The Talons Course Architect – Tom McBroom
A Conversation With Tom McBroom Discussing his First Design in Alberta "The Talons of Country Hills"
What were you first thoughts when you saw the property and prepared for the challenge of a renovation?
I was excited when I first saw the property as the topography was interesting and varied and the Nose Hill creek came into play in a number of different ways. The bones of the original routing were good, however the courses lacked visual distinction and needed refreshing on a number of levels. The bunkering was tired and did not articulate the playing strategy of the holes. I saw a golf course that had the potential of becoming a "great course."
This being your first course in Alberta, were there any challenges/obstacles you may not have encountered before?
No doubt the biggest challenge was really understanding the varied weather patterns, snow one day, and warm sunshine the next. Wind was also a factor and I felt that the fairway needed to be generous enough to account for the wind. As far as the grassing was concerned, we normally go to bentgrass for the fairway but in this case we went with bluegrass.
The overall look of the new Talons course has significantly changed, can you explain your thoughts and vision?
I never really thought of the old links course as a "True Links" course per se as there was too much water and not enough legitimate "links" elements such as hollows and fall-a-ways around the green. The vision was to have the bunkers more dramatic and visual and define the routes of play and the central strategy of the course. Significant length was added for the superior player but also a shorter course was designed for higher handicappers. I wanted there to be the right level of challenge and playability for all classes of players. We lengthened the Gold course by some 500 yards and shortened the Red course by some 300 yards. The lengths from all of the tees are now appropriate for today's game and players.
The green sites and, greens themselves, on #9 and #18 have been altered and are more "user friendly". What were the challenges you faced on these two greens and what has the finished product accomplished in your mind?
The greens at #9 and #18 were re-designed to make them more visually appealing and more fair. The new perimeter bunkering now more defines the edges of the greens. The green contours were softened somewhat to be less severe and more visible from the respective landing areas I thought these were an unfair quality to each of the old greens that required correction.
Balancing a golf courses' challenge and playability is key at a Private Club, can you tell us how you balanced the two?
The key to a great course is providing sufficient challenge for better players yet creating an enjoyable and fun golf game for the average players. As a designer it is easy to make a course difficult, it is much more challenging to create a fun, fair course for everybody to enjoy. From the Gold tees for more skilled players we added course length, brought greenside bunkers closer in to the edges of the green, and tightened up some of the fairway landing areas.
What are the Tom McBroom unique features that we will see on the new Talons course?
Obviously the bunkering style is a unique feature. I like the rugged, windswept, natural look of the bunkering that is both attractive and distinctive. It fits beautifully and naturally into the landscape. The new bunkers are really the signature of the golf course. The new greens at holes 6, 7, and 10, for the most part are perched greens which provide contrast to most other greens which are contained within a mounds and hillocks. I like the variety this has created.
What is the signature hole on the Talons course in your mind?
Tough question because I really try to make every hole a "signature" hole so I can't really single one out. I love a lot of the changes we made, some subtle and some dramatic. I particularly like the new 10th green, which was perched up some 10 feet higher than the old green and now affords spectacular view of the lake. It also features a shaved bank at the left side, which presents a new kind of challenge that the old course didn't have. The new 13th is now a terrific par 5 with the view of the lake opened up from the tee.
Can you tell us what the most significant change you made to the course is?
Aside from the obvious, which is the new bunkering and how that has enhanced the aesthetic of the golf course, I think the most positive change is how the course plays so differently from each of the new set of tees; challenging and difficult for skilled players from the back tees, and fair and fun from the middle and forward tees. That is exactly how it should be!!