The Links at Brunello course is part of a master development spread across five hundred and thirty acres and the layout is built to scale inside this large property, with some long distances between holes – it’s just as well carts are mandatory when playing here or there would be golfers with some very tired legs when walking off the home green.
Set out by Tom McBroom and opened for play in 2015, the layout is carpeted in bent grass from tee to green, with large, “bull nose” bunkers – a recent McBroom design trait – arranged sparingly around the course. Forty acres of wetland have also been incorporated into the design, boosting the course’s eco-credentials.
Many of the holes are played from elevated tee positions into fairways which then require an approach to a raised green (such as at the par four 7th) but such design devices can become repetitive if used too often and around half the holes on the course are fashioned in this manner, which some golfers might find irritating.Highlight holes include the par three 2nd, played downhill across a canyon to a shallow, offset green and the long par four 4th, where water flanks the left side of the narrow fairway as it gently bends toward the green. On the back nine, the par four 11th is by far the best hole on the inward half, rising gently to a green that tilts markedly from back to front.
I was truly looking forward to my experience at The Links at Brunello, and I must say it was unfortunately disappointing… The setting in which the course is built is beautiful, even though it is part of a large upscale residential development. While there, one would think you are playing one of the beautiful courses in the Muskoka area. However, the course lacks variety and fun seems to have been an afterthought in designing the 18 holes on the property.
Before delving into the negatives, let's look at what was done right. First, the conditioning of the course is of high level. The greens run fast and true. The fairways and tee boxes are pristine. Second, the practice facilities are very good. Third, if you are looking for a difficult test of golf that will challenge your ability to hit long and accurate tee shots, with soaring irons and pin point accurate wedges, this is as good a place to go as anywhere else around Halifax. However, if you are looking for a place that will test all facets of your game, asking that you play a variety of shots whether it be from 200 yards away, or 30, this is not the place.
The majority of holes offer the same strategy: hit a shot from an elevated tee to a narrow fairway and follow that with another shot into an elevated green. Most fairways slope away from the middle, so that even a shot landing just a few yards into the rough will bounce severely into trouble. Very little options are offered to the player, be it from the tees or into the greens.
The best holes are the 2nd and 5th. Both par 3s, they demand accurate shots to sloping greens protected by false fronts.
It is disappointing that the designers did not seem to include fun and playability in their plans. In such beautiful surroundings, the potential for an incredible golfing experience certainly existed.