Brantford Golf and Country Club is a private club, located around 80 miles south west of Toronto. A curling facility was established in 1962 so members may frequent the clubhouse all year round in pursuit of their sporting entertainment; a real bonus in the winter when no golf can be played.
Brantford was established in 1879 so it is the fourth oldest club in North America, after Royal Montreal, Royal Quebec and Toronto. The club moved to its present site in 1906 when Stanley Thompson created a nine-hole course. This was extended within four years to 18 holes.
Nicol Thompson, lesser-known elder brother of the great Stanley, improved the design in 1922. The current routing has been in existence since 1962 when the curling rink was built. Doug Carrick made further renovations to the course in the last few years, opening up the course with some judicious tree removal and adding more character with bunker modifications.
The present clubhouse, the third to be built at Brantford, was constructed in 2002. It combines modern amenities with a traditional clubhouse ambience. There are many displays of historical golf memorabilia, artifacts and period pictures throughout the clubhouse which reflect the rich heritage of Brantford Golf and Country Club.
Brantford may be much admired but it is rarely loved - many golfers think it is a tougher test here than even the fearsome National. It is an unrelenting test of golf with very tough, long par fours to be played one after another.
The course routing takes the holes in and out of the Grand River valley with some marvelous changes in elevation, affording some exceptional holes, particularly the par threes – the 3rd, with a tough, hillside putting surface, the 9th, with its elevated green protected by a grassy gorge; and the 15th, with its quarry-like setting.
Slow play on the course is not just frowned upon, it is positively outlawed – groups are monitored when they set out and finish by the starter and a slow play mark is recorded against those who fail to complete a round in the stipulated maximum time of four hours and fifteen minutes. This pace of play program may result in warning letters, exclusions from playing at certain times and even a meeting with the board of the club for repeated offences!
The great Stanley Thompson certainly contributed to the design at Brantford G&CC but most credit should be given to his brother Nicol, who along with George Cumming laid out the original nine holes at this fine private club about an hour southwest of Toronto. Nicol was the head professional at Hamilton G&CC for over 50 years while Cumming was employed as the head pro over at Toronto GC during this time period.
After an underwhelming start, things take a turn for the better on the beautiful 3rd hole, a 197 yard par three that plays downhill to a green cut into a hillside. It's a stunning view down into the Grand River Valley and the player will move in and out of this valley throughout the course of the day.
You continue your descent into the valley on the gorgeous 4th, a 526 yard par five that doglegs slightly to the left off the tee. A big drive here gives the player a chance at the green in two but the shot is no bargain, as a large bunker protects the front of the undulating green.
The 5th hole is simply a tremendous piece of business, a 442 yard monster from the tips to a rolling fairway. From there, you'll have a long iron or a hybrid second shot into an open fronted green that sits below the fairway, allowing the player to hit a running approach. This hole is a shotmaker’s delight and truly a wonderful golf hole from tee to green.
The 6th, a 353 yard par four, offers a bit of a breather if you play conservatively. However, it can jump up and get you if you decide to pull a driver and test the fairway bunkers up the right side. There is also a holding pond out to the left that will eat up any snap hooks off the tee, so accuracy off the tee is a must. If you hit the fairway, you'll have a short iron approach to a well-bunkered but flattish putting surface.
The string of solid golf holes continues on the 7th, an uphill, straightaway par four of 355 yards. It's not an easy driving hole, as you need to split a couple of maple trees that border each side of the fairway around 220 yards from the tee while favouring the left side, as the elevated green opens up a bit from that area. It's a pretty diabolical putting surface if I remember correctly here too, with it sloping heavily from back to front.
The 9th offers some intriguing options off the tee. A par four measuring only 308 yards, your first thought is to take the big dog out and let it fly but if you're short or offline, you'll face a completely blind or semi-blind approach, as the fairway drops off considerably around 200 yards from the tee. The prudent play is likely to hit a mid-iron off the tee and leave an easy wedge approach to a very long, elevated green.
The par threes at Brantford are quite exceptional as a group and the wonderful 10th hole, a 168 yarder, might be the best of the bunch. The tee shot is played over a gorge to a green that is protected by bunkers in front and to the left.
The 12th is another superlative hole, a par five measuring 476 yards. Sounds pretty easy, huh? Well, think again! The tee shot favours a fade over a small creek and around the right fairway bunker. The hole climbs steeply uphill from there and the fairway narrows considerably the closer you get to the green. Drives blown over the bunker allow the player to reach the green in two but shots must avoid a cross bunker in front of the elevated green, which cants quite severely from right to left. A fun and sporty risk/reward par five.
The 14th is a 508 yard par five that climbs uphill and plays much longer than the scorecard would indicate. The drive needs to avoid fairway bunkers on both sides in the landing area and an exacting and long approach is needed to hit this green in two shots.
The 15th is yet another tremendous par three, measuring 192 yards. The hole plays a bit longer than its yardage and features a greensite that slopes sharply from back to front and is protected by a bunker cut into the hillside on the left side. A very tough par three, likely the toughest one-shotter on the course.
A bit of claustrophobia might set in on the par four 16th, a 458 yard par four that plays well downhill off the tee. There is out of bounds right and large trees framing both sides with branches overhanging the fairway. Trees are an issue throughout the course but this hole, over any other, could use some significant chainsaw work to open up the fairway corridors.
The 17th is the weakest par three on the course, a 154 yarder that plays over a pond. The green is pretty wide and inviting but you still need to be exacting with your mid-to-short iron off the tee, as wind might be a factor here.
The par five 18th hole, measuring 530 yards, is a worthy finisher. The entire hole plays uphill and the fairway is pretty wide and inviting off the tee, giving the long driver a chance to reach the elevated green with two well-struck shots. However, a mishit second shot brings bunkers into play on the left side and from there, it's no bargain to make your par, as the green is elevated and undulates quite severely. A really solid closing hole.
Brantford features an excellent routing and a truly great set of par threes and par fives. There are some weak points – when I last played, the course had undergone some recent renovation work, courtesy of Graham Cooke and some of the bunkering just didn't seem to fit with the original work. I understand this has been addressed in recent years, with Doug Carrick being hired to restore more of the Thompson style.
I also think the course needs to think about pruning some of the trees to open up the fairways a bit and bring some of the angles back into play.
We played the course early in the season and during very poor weather so conditioning wasn't great but it certainly wasn't bad either. While there are some average holes out here, I can honestly say the good outweighs the bad by a large margin. I was quite surprised by the elevation changes throughout the course and I think the design really takes great advantage of the land.
Brantford is a heck of a golf course and is very much deserving of its placement within the top 100 courses in Canada. In fact, if they do a bunch of tree pruning, you could make a strong case for this course being one of the top 20 in the country. It's that strong.
My full Brantford G&CC course profile and pictorial can be found here at Now on the Tee: http://nowonthetee.blogspot.com/2010/04/brantford-...