6534 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 70.9/126
COURSE ARCHITECT: Stanley Thompson, Nicol Thompson & George Cumming (1906)
COURSE WEBSITE: http://brantfordgolfandcountryclub.com/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: April 28, 2008.
LOW SCORE: 80 (+8)
– Golfweek Best Classic Courses Canada 2019: #13
– Top100GolfCourses.com Canada’s Top 100 2019: #62
– ScoreGolf Top 110 in Canada 2018: #79
“Brantford is a course that is admired, but never loved…and remains just a solid, unrelenting test of golf”
– Ian Andrew, Architect, Weir Golf Design
Back to the topic at hand, Brantford is listed as a Stanley Thompson design but time has shown that most of the design work was done by his brother Nicol, the head professional at Hamilton G&CC for over 50 years and George Cumming, the head pro over at Toronto GC.
Harry and I had the first tee time of the day for the event and played in absolutely horrific weather conditions for much of the round, with torrential rain and temperatures maybe two degrees above freezing at the start of play. It was so bad, Harry was convinced that the GAO would postpone the event but that simply just doesn’t happen in provincial tournaments.
On cue, we were summoned to the first tee at 7:30am and would have to play this wonderful course under dark, angry skies.
The first two holes are pretty underwhelming, to be completely frank. The first is a 511 yard par five that doglegs left and the second is a straightaway par four measuring 334 yards, with both holes placed on flat, unremarkable land.
Things take a turn for the better on the beautiful third hole, shown above, 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 fourth hole, a 526 yard par five that doglegs slightly to the left off the tee, as seen above.
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 but there is the opportunity to play to the left quadrant, as seen above from the approach area.
The fifth hole, shown above, 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 in my case, a hybrid second shot into an open fronted green that sits below the fairway somewhat as you can see above, allowing the player to hit a running approach. This hole is a shotmakers delight and truly a wonderful golf hole from tee to green.
The sixth, 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 fairways 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 seventh, an uphill, straightaway par four of 355 yards, as seen above. 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 eighth is a 156 yard par three with redan characteristics. Shots that bail to the right here are pretty much dead, as the green slopes sharply from right to left.
The ninth 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, as seen above.
The par threes at Brantford are quite exceptional as a group and the wonderful tenth hole, a 168 yarder as shown above, 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 11th is a 408 yard par four played off an elevated tee, with a holding pond on the left in the landing area. The approach shot must avoid another pond short right but I believe the green is relatively flat so birdies are a possibility if you hit two good shots.
The 12th is another superlative hole, a par five measuring 476 yards. Sounds pretty easy, huh? Well, think again! As seen above, the tee shot favours a fade either to the left of the right fairway bunker over a small creek or you can try to drive it over the bunker.
The hole climbs steeply uphill from there and the fairway narrows considerably as well 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 13th is a brute of a par four, measuring 458 from the tips. It’s a dogleg left with an open front green.
The 14th, shown above, 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, as seen above, 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. The one hole over all others here that could use a bit of chainsaw work in my opinion to open up the corridors a bit.
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.
Harry and I didn’t fare very well the day we played, with neither of us making a single birdie. I shot an 80 on my own ball while Harry came in with an 82, while our better ball score of 77 (+5) placed us in the middle of the pack, not good enough to advance to the actual championship event.
Brantford features an excellent routing and a truly great set of par threes and par fives. There are some weak points – the course has undergone some recent renovations, courtesy of Graham Cooke and some of the bunkering just doesn’t seem to fit with the original work. 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 G&CC is a heck of a good golf course and is very much deserving of it’s placement within the top 50 courses in Canada. In fact, if they got the right architect involved, touched up a few more bunkers and 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.
All photos here, with the exception of the scorecard, are courtesy of the official Brantford G&CC website.