From Nova Scotia to China, Canada’s Tom McBroom is designing courses around the golfing globe.
Tom McBroom is making a few last minute phone calls, trying to tie up some loose ends, before catching one of the last flights of the day from Toronto out east. He’s on his way to The Links at Brunello, a golf course he is designing on the outskirts of Halifax.
The next day, the Toronto-based architect will pull on his well worn boots and get out into a muddied landscape, tweaking the progress of a 7,100-yard course that will flow through a series of deep valleys and hopscotch across local streams.
Brunello is scheduled to open in 2015 and McBroom is clearly excited about the course, but that has always been one of his strengths. For more than 30 years and dozens of courses, he gets pumped up for each project, whether it is the couple of municipal courses in Vancouver that he laid out, or the ultra exclusive Domaine Laforest course he designed for the Desmarais family in Quebec and where players have included three U.S. Presidents and a Canadian Prime Minister.
In between, he has put his stamp on the landscape from St. Kitts , where his Royal St. Kitts’ course touches both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, to 36 holes in Finland, where he unexpectedly got the job after accompanying his son’s hockey team to a tournament in Helsinki.
In Canada, McBroom’s designs have helped reinvigorate golf in regions like Muskoka, Cape Breton, PEI and the British Columbia interior. At the Lake Joseph Club and then Rocky Crest in Muskoka, McBroom pulled the stunning local scenery right into the very heart of the course. For instance, the sixth hole at Rocky Crest is a 569 yard par 5 where golfers have to fly the drive over a canyon of unforgiving granite.
At Bell Bay on Cape Breton Island, he routed the final section of the course through a brutish run of holes but then framed the 18th tee with one of the prettiest views on the East Coast. It looks out to Alexander Graham Bell’s estate, the clapboard homes of Baddeck and the red and white lighthouse on Kidston Island, that for more than a century has been guiding the Bras d’Or boats home to safety.
In PEI, he helped ignite a mini-golf boom, with his design of The Links at Crowbush Cove. Originally slated to be a community built, nine hole project, McBroom helped them to see the potential of the property. He strung holes along the big-shouldered dunes that rise up above the Gulf of St. Lawrence and also burrowed deep into the marshland and pine groves.
At Tobiano, outside of Kamloops, B.C. , he set greens and tees on top of the twisted hoodoos and you get the sense that a good sized sneeze would send the holes tumbling into the lake below.
While the opportunities to design new courses in Canada have dropped significantly since the economy went triple bogey in 2008, McBroom has looked outside of the country and is currently working for the first time in China, designing a golf project in Tianjin, a city of over 12 million people and the largest port city in northern China. Called the 27 Club, the project will include 27 holes whose design are influenced by major winners. “For instance, for one hole we take the story line of Larry Mize and his amazing chip-in at the 11th at Augusta and will design a hole with a bail out area on the right side of the green, which runs away from the chip shot,” says the architect. The facility is being built to hold big time golf tournaments and can be stretched to over 7,700 yards.
The one international course though that slipped away is a project McBroom worked on with former Leaf captain Matts Sundin in Sweden.
“The land was bought, we did the design and had all the permits, it was ready to go. It was a great piece of property on a big inland lake and you could boat from the course right to downtown Stockholm. Mats is a really smart guy and I think he saw the financial meltdown coming and got cold feet. It was probably the right thing to do, but I’m hoping that somewhere down the line we get a chance to finish it.”
Ian Cruickshank is a Toronto based writer. His column usually appears on the fourth Saturday of the month.
Just the facts
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