Cabot Collection CEO Ben Cowan-Dewar on Expanding His Empire

"We can create soul-stirring experiences for people. That’s the business I want to be in."

May 4, 2024 10:20 pm
Ben Cowan-Dewar talks destination golf courses and St. Lucia
Ben Cowan-Dewar talks destination golf courses and St. Lucia
The Cabot Collection

The minds behind The Cabot Collection of international golf resorts and real estate communities only build their properties where they feel they must. When a new scouted location demands a destination course and homes or hotels to bring players from across the world, Cabot invests in building the attraction.

Co-Founder and Cabot CEO Ben Cowan-Dewar oversees a listing of golf venues including Cabot Cape Breton – Inverness, Nova Scotia; Cabot St. Lucia – Point Hardy; Cabot Revelstoke – British Columbia; Cabot Citrus Farms – Florida; and Cabot Highlands – Scotland. He insists Cabot doesn’t need to expand from such strong transatlantic options, but sometimes he comes across locations that he wants to develop into bucket-list stops for travelers and golfers.

That was the case in St. Lucia, as the sweeping hillsides and rugged cliffs overlooking Atlantic waters come together to create a golf venue soon to be as storied as Pebble Beach Golf Links or Princeville Kauai. Cowan-Dewar sat down with InsideHook in St. Lucia to discuss a Cabot portfolio that expands only when compelled by Mother Nature. 

Co-Founder and Cabot CEO Ben Cowan-Dewar
Co-Founder and Cabot CEO Ben Cowan-Dewar
The Cabot Collection

InsideHook: Real estate construction is now underway at your newest international destination, Cabot St. Lucia – Point Hardy. What led you to pick that spot of the island’s coastline to develop your latest property?

Ben Cowan-Dewar: I came and saw the Point Hardy site for the first time eight years ago after looking all over the Caribbean for the right place, because I wanted us to be able to build the best golf course in the region. We knew the site was special from the first second we saw it. I texted [golf course designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw] within five minutes of hitting the ground there and said, “I’ve got one, and we’ve got to do it.” To see it now, completed and in its glory, it’s incredible.

How long were you aware that you wanted to make St. Lucia the next addition to the Cabot line?

I first saw this place in 2016, and I knew what we had to do then. But, I kept coming down here month after month to work on how we’d make it happen. I just kept telling our people that they had to see what we’d found — and that we had to make this happen.

After developing your other sites in previous years, much of the work on Cabot St. Lucia took place during the pandemic. What effect did that have on the development?

I always feel pressure investing enormous amounts of capital and resources into realizing the dreams that are these properties. But, giving our designers this mantle on the island — this special place — during the pandemic? I knew that was going to be a challenge.

I know [Coore and Crenshaw] had their own anxiety because COVID-19 meant they couldn’t get down here as often or for as long as they wanted to while working on the course. But we knew the site was so spectacular that it would eventually be recognized if we gave them the time and the chance to build nine greens on the ocean.

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How involved are you in creating the golf courses that are the heart of Cabot travel and real estate attractions?

I tell the guys, “You build me a great golf course, and I’ll build around it.” If I tell them where to put the clubhouse and where homes have to be, I’ve already compromised the canvas for their art. 

Whether it’s for resorts or real estate, Cabot uses golf as a way into your specially chosen locations. What’s the Cabot philosophy regarding balancing the game against the revenue of homes or hotel keys?

I tell the designers, “Find us the very best golf course…” wherever we look to build. If we get that, I know we can build the rest of a successful operation around it. People said I was crazy dedicating the oceanside space here in St. Lucia to golf holes and not homes, but anyone can see the result was worth it.

We have our competitors who build golf courses to sell houses — putting those homes on the best land with the best views. Maybe they’re smarter than me, but I started building golf holes on my family farm when I was 10 years old. When I was 24, I set out to build a golf course 1,000 miles from my home in a town of 1,200 people. I was never looking out to be primarily a real estate developer or a hotelier. Whether it’s here in St. Lucia or in Florida at our new Citrus Farms development, I just thought these spots could yield great golf. Then there are plenty of ways to figure out how to build a business around that.

Cabot St. Lucia – Point Hardy
Cabot St. Lucia – Point Hardy
John Scott Lewinski

How do you choose where you want to build next, whether for a resort or real estate?

We’re in a period of growth with a lot of irons in the fire. You can never be totally certain which of those plans will come to pass. We bought Cabot Highlands in Scotland and Citrus Farms within six months of each other. Now, I wasn’t looking to buy two properties in six months, but if these unbelievable locations and opportunities that I want to pursue come along, I will do two in six months.

But, just as I don’t want to compromise the canvas for [Coore and Crenshaw], I don’t want to force [Cabot] to build just to build. For example, I’ve been searching for a location in Texas for years. I haven’t found one yet. Now, do I think it’d be a good idea to build in Texas? I do. But, I’m still tramping around on various sites because we’ve got to find that spot. Without that magic, it’s not for me.

Do you foresee the hunt continuing to find those special places that make you want to build?

I love the Game of Risk, and I love geography. I’ve looked at hundreds of sites on every possible continent. We’re building a brand and, increasingly, a global one. But, we want to find these amazing sites to build remarkable locations near communities we love. We can create soul-stirring experiences for people. That’s the business I want to be in now.


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