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