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.