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Course Preview: Turnberry GC (Brampton, Ont.)

Biarritz: The green at 13th at Turnberry GC won't be easily forgotten.

Biarritz: The green at 13th at Turnberry GC won't be easily forgotten.

Course Preview: Turnberry GC (Brampton, Ont.)

Opens: May, 2010

Designer: Cam Tyers/Doug Carrick

Let’s call Turnberry Golf Club, the new course designed by Carrick Design just off Highway 410, exactly what it is — a grand experiment.

Sure this is the same team behind Eagles Nest, one of the best public courses to open in Canada in recent years. That much is true. But Turnberry isn’t a 7,400 yard beast. It is only 3,408 yards from the tips — and that’s over 18 holes. Yep, Turnberry is a short course — but don’t think for one instant this is some sort of budget-priced executive muni favored by those who either can’t play, are learning the game or are in their twilight years. Sure it’ll work for those people to, but over 16 par-3s and two par-4s, Tyer and Carrick have created a course that’s strategic, fun, should take around three hours to play and can be easily walked. All for under $50.

Yesterday was the unofficial opening of the course, with a group of staff and two of the partners taking part in a quick nine holes. Three groups played — two of them as fivesomes. Even then the pace of play was around 1.5 hours for 10 holes — and not everyone involved was a terrific player. So this should play quickly — though the club is currently budgeting about 3.5 hours for a round.

The 10 holes we played offered tremendous variations — downhill tee shots, intriguing classic green concepts, chipping hollows, bunkers with Signature brand sand and a snaking creek. I wonder about the 445-yard opener — considering it is 50 yards longer than the 18th and looks to be as tough a challenge as Eagles Nest’s 11th hole — but with that exception, Turnberry looks tough enough to challenge strong players. The holes with forced carries may prove a challenge to those less skilled — but then this course can play 2,431 yards — 30% shorter than the back length.

The highlights were the most aggressive greens, with Tyers using classic concepts — a Biarritz green, a Redan, a version of National Golf Links’ Short, and Royal Troon’s Postage Stamp are all utilized throughout the design. These aren’t replicas — there’s no Wooden Sticks/TPC at Sawgrass action happening at Turnberry. Instead Tyers has used the concepts to craft his own holes that take the necessary ingredients from the classics.

This can be seen on the short, 120-yard 4th, patterned after the Postage Stamp. Though no where near as severe as Troon’s 2-or-20 hole, it is guarded by front bunkers on the right and left, and the green is long and narrow. Perhaps the best of the concept holes is the Biarritz, though it appears to have more of a connection with North Berwick’s 16th hole, which is actually not a classic Biarritz (the concept developed in France and Berwick’s hole did not initially have its front plateau shaved as green). Regardless, there’s a significant trough running through the middle of the green and towards the right. Yesterday the pin was in the trough — but there still appeared to be options for those failing to get down and ending on the front or back plateau. It isn’t a green for the faint of heart, but it is also not likely to be easily forgotten.

The Redan: Turnberry's 11th hole has the genes to be a challenge

The Redan: Turnberry's 11th hole has the genes to be a challenge

Tyers’ success with the Redan (#11) is harder to immediately determine. Few modern Redans — a par-3 with a green that falls away from the front right to the back left with a kicker slope on the right — have been well done, with the typical failing being the lack of necessary slope on the right to propel the ball forward as expected. Yesterday the course was too wet and too new to really determine whether the slope is aggressive enough. Regardless, at 211-yards this will likely be the most challenging hole, especially given the deep bunker well short of the green and the steep bank on the left.

The other holes were a mix of solid par-3s. Tyers has been deceptive in his green movements, meaning this is a course you’ll learn over time. That’s a great proposition since you’re largely hitting short irons for many of the holes — so why not expect players to try to place the balls in the appropriate positions within the greens. That’s the case with the 8th, a downhill 165-yard one-shot hole where the green pitches right toward the hazard and thick grass. However, Tyers has provided a kicker slope on the left, meaning a ball hit a few yards right of the putting surface will still kick onto the green.

The 9th, well protected by a pond in front and several of the 32 bunkers at Turnberry

The 9th, well protected by a pond in front and several of the 32 bunkers at Turnberry

In other instances smart carry angles were used to bring water into play — the 151-yard 15th was a good example — while still keeping the green front open to allow access for less skilled golfers. Occasionally a full forced carry is utilized — like the 9th hole, a neat mid-iron over a pond to a large green or the 16th, with a subtle green banked near to the water — but that is what will make Turnberry interesting for better players.

Will the business model work? Strikes me Turnberry will be a great place for four buddies to have a shoot out, walk the course and still get home for lunch/dinner. That’s what we did yesterday — with three amateurs, including superintendent Shane Courtney, and Eagles Nest marketing wiz Steve Marshall — taking on the current head pros at Eagles Nest and Turnberry. Needless to say the amateurs trounced the pros, but that wasn’t really the point. Everyone seemed engrossed in the game, trying to find a way to place the ball on the appropriate parts of the greens which would yield birdies. Not once did I miss hitting my driver — my mind was focused on trying to hit crisp irons to fascinating greens.

The best part was that Turnberry was fun — and if time had presented itself, I’d have immediately walked back to where we started and done it again. I wasn’t the only one in the group with that sentiment. Next year we’ll find out whether that addictive natured infects others.  

