Thursday, January 27, 2005

Tom McBroom' Firerock Golf Club

Firerock Golf Club
Opened: 2004
Architect: Thomas McBroom
Location: Komoka, Ont., Canada


Canadian architect Tom McBroom conceived of Firerock in 2003, and the course opened in mid-2004. It is interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, as a business, it is a mid-to-high end golf course built in an area (London, Ont.) with few such options. Secondly, and more to the point, McBroom's bunkering technique make Firerock a real treat in places.
Take for example the first hole (above), a strong par-five opener. The tee shot is easy enough, bending to the right, but McBroom has used natural grasses and a unique greensite to create a good hole. Too bad the second, a rather bland par four with the standard use of a holding pond isn't up to the same level.
While McBroom's earlier courses used wild greens (giving him a lot of critics as well as fans), he's toned it down over time. The only concern I have is that in toning down some features, he's often created bland, uninteresting and safe golf -- the types of courses built by owners with little experience in the game. But Firerock, Wildfire and the soon-to-open masterpiece Oviinbyrd (which few will ever see), prove he's taken his designs to the next level. He's also willing to experiment, like the use of the mound on the fourth hole at Firerock (see photo below).
Firerock #4
So does this make Firerock great? Far from it -- it still has some lacklustre holes. But the best, like the 10th, a dogleg par four with a blind tee shot, are outstanding. Though some may find the 10th confusing (apparently McBroom was forced to make some alterations because of an archiological find during clearing), it offers a couple of options. You can play the tee shot straight down the fairway to the corner, leaving a downhill approach of around 200 yards, or one can tackle the corner with a driver, risking leaving it in the fescue, but also potentially providing a much shorter shot into an interesting green. Some may not appreciate the hole's strategy the first time around, but it offers players options -- exactly what a good golf hole should do.
The finishing hole, a par four that features a dramatically perched greensite, also looks awesome (I didn't get a chance to play it -- hopefully that'll happen in the spring).
The worst sees McBroom mixing styles which leads to confusing themes. The best bits at Firerock are the hand worked bunkers -- something McBroom seems to have picked up from the recent renovation at Toronto's St. George's, where he is a member.
There's enough at Firerock to make it worth seeking out, especially if you have a chance to visit one of the area's other great courses -- like Donald Steel's Redtail, or Stanley Thompson's group which include Sunningdale, St. Thomas and Highlands.

Rating: 7.0/10


At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, I agree, Firerock is a pretty good effort from McBroom, in particular the bunkering. I also agree that one of it's detractions is the contrast in styles, mainly on the front side. The two par 3's on the front sise are really good though. If they do things right, Firerock should pull a lot of business away from Forest City National.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Scott Paul Dunham said...

We played Firerock last Saturday and found it to be a very challenging round. The lack of rain has turned the greens to cement, and the dips and turns were unpredictable, resulting in very few 1-putts for the day. Since I'm almost a bogie golfer, I tend to play "on the fringe"! I lost quite a few balls that day, and in a couple of years, Firerock's "edges" are going to eat balls for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Since most golfers tend to avoid the center of the fairway, this could result in extremely long rounds and backups, unless the ranger keeps things moving (or at least offers to help find dozens of balls sitting just inside the fescue fringe!

We were most impressed with the Clubhouse itself! Brand spanking new with a nice Eastern aesthetic and bold use of brushed metal and wood! The service was outstanding, the starter Peter was friendly and helpful- and the experience was very unpretentious, which I prefer.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I played Firerock for the first time last week and was impressed. Having played many of McBroom's other courses I think that this effort is to be one of his best. It definately has his best bunkering to date and I really enjoyed the way he responed to and incorporated the features and character of abandoned gravel pit into the design. In comparison to Forest City National which I played today, I would have to say that Firerock is the best public course in the area by a long shot. Forest City has fallen on sad times...

At 6:04 AM, Blogger charles edwards said...

Although I have not played here it looks like a great course at the momment I am at Polaris World where I have been staying the last few weeks, finding good quality courses is not always as easy as you may think.


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