Course: Links at Brunello (Halifax, NS)
Designer: Thomas McBroom
Overview: A new high-end public course located outside of Halifax, McBroom has talked about this as being his homage to Highlands Links. I don’t get that, but there are a lot of really good holes at Brunello (though I hate the “links” name — there’s nothing linksy about this place) that is eventually undone by repetition. The best holes—#2, 7, 8, 11—are really terrific, but there is simply too many holes that play to an elevated green (about half by my count) and eventually it seemed like overkill.
- The use of the land, for the most part, is very good, and the fairways have contour you don’t often see in modern designs. The long par 4 6th, and the tumbling 12th were both intriguing and used the land smartly.
- There are some really standout holes that require smart play. The 6th and 7th holes, both mid-length par fours, were among my favourites on the course, though the 11th, which comes after the somewhat plodding 10th, is really the standout.
- McBroom is really conservative with his bunker usage, which makes the course very playable and slightly understated. The land is good enough that it didn’t need a ton of bunkers.
- The opener isn’t a bad hole, but it is a bad opener if that makes sense. With dense woods on both sides of the fairway and large bunkers, there are lots of opportunity to start with a 6 on your card. As mentioned, it isn’t a bad hole — just out of place as the first hole though it is little more than a 3-wood and mid-iron.
- As mentioned, the number of elevated greens seemed overdone. It isn’t clear why they are all there — but it became a theme. You hit down off an elevated tee into a valley and then play up to a raised green. It works sometimes very well (see #7) but happens too often.
- The par 5s on the back nine are downright awkward — including the short par 5 13th and the slightly dull 16th. The three shot holes on the front were stronger (3 and 9, though both have, you guessed it, elevated greens).
- There are going to be a lot of houses at Brunello, and it won’t seem quite as secluded as it does now. Already there is evidence of the influx of urban commercialism on the 7th and 8th holes.
Overall: Brunello is solid and occasionally very interesting. I have the impression the front nine was stronger than the back, and that this is a course you have to play a couple of times to understand all of the expected shots. There’s nothing bad at Brunello—not a stinker among the 18 holes—but somehow I didn’t quite think it all worked out as well as it should have. Even the closer—a tough par 4 that I really liked—had the typical elevated green that you saw throughout the course. McBroom has the tendency to repeat elements within a design (see Ambassador in Windsor, for example) and there are elements of that here. This is a good course, which might have been a few notches better with a few changes. Overall I think it fits in the bottom half of the Top 100 in Canada.