Mount Bruno Country Club
Saint Bruno, Que.
Designer: Willie Park Jr., with renovations by Stanley Thompson/Thomas McBroom
There are few courses that are quieter, fewer less well known in Canada than Mount Bruno. Its relative anonymity is based on the fact the club doesn’t want anyone to see it. They don’t care if it receives publicity or is on Score’s Top 100 list. They just like their sleepy little club to be exactly as it has been largely since opening in 1918.
The members can do whatever they like but they can’t hide the fact that anyone lucky enough to see it will come to understand it is a great course. It may not happen right away. It might take until the 9th hole, when a ball gets kicked sideways by the mighty swale in the green. Or it could take to the 11th hole when someone tries to drive the green and fails. Or to the 13th, when they realize the muscular nature of the hole. You get the point — there’s a lot going on at Mount Bruno that makes it worth seeking out.
A design by Willie Park Jr. (Weston), the course is subtle and understated. Fairways are lay-of-the-land, and greens do feature significant contour, but often rise from the fairway on grade, naturally blending in with the surroundings. The land Park utilized is rolling, with a nice mix of elevation changes without every being extreme. It is a delightful walk and a delightful place to play.
The best holes at Bruno — like the mid-length par-4 4th, with its tricky green that slopes from the left, or the 13th, with its relatively flat green perched on a peak of a small hillock — pose more challenge than it would initially appear. The player thinks there’s little danger, but the devil is in the details so to speak. A clever bunker — like that on the 13th, keeps a player from firing at the green, or a swale in the green, like the 4th, forces a careful iron selection.
The only holes that are out of character are (unfortunately) the 18th, which seems decidedly over-bunkered (in fact it wasn’t the closing hole on the original routing) and the third, a par-3 with ringed bunkers. The third can perhaps be forgiven for the fact it is a short three, but it strikes me as the least interesting one-shot hole on the course.
The muscle of the course is found in its fours, especially the long 5th hole, that plays downhill to a green that rises at the back, or the 14th, which plays downhill to another tremendous green, the type it could take years to figure out.
Which is the greatness of Bruno. What looks easy actually has more twists and turns than immediately meets the eye. And yes, it is exceptionally difficult to find a round at this place — I’ve been lucky to play it five times — and I delight in returning to see if I can finally master its nuances.