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Granite's Bunkers, Forgotten Clubs and a Round with Weekend Enthusiast

Granite Club's new and improved bunkers.

Granite Club's new and improved bunkers.

Last Thursday  provided me with an opportunity to go and see Granite Club, a Tom McBroom design located near Stouffville. I’ve played it a few times — including a media day that now turns out to be nearly a decade ago. How the time flies.

On a lovely day in May, with the sun hanging high in the sky, I drove up from Scarborough to the club, pulled into the lot and was looking forward to my game. I was an invited guest of a member who posts as Weekend Enthusiast on this site. He’s a regular and valuable contributor to the site, having debated the merits of the walkability of Coppinwood, Jon Mills’ statements about the PGA Tour and the wonders of Ireland’s The Island. Every so often a reader invites me for a game — it is an interesting chance to interact with the people who make this blog work. Though I’d never met Weekend, and frankly didn’t even know this fellow posted under the Weekend Enthusiast tag, I was intrigued at seeing McBroom’s redo on the bunkers at Granite.

So it was with some horror that I popped open my trunk and peered in only to see something was missing — namely my golf bag. On the morning in question I was busy putting the finishing touches on my golf column for Sympatico and I rushed out of the house to get gas for my lovely red Ford Focus. In the process I must have walked right by my bright red TaylorMade golf bag. Not sure how I managed that — my head must have been somewhere else. Needless to say there was that moment of panic — I hate playing with rented clubs and frankly the whole deal is very embarrassing — before I realized I had a set of Titleist AP2s in the truck, along with my old TaylorMade wedges. So all I was really missing was a putter and a driver.

Sheepishly I wandered up to the clubhouse and explained my ridiculous oversight. Scott Russsell, an assistant at the club, rescued me by offering up his golf bag, his Scotty Cameron putter, and the club kicked in a demo R9. Nice thing about the R9 is that it took literally 30 seconds to reconfigure it to my specs. With that — and still slightly flustered — Weekend, who works as a business consultant when not commenting on this site, and I went round Granite in about 3.5 hours, walking of course.

So what did I make of my return visit to Granite? The new bunkers is more ragged-edged, quite similar to Tobiano, which isn’t particularly surprising. I didn’t think the work was as inspired as McBroom’s bunkers at The Raven at Lora Bay or Firerock in London, but they were much better than the plain-Jane traps that were there previously. It made the holes more vibrant aesthetically.

The course, I think, is still one of McBroom’s weaker efforts. Over the last decade, I’d argue Tom has done some of his best designs — Tobiano, Memphremagog,  Oviinbyrd. He’s also done a couple of less intriguing courses — the plain and unmemorable Rattlesnake Point for one, and Granite. Neither course has what I’d consider a truly bad golf hole — but both are easy to forget.

Granite, which is apparently nearly full as a club, is interesting where the land is most intriguing. The opener is fine, and then a stretch of holes that run through swampland are flat, penal and relatively dull. The course improves on the short par-4 5th and the  6th, with its elevated tee shot. The 8th is a neat short four (two on the front nine is unusual) and then the front ends with a bang with the par-5 9th, with its tee shot over a ravine.

The problem is that McBroom comes back to this theme again. The 18th is essentially a mirror of the 9th, with the 18th also cutting over the ravine and playing uphill to a green tucked into the hillside. The backside also has the best hole on the course — the 12th, which at 456-yards, doglegs slightly along a ravine on the left of the fairway. A big tee shot that cuts the corner risks a lot, but also results in a short iron approach. Playing safer makes the approach that much more difficult.

McBroom makes good use of a high point for teeing areas and greens on the back nine, but the course sort of runs out of gas after the 16th, a long tough four, and the 17th, a hard dogleg around a marshy area, feels a bit shoe horned in.

None of this was really an issue though as I had an interesting and fun time playing with Weekend, who some of you will know from his comments on Jon Mills and the Marine Drive clubhouse controversy.

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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

  • RT. Apologize for not taking you there, but glad you made it back. Interesting that you preferred the new bunkers to the old “plain-Jane” ones. I liked the old plain-Janes, ’cause I felt they fit better with the “plain-Jane” course. Anyways, they were sold to the membership as a drainage issue and ended up being what you see today.

    As to the rest of your review – it’s pretty bang on.

    BTW, did you keep score and if so, how’d you do?

  • I do not why there is so much emphasis on sand traps, put concrete in them if you want. There is a quick cure, keep out of them.

  • the stronger the player, the less likely they’ll hit into a front bunker. Most of the time it’s on the sides….the weaker the player, the more intimidating a front bunker and less playability (slower rounds).

    having a bunker function only as an aim line is pointless also.

  • Henrye asked my question RT—–who won?

    I know the heading of your Sympatico site is “3 off the tee” so please be honest.

  • Weekend Enthusiast birdied the 12th and 13th holes, and I, alas, had no birdies, just a mix of pars, bogeys and worse. We didn’t play a game, but I think he’d have won had that been the case.

  • The bunker change just seems like one of those cosmetic tweaks done for the sake of tweaking. Does it really affect play, or just make the club yet another late adapter to the current preferred style?

  • Have to agree with Robbie, Granite is a forgettable course and it’s achilles heal is those swampland holes. Twice this spring they have been closed for 24 hours after a heavy rain. The good news is you found a course flat enough for Weekend to walk!

  • RT:

    Thanks again for the game and the great day. Obviously, I am biased regarding the Granite and have different views than some of those expressed but we can respectfully agree to disagree on some issues.

    Tighthead – The new bunkers at Granite do affect play, IMHO. Most were extended, some shapes were altered while the lips generally increased in size making a ball in the same spot pre and post bunker change a very different shot. This impacts not only shots from the bunkers but also the golfer’s mindset in shot selection from different parts of the course. I suppose one measure of change is the actual score differences pre and post bunker change but that is just one measure of change.

    Philip Bowllen – I have never heard of the course being closed for 24 hours after a heavy rain…and have been at the course during the heaviest rainfalls this spring. No idea where that allegation came from. I requested in an earlier post that you refrain from personal attacks but obviously your reading and comprehension needs help or you do not care. If the former, I know of good tutors you can use and if the latter, shame really…

  • WE – if you know of a good reading tutor then he/she will help you re-read my post and will draw to your attention that I didn’t say course was closed, only a couple of the holes in the swamp. Information from my neighbour who is one of your original and most enthusiastic members. He would have no reason to make this up.

  • RT,
    I really like 6 and 12 as well. I recall 13 being an awkward par 5, although I liked the green. I think 15 is underated short par 3. The green is semi-redan and can make for some fun putts.
    Slick greens and a few drivable par 4’s.
    Great practise areas as well.
    I recall many holes were not built as designed because of compromises with environmental groups.

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