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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.

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  • i’m excited about it personally-options are a nice thing- I would suggest somehow to the owners having getting a coffee type card where you play 5 rounds at Turnberry you get to play Eagles Nest for 50% off.

  • Turnberry looks great …courses like this are a lot of fun to play and the swale on that 13th green looks like a solid 3 putt green if you aren’t in the right spot!

  • I am not sure there will be enough interest in a crowded market hard hit by the economy…but most importantly the shortness of it.
    I agree that better golfers may want to test their short game..but if you head to any golf range and watch the newbies, the old timers and the better golfers….what do you see in their hand?
    answer: the driver
    no matter how much we are told it is so important to work on our mid irons, wedges, putting etc…we instinctively pull driver.
    I admit it myself..i enjoy practice when i can, but there is no better feeling than pulling the headcover of my driver, ready to bomb one out there…well just not at turnberry….. 🙁
    I guess we will see if it works.

  • Craig,

    I think your comment has some serious truth to it – some simply won’t play it for that reason. To me, it looks like the ideal place for a golf league held late afternoon in the mid-week.

    The question on this project has nothing to do with the quality of golf – which is clearly there – but whether people will pay $50. for this alternative.

    I hope they do. Kudos for everyone involved in offering something different.

  • I would sooner play a nice nine hole course than this arrangement. It may do well, and I hope it does. I am generally pretty open minded about the courses I play, but this just doesn’t grab me. Nine holes or time at the practice area would be more to my liking.

  • RT: it sounds like a fun matchplay course, as you say.. but would you pay $50? which i doubt you did. not that there’s anything wrong with that if afforded the opportunity!

    woodya?

  • $50 is probably not bad given the experience and the location. But that’s also the top rate — I suspect a lot of people will pay closer to $35, and that seems very fair.

  • Robert Thompson Says:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 5:08 pm
    $50 is probably not bad given the experience and the location. But that’s also the top rate — I suspect a lot of people will pay closer to $35, and that seems very fair.

    RT

    Are they using a graduating green fee schedule or how do you figure the difference in fees?

    In 1965 I built a course similar to this (Lido in Oakville) and it was VERY successful.

  • I played it yesterday (or at least 4 -16)

    It’s very good and the Biarritz is well worth the cost alone.

    The best part was we played those holes in an hour and a half!
    Assuming a 2 1/2 hour round – that alone may bring people in.

  • The course looks great, but the price seems out of line. Is it wrong to hope that it doesn’t ‘catch on’, so they’ll be forced to actually get cost competitive? Some of those pictures look amazing and I hope the ‘green glow’ is due to the wet weather and not a sign of the course being a water pig. With holes like those, I sure hope they turn off the sprinklers and let it brown out a bit in the summer.

    At $30 for 18, I’d definitely drive there from Niagara. I can play a whole host of full sized courses for $50 or less around here. Heck, Lochness Links (aka Hunter’s Pointe) is only $35 right now.

    One other thing – it sounds like the short course at Legends seems to have a better balance for the ‘driver’ crowd. In 9 holes, 3 are par fours which invite you to swing away and are actually much more open than they appear from the tee. You can usually get in 18 on that course for around $30 (I think it’s $15 right now for ‘unlimited’ holes, but not positive).

    The only problem with Legends’ short course is that the conditioning is starting to slide – it appears that they’re in the process of letting the bunkers grass over (there’s no more ‘fluffy’ sand, just clay and weeds). However, I happen to be of the opinion that I’d rather have bad bunkers (and drier & browner fairways) if I can keep some extra dollars in my pocket.

  • The images make it look very manufactured as opposed to minimalist, but Carrick’s best works are of a similar vein. Curious to know how much land the course occupies and how much it cost to design/build? Wondering if it might have been a better product if they’d built 14 holes instead of squeezing in 18 short ones. Lastly, all this hype about playing so quickly – golf is meant to be relaxing and enjoyable. No one likes to wait around on the teebox for slow groups holding everyone up, but who likes to run around like rabbits?

  • We need more “rabbits” on public golf courses today. Few public courses play 18 holes in 4 hours or less (unless you are one of the first groups of the day and play at a reasonable pace). Let’s celebrate fast play wherever possible.

    There is no reason a four ball needs to play 18 holes in more than 4 hours. Difficult course, beginner players, etc are no excuses. Simply, golfers take too long over the ball…too many practice swings, sequential preparation (rather than concurrent while others are playing), not playing ready golf, unnecessary preparation over putts….the reasons are many…and slow play has been a problem for many years, not just since the advent of television and watching Jack Nicklaus.

    Let’s not advocate running around a course but playing 18 holes in 4 1/2 or 5 hours is too long.

  • What wrong with running around the course? I don’t mean that literally, but I think the problem with slow is largely that people take too long to get between shots. Watch your average foursome as you wait frustrated on the tee; they saunter along like a casual walk on the beach. Put some vigor in your bloody stride. I personally take longer over putts than most people would like to see, but my view is that this is where good scores come from. But I play with my father-in-law, who is 65, in 2 hours in 50 minutes when we are the first group off at Mad River. Mad is not the easiest walking course (e.g. the back nine), nor an easy test of golf, but by simply picking up the pace between shots we save probably 30-40 minutes a round. As a foursome, golf should never exceed 4 hours! As Weekend Enthusiast puts it: no excuses!

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