Course Review: Turnberry GC
Location: Brampton, Ont.
Designer: Doug Carrick and Cam Tyers
First impressions matter, and for most the initial element they’ll notice about Turnberry GC, which opened just over a week ago, is that it is only 3,200 yards long — from the tips. That immediately leads to some other thoughts. “Ugh,” some will say, “it’s an executive course.” Or maybe, “Can’t be very interesting if I only hit my driver twice.”
For some, they’ll never bother to get beyond that initial impression, even though, with prices ranging from $35 to $50, and with a course that can be walked in just over two hours, it seems to warrant further exploration. The good news is that those willing to put in the time will find a truly unique golf experience that deals with one of the primary issues facing the game of golf today — the length it takes to play.
When faced with the decision on what to build on a slight property just off the 410 highway in Brampton, the easy way out would have been to create a standard nine-hole course. Instead Carrick Design and the owners behind Eagles Nest built something entirely different — a course with 16 meaty par-3s, many of which feature forced hazards — and two par-4s (though I suspect the opener will be changed to a par-5 in time.)
The course starts with a 440-yard monster of a hole, one with an uphill approach shot that makes it play even longer. Even there many of the elements seen elsewhere on the course start to appear — the short-mown surrounds that are characteristic of Carrick’s work, and significant movement in the green, something that becomes more pronounced as the round moves along.
The second hole, a downhill par-3 to a green shared with the eighth hole (Tyers’ affinity for double greens exceeds mine, but it works well in this instance), has an interesting carry angle and demonstrates that Turnberry is far from a pitch and putt. Instead the course offers 16 one-shot holes that most 7,000-yard courses would be envious of. Meaty, sometimes nasty and a lot of fun, you have to be prepared to hit longer irons in a lot of instances, a lost skill in the day of hybrids.
The standouts include some that I didn’t see when I toured the course last year when only 12 holes were open. Those include the long third, which plays uphill to a green banked into a faux dune, and the wonderful short seventh, with its skyline green. There’s a fair amount of contour in the greens as well, meaning that the game doesn’t stop once you find the short grass.
Interestingly, there are lots of lessons to be learned from the holes crafted by Tyers, with assistance from his boss, Doug Carrick. Tyers lifted concepts for his creations from great holes around the world, including the Biarritz (the 13th, which features one of the most interesting greens to be built in Canada over the past decade), Troon’s Postage Stamp, the Short hole at National Golf Links and others. Not all of these work equally well. Tyers is the latest to have his Redan hole fall a little flat (the 11th hole), a victim of the fact the slope doesn’t kick the ball to the left towards the back of the green as hoped. And his Postage Stamp is a little too pedestrian to catch the nefarious intent of the original hole. But those are perhaps negligible complaints — both holes are still enjoyable and intriguing to play.
Overall, I’d say Turnberry is a success, one that is fun to play and can be tackled quickly. One might think that 16 one-shot holes would be dull after a spell, but the variety is such that Tyers always keeps you thinking and switching clubs. Careful tee placement will assure players that each hole will play differently, but that is helped by a meandering routing with holes changing direction regularly throughout the round.
I played the course the day before it opened with our own Fairway Stevie. His comment on the course is perhaps most indicative of the day: “When are they building one of these in the east end?” he asked as we walked up the final fairway.
Let’s chalk this up as a successful experiment.