bell Bay Golf Club, which plays to 7,037 yards from the back tees, has a course rating of 74.3 and a slope of 136. But Bell Bay is eminently playable for all golfers, with a rating of 69.9 and a slope of 125 from the white tees.
The season at opened last Saturday and runs through October at Bell Bay, which was voted best new course in Canada in 1998 and hosted the 2005 Canadian Amateur Championship in addition to the 2006 Canadian Club Champions Championship.
GENERAL MANAGER: Michael Gillan.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Bell Bay Golf Club received international recognition in 2001, when the Wayne Gretzky and Friends Invitational was held there and televised on the Golf Channel. NHL stars Gretzky, Brett Hull and Joe Sakic played a match against Mike Weir, the left-hander who won the 2003 Masters and is considered the best Canadian golfer of all-time.
Every hole at Bell Bay is named for a ship that sailed the Seven Seas from Baddeck, which was settled by Scottish shipbuilders. The course starts with three strong par 4s, measuring 407, 415 and 433 yards from the back tees.
The best of the opening threesome is No. 3, a 433-yard hole named for Scrapper, a legendary craft built at Bell's laboratories at Beinn Bhreagh. The hole gets its difficulty from the second shot, which is uphill from between 135 to 175 yards into the prevailing wind.
No. 6 is the most challenging of the par 3s at 227 yards from the tips to a green guarded by seven bunkers. The hole is named for Typhoon, a 45-foot ketch that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a then-record 15 days in 1920. The voyage was made even more remarkable because it was accomplished entirely under sail after the engine failed two hours into the trip.
When you make the turn at Bell Bay, the best is yet to come, especially what the locals call "The Final Four." But before the golfer gets there, he must navigate No. 13, a 508-yard par 5 named for the brig Challenger, which was built in Baddeck in 1848 and lost at sea the following year on a journey from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Boston. Like the ship, many golf balls find a watery grave in the lake that runs nearly the last half of the hole and guards the left side of the green.
The last four holes are considered one of the best windups in Canadian golf.
No. 15 is Perseverance, a daunting 463-yard par-4 with one of the smaller greens on the course. The hole was named for a brigantine built in 1845 that was later re-rigged as a schooner.
The 16th hole is Argyle, named for a brig built in Baddeck that was given the name of a town in Scotland. This is the shortest par 4 on the course, at 365 yards, but perhaps most scenic, routed through a densely wooded corridor of trees that is especially impressive when the fall colors are in their glory.
But the best at Bell Bay is saved for the absolute last. No. 17 is the signature hole, while No. 18 has the signature view.
On the 182-yard, par-3 17th, called Banshee, the tee boxes are perched on a hillside and the shot must carry a spectacularly wooded ravine. Banshee was a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose wailing warned the clan of danger. The cry is similar to that heard from golfers as their tee shots disappear into the ravine.
The 18th hole is named for Bradalbane, a 101-foot Barque that is believed to be the largest and best vessel built at Baddeck. It was instrumental in Rev. Norman MacLeod's expedition to New Zealand in 1857. There is a spectacular panoramic view overlooking the Bras d'oro from the tee box on the 566-yard par-5 hole and the prevailing wind from behind the golfer allows him to let out the sails with the driver.
OTHERS COURSES IN THE AREA: For the perfect golf doubleheader, play Bell Bay and Highland Links in Ingonish Beach, a classic Stanley Thompson layout on the edge of Cape Breton Highland National Park. Highland Links was selected as the No. 1 course in Canada in 2000 by Score Golf magazine and has been rated one of the top 100 courses in the world several times by Golf magazine.
Also worth the trip are Dundee Resort and Golf Course in West Bay, Le Portage Golf Club on the banks of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Cabot Trail in Cheticamp, Passchendaele Golf Club in Reserve Mines, Lingan Golf and Country Club (established in 1895) in Sydney and Seaview Golf and Country Club in North Sydney.
WHERE TO STAY: The Inverary Resort in Baddeck, known for its Celtic charm and lakeside boardwalk, offers stay-and-play packages for Bell Bay Golf Club, as do Glenghorm Beach Resort in Ingonish and Ceilidh Country Lodge in Baddeck.
First-class lodging also can be found at Dundee Resort in West Bay, Castle Moffett in Baddeck, the Maritime Inn in Port Hawkesbury, Chanterelle Country Inn in Baddeck and Haddon Hall Inn in Chester -- Nova Scotia's version of the French Riviera near Halifax, where many of the Titanic victims are buried.
ON THE WEB: www.bellbaygolfclub.com.
THE LAST RESORT: Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Quebec, Canada.
THE LAYOUT: The Montebello Golf Club has been renowned in its nearly 80 years for two mounds in the first fairway that are a reminder of golf in the Scottish Highlands.
Stanley Thompson, the patriarch of Canadian golf course architecture, left the moguls exactly as they were when he first saw them. No surprise, since Thompson emigrated from Scotland, where for centuries, golf course architects have taken what nature gave them and worked with it.
Several years ago, an architect was brought in to do some renovation on the course and suggested blowing up the right mogul. That was the last piece of advice he was allowed to give.
Thompson came to North America about the same time as legends Donald Ross and Alister MacKenzie, under contact to Canadian Pacific Hotels, ancestor of Fairmont Resort Hotels.
