Charting a new course: The Links at Brunello aims to change the way we play (Oct 24)

It has been quite a while since a golf course opened this close to downtown Halifax – play started at Ashburn in 1923, and at Brightwood in 1914 (although golfers had to share the ferry with horses) – so there’s considerable interest in The Links at Brunello.

Only the diehards still have their golf clubs in the trunk, but a recent visit confirmed that Brunello’s website claims are, if anything, underselling the readiness of the course, scheduled to open for play in June.

The number of rounds of golf being played in North America is in decline, but Brunello general manager Miles Mortensen thinks he has a solution.

“Flexible golf. It’s new to the industry. We want to accommodate as many fresh ideas that fit people’s lifestyle today. Breaking the game down into smaller segments, most people won’t do that, and we’re trying to do that.”

Mortensen thinks the model of limiting golfers to rounds of nine or 18 holes is a thing of the past.

At Brunello, located off Exit 3 on Highway 103, if you have time to play golf for an hour in the morning before heading to the office, or want to bring the kids over to play five holes after supper, that’s just fine.

“We’ve got a number of people close by with young families. We’ll have rental clubs here that’ll be accessible for the kids, they’ll be free, and they can get out and play a few holes with their kids, so they won’t miss soccer practice or some other activity. They can sit in the four-passenger cart as a family, maybe three are golfing and one is taking pictures of the kids playing golf for the first time.”

Brunello’s initiatives, along with things like night golf with glow-in-the-dark balls and flags, are among those being considered throughout a golf industry that’s trying to make the game faster, less expensive and more fun. One thing Mortensen is not considering is dinner-plate sized holes on the greens.

“We won’t be doing the big holes. The reason for that is, to me, that’s changing the tradition of the game. We’re always going to honour the tradition of the game, whether it’s in an 18-hole segment or a two-hole segment. I believe it’s time, not tradition, that we should be trying to change.”

Architect Tom McBroom, responsible for such notable Maritime courses as Bell Bay and Crowbush, took advantage of the spacious property at Brunello to create a course that should result in less time spent looking for lost balls, and less time in sand traps, of which there are 38.

The greens are huge and the fairways wide.

“This is a very big surface, so we think the ball will be in play,” Mortensen said. “It’s been built to be fun, fast and playable.”

Other touches include 10 centimetres of sand underneath fairways to aid in drainage so carts can be driven anywhere any time, GPS on the carts, paved cart paths and holes far enough from each other that yelling ’Fore!’ will be rare. There are nine elevated tees, and all golfers will be on carts.

“We’re trying to find every way we can to speed play,” said Mortensen, who thinks golfers will shoot lower scores at Brunello than at other championship courses. “People will make more putts here.”


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