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Tom McBroom' Firerock Golf Club

Firerock Golf Club
Opened: 2004
Architect: Thomas McBroom
Location: Komoka, Ont., Canada

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Canadian architect Tom McBroom conceived of Firerock in 2003, and the course opened in mid-2004. It is interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, as a business, it is a mid-to-high end golf course built in an area (London, Ont.) with few such options. Secondly, and more to the point, McBroom’s bunkering technique make Firerock a real treat in places.
Take for example the first hole (above), a strong par-five opener. The tee shot is easy enough, bending to the right, but McBroom has used natural grasses and a unique greensite to create a good hole. Too bad the second, a rather bland par four with the standard use of a holding pond isn’t up to the same level.
While McBroom’s earlier courses used wild greens (giving him a lot of critics as well as fans), he’s toned it down over time. The only concern I have is that in toning down some features, he’s often created bland, uninteresting and safe golf — the types of courses built by owners with little experience in the game. But Firerock, Wildfire and the soon-to-open masterpiece Oviinbyrd (which few will ever see), prove he’s taken his designs to the next level. He’s also willing to experiment, like the use of the mound on the fourth hole at Firerock (see photo below).
Firerock #4
So does this make Firerock great? Far from it — it still has some lacklustre holes. But the best, like the 10th, a dogleg par four with a blind tee shot, are outstanding. Though some may find the 10th confusing (apparently McBroom was forced to make some alterations because of an archiological find during clearing), it offers a couple of options. You can play the tee shot straight down the fairway to the corner, leaving a downhill approach of around 200 yards, or one can tackle the corner with a driver, risking leaving it in the fescue, but also potentially providing a much shorter shot into an interesting green. Some may not appreciate the hole’s strategy the first time around, but it offers players options — exactly what a good golf hole should do.
The finishing hole, a par four that features a dramatically perched greensite, also looks awesome (I didn’t get a chance to play it — hopefully that’ll happen in the spring).
The worst sees McBroom mixing styles which leads to confusing themes. The best bits at Firerock are the hand worked bunkers — something McBroom seems to have picked up from the recent renovation at Toronto’s St. George’s, where he is a member.
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There’s enough at Firerock to make it worth seeking out, especially if you have a chance to visit one of the area’s other great courses — like Donald Steel’s Redtail, or Stanley Thompson’s group which include Sunningdale, St. Thomas and Highlands.

Rating: 7.0/10

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Rob, I agree, Firerock is a pretty good effort from McBroom, in particular the bunkering. I also agree that one of it’s detractions is the contrast in styles, mainly on the front side. The two par 3’s on the front sise are really good though. If they do things right, Firerock should pull a lot of business away from Forest City National.

  • We played Firerock last Saturday and found it to be a very challenging round. The lack of rain has turned the greens to cement, and the dips and turns were unpredictable, resulting in very few 1-putts for the day. Since I’m almost a bogie golfer, I tend to play “on the fringe”! I lost quite a few balls that day, and in a couple of years, Firerock’s “edges” are going to eat balls for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Since most golfers tend to avoid the center of the fairway, this could result in extremely long rounds and backups, unless the ranger keeps things moving (or at least offers to help find dozens of balls sitting just inside the fescue fringe!

    We were most impressed with the Clubhouse itself! Brand spanking new with a nice Eastern aesthetic and bold use of brushed metal and wood! The service was outstanding, the starter Peter was friendly and helpful- and the experience was very unpretentious, which I prefer.

  • I played Firerock for the first time last week and was impressed. Having played many of McBroom’s other courses I think that this effort is to be one of his best. It definately has his best bunkering to date and I really enjoyed the way he responed to and incorporated the features and character of abandoned gravel pit into the design. In comparison to Forest City National which I played today, I would have to say that Firerock is the best public course in the area by a long shot. Forest City has fallen on sad times…

  • Firerock will become THE premier public track shortly.
    Fairways are generous enough for high handicappers and tight enough where it counts for low handicappers. Be real and play the correct tees for your handicap.
    The greens are quick and hard, so chipping the ball makes more sense most of the time. Yeah, I know, you think you can flop one like Phil! lol
    Pace of play was 4 hours.
    Clubhouse was neat.
    Staff were friendly.
    My only complaint is the finishing hole. If I can’t see the flag, how do i really know where the green is from the fairway. NOTE: This is similar to their sister course at The Oaks!

    Overall rating 4.5 out 5.

    well worth the drive to London.

  • I had the honor to play FireRock with friends in September 2007. I was overjoyed. What a beautiful setting, a very challenging course. I applaud McBroom’s effort. I am not a pro (18 hdcp) but I enjoy the challenge and serenity FireRock offered.
    The proshop and staff are simply, Nice.
    I will be back again to play in “08” and every other opportunity I may grasp to be in London.

  • I moved to London 3 years ago to attend university…
    As far as public golf goes it’s the best by a decent margin in my opinion….

    Have played Forest City twice, and Firerock really surpasses it in the practice facilities, clubhouse, and friendliness/professional nature of the staff.

    The strength of the course for me are with it good conditioning, the fact that no hole encroaches on another, and the dramatic nature of the holes…

    I have to disagree with the review as to hole 10…. while I know they were forced to change the set-up while building, it a little gimmicky especially for the first time player…. I came and was told to hit a 3 wood left of the barber’s post…. hit it perfect only to find out over the hill that is sailed into the woods…. and now knowing the hole… I can hit a big driver to about 60-75 yards and if I lose it on a slice which I sure tend to do… The loss of distance on my slice still finds the fairway….. So an option for some golfers, IMO this hole is unfair if you haven’t been there and too easy if you have….

    18 is also exceptionally tough…. A 275 yard drive leaves a 17o approach that is 2 clubs extra uphill with wind…. while I’m embrace tough holes I think it forces your shot too much…

    Despite writing 2 critical paragraphs I love the course… I think it’s better than a few private courses in London and loved the fact that it was mentioned for #101 in Canada and hopefully some day it makes the list…. For those that don’t have the money to shell for an expensive public course (only $85 prime with cart and unlimited range balls) They have a 9 and dine option after 5…. $35 for 9 holes, unlimited range balls and a $10 food voucher for their excellent food….

    Playing Firerock has left me craving good golf and relatively unsatisfied with non-premium public courses although the odd one stands out…. I think Thomas McBroom provided a course for all handicaps and quite serene for the golfer that loves to relax while getting a good round in…. If one gets the chance… I definitely recommend they stop by in the London Area….

  • I agree with the review of Elliot S.. FireRock has a unique mix of holes and some interesting links qualities on 3, 4, and 14. 10 and 18 are awful holes and 12 is about as bland a par-5 as possible. 12 plays about 450 straight without any real trouble or excessive bunkering. I can’t understand why McBroom didn’t shorten 12 into a 400 yard par-4 and extend 18 back about 60 yards (this is where the 12th green is) and make a risk/reward 500+ yard finisher.

  • How is the 18th, a tough tee shot and a tough approach, an “awful hole?” I think it is a good finisher. I don’t think there is room back to extend 18, unless you shortened 12 significantly. I think 18 is a good four, and would not have worked as a five.

  • i have read some of the comments on the local golf courses
    in the area.i think that mr.sb should get into the golf course
    designing because he has run down some very nice designed
    courses in otter creek and firerock.it always takes one jerk
    to run down other courses.if you think the course at avon is
    so great why did the muligans tour shoot better scores there
    than they did at ottercreek.

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