First he created classic courses in the Canadian Rockies at Jasper Park Lodge in 1925 and the Banff Springs Hotel in 1927. Then he came east and sculpted two more beauties, Montebello in 1931 and Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia in 1935.
At Montebello, Thompson crafted a sporty 6,240-yard layout that has stood the test of time, being ranked as the second-best public course in Quebec in 1998 by one publication and counted among the four best golf resorts in Canada by Travel and Leisure Golf in 2003.
Thompson carved into the granite landscape a course on which every hole is unique, with no parallel fairways, leaving the golfer with the feeling at every turn that his or her group is the only one on the course.
Despite the mounds on the first hole, this is not a links course. Montebello meanders through a dense forest, with spectacular river and mountain vistas.
The golf season at Montebello opens on the last week of April and runs through October, weather permitting.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Sylvain Courcelles.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The mounds in the first fairway, which block the view of the green on the uphill hole, were meant to be a target. Hit your tee shot over them and the 320-yard hole is yours for the taking, but stay out of the trees to the right.
Most golf courses did not have driving ranges in the early days of the century, so designers such as Thompson, Ross and MacKenzie purposely made their courses easier at the beginning to allow the golfer to get warmed up before ramping up the degree of difficulty.
Highlight of the front nine is the fourth hole, a dogleg left, 522-yard par 5 from an elevated tee that gives the golfer a spectacular view of the Ottawa River Valley and the surrounding Outaouais region. With help from the elevated tee, big hitters can reach the green in two, but don't be short on the approach or your ball will wind up in the creek that guards the front.
The tee shot on the par-3, 175-yard ninth hole is the most difficult on the course -- straight uphill to a dramatically sloping green perched on top of a hill, with a crevice swallowing any ball that is short or runs off the false front.
Chi Chi Rodriguez came to Montebello in 1993 and set the course record of 6-under par 64, but got lucky on No. 9 when his tee shot flew the green and stayed in the long grass behind the green rather than running into the canyon. He chipped all the way across the green for an improbable birdie, but complained all day that he could not make a putt.
The signature hole -- and most difficult -- is No. 14, a gorgeous 415-yard par 4 that plays downhill across two lakes fed by a tributary of the Ottawa River guarding the green. The mounds near the women's tee remain from the days when this was the bobsled practice run for the Canadian Olympic Team. Hit 3-wood off the tee and you will have about 150 yards left to the green, but try to hit the middle of the fairway because if you are on the right side you have the ball above your feet and if you go left you might be stymied by a large oak tree. Club selection on the approach is critical to be on the correct level of the treacherous two-tiered green.
The final hole always has been another of those strong par-4s for which Scottish architects are known, but time and technology caught up with it until it was lengthened several years ago by 35 yards to 420. Instead of 220 yards to carry the bunker on the left and shorten the hole, it is now nearly 250, and the fairway is only 40 yards wide. Another bunker awaits to guard the green of a terrific finishing hole.
When you are finished, enjoy a cool one on what Montebello historians claim was one of the first terrace bars overlooking the final green. Nowadays, almost every golf resort has one.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Located about 10 miles away in Notre Dame de la Paix is L'Heritage Golf Course, a parkland course that measures 6,712 yards from the back tees.
Le Chateau Montebello is part of the Quebec Fairmont Golf Trail, which also includes Le Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix -- which was inaugurated in 1925 by President William H. Taft -- the numerous world-class courses near the Fairmont Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, and several spectacular courses in the Montreal area not far from the majestic Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.
In addition to the aforementioned resorts at Banff Springs and Jasper Park, Fairmont's other golf properties in Canada include the Chateau Whistler Golf Club in British Columbia and the Algonquin Golf Club in St. Andrews by the Sea, New Brunswick.
And golf can be arranged at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary, the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, the Fairmont Newfoundland in St. John's, the Fairmont Winnipeg, three Fairmont properties in Vancouver and the stately Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City.
WHERE TO STAY: Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, a few minutes from the course, is a relic from the past -- a lodge built in 1930 with 10,000 giant red-cedar logs, all cut and set by hand, over a stone foundation.
An amazing construction feat, Le Chateau Montebello was the dream of Swiss-American Harold Saddlemire. It was inspired by chateaus in the Swiss Alps and dubbed "Lucerne-in-Quebec."
For its first 40 years, the chateau was the private retreat of the Seigniory Club, whose membership included Lester Pearson, former Canadian Prime Minister, and Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.
In 1970, Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello opened its doors to the public and achieved world-wide fame when it hosted the 1981 G7 Economic Summit that included President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher of England, President Francois Mitterand of France and hosting Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada.
More recently, Montebello hosted the 2007 North American Leaders Summit, welcoming President George W. Bush, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.
In addition to golf, this world-class resort, located on the Ottawa River at the foot of Westcott Mountain in the Laurentian chain, offers guests an array of activities that include an all-terrain vehicle course, tennis, basketball, badminton, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, swimming, volleyball and fishing and hunting at nearby Fairmont Kenauk.
In the winter, there are cross-country skiing, broomball, skating, sleigh rides, dog sledding, snow-mobiling, tobogganing, ice fishing and more. Or simply enjoy a hot toddy around the six-sided fireplace in the largest log cabin in the world.
ON THE WEB: www.fairmont.com/montebello.