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.
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.
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.