Brampton, Ontario is known for comedian Russel Peters and singer Alessia Cara — but it would be a mistake to brush over Brampton in the Greater Toronto Area golf scene. Peel Village Golf Club, the original ‘Brampton Golf Club,’ sits next door, but the big ticket is the 1963 Robbie Robinson designed Brampton Golf Club, which has hosted numerous professional and amateur provincial and national championships.
C.E. “Robbie” Robinson is best known for being from the Stanley Thompson family tree, but his design portfolio is much more than that. After World War 2 and the death of Stanley Thompson in 1954, Robinson was best known for spreading affordable, noteworthy, fundamentally solid golf courses to rural Canada. This included Brampton Golf Club, which in 1963 was removed from the sprawling city of Toronto.
Now, surrounded by the city and just off Highway 407, Brampton Golf Club is a hidden gem within the urban sprawl that features a rich history and strong golf traditions. Home to a number of hall of fame and champion golfers such as Stu Hamilton, Bill Swartz, Bob Little, Brittany Marchand, Dave Bunker and the new young junior phenom Brooke Rivers, Brampton is where many of Canada’s great golfers honed their skills.
Brampton Golf Club starts off with a bang: a short, 358-yard par 4 tumbling down into the valley below. With the fairway ending, something less than driver is probably the play. From the base of the clubhouse, this is one of the more dramatic first tee shots I’ve seen in the Greater Toronto Area.
Strategy is invoked right from the first tee. The farther back you lay up the more you’ll see of the green. The more club you hit from the tee, the shorter the club on your approach, but the more daring it becomes sandwiched between a tree and bunker.
The 2nd Hole is the first you’ll notice of a new bunker style courtesy of Doug Carrick, who—like Robinson—is from the Stanley Thompson family tree. Slightly swinging to the right, the 538-yard par 5 lets you grip it and rip it early.
After the tee shot, you’re greeted with another risk-reward approach shot. Either thread the needle between water on the left and O.B. on the right or lay back to give yourself a short club into an undulating green.
There’s quite a bit of movement on the green, but in a sneaky way, unlike some other golf courses. Instead of big ridges or swales, Brampton sometimes has consistent movement throughout that works itself into ridges that divide the holes into sections. The second is an example of that, with a dirty little pin short left.
The third is the first of the par 3’s, and a nice par 3 on rather uninspiring ground. At 151 yards, it’s a good introduction to the golf course. What really makes this hole standout is its exceptional green complex, with some massive tilt to the left.
The fourth is a well-thought par 4. At 440 yards, it has a bit more brawn, but is a nice, gently bending dogleg right. This tee shot is quite fun, with two bunkers on the outside corner for aiming lines, while a bunker on the inside corner awaits the weak fade.
After navigating the tee shot, the low-profile green looks tame from the fairway, but with some good movement, ball placement here is ideal.
This is likely my favourite green complex on the course. Take a closer look below:
From the stout 440-yard par 4, 4th to the longer 430-yard par 4, 5th, you’re in for a ride. A fairway swinging to the right yet again, but no bunkering here. Instead, mounding on the left and trees on the right make this another tougher tee shot.
The approach shot is very smart. The grass bunkers were once sand bunkers, but I think the hole plays better now with their removal. These grass bunkers wrap the entire green complex.
Moving from two longer holes to a shorter 4, the 325-yard par 4, 6th is a very nice hole, moving gently to the right around a pond. Challenging the pond gives you a shorter club in, but provides a dangerous tee shot. A tee shot to the left provides a better angle to the front right pin position, but makes the hole play longer.
From the right, you have a nice view up the back tongue of the green. However, the green complex is mostly hidden due to the front bunker.
From the left, two fairway bunkers come in play, but opens up a different view down the green.
On the 190-yard par 3, 7th, the entire left side is flanked by bunkering while the left is open with a collection/chipping area. Of course, this convinces the golfer that the right miss is better than the left. Unaware on the tee, leaving it out to the right, like I did, sets up a harder up and down than the left bunkers! This type of strategy was often employed by William Flynn (of Merion, Shinnecock Hills and Cherry Hills fame) and is a great use of more restrained architecture from Robinson.
The 8th is a mid-length par 4. For faders of the golf ball, they’ll love Brampton as we have yet another dogleg right. Instead of bunkering, the 8th moves to the right around a tree.
To an angled green, approach shots from the right side of the fairway are preferred. The green complex slopes down to the right towards the pond. A bunker on the inside left corner of the green is the main defense golfers have to negotiate.
A closer look at the greenside bunker, which is brilliantly shaped.
Making its way back to the clubhouse, the par 5, 9th is the longest hole on the course—tied with the 14th—at 560 yards. With a fairly open tee shot, and eight holes to warm up, the 9th is certainly an inviting tee ball.
Rising slightly to the green, the 2nd shot is all about setting up the third shot. With its green complex 51 (!!) yards deep, there’s a TON of variety day-to-day in how long this hole plays. Being sharp on the layup shot is needed in order to avoid awkward yardages.
Two bunkers short right, and one left that guard the back tongue await. Be sharp on the approach shot—there’s a ridge dividing the green running north/south.
Kicking off the back nine is a rather mundane par 4. Certainly not bad, and almost a good thing, the 417-yard par 4, 10th provides a breather to start the inward nine.
The approach shot is preferred from the left to give you a better angle over the bunker, which is quite nasty. I had troubles in there!
Heading back northeast, the 11th is a 162-yard par 3 that is a wonderful mid-length one-shotter. Surrounded by bunkers, it’s a picturesque par 3!
At 389 yards, the 12th is yet another shorter par 4. In reality, Brampton Golf Club is only 6576 yards from the back tees. A very enjoyable length, but there’s enough bark around this golf course! This hole displays that perfectly. A shorter 4, but with a hazard right off the tee, it demands your attention.
The green, almost shaped like a kidney wrapping around the hazard on the left, is divided into the front portion and the back portion by a ridge. Being on the proper side of the ridge is ideal, as anything going over it becomes incredibly difficult.
The fourth par 3 on the golf course is the 164-yard par 3, 13th. All carry to the green, it offers a different look than the previous one-shot holes.
The 14th, another long par 5 at 560 yards, is a great spot to hit a big ball. In fact, I was told on the tee here that a long drive competitor has gone driver-wedge into this green. Insanity!
The second shot provides some nice width, albeit a bit uninspiring. With that being said, keep it left…
…because a cool bunker complex in the layup area awaits. With two islands in the bunker, it’s one of the most obvious callback to the Stanley Thompson family lineage of Robbie Robinson.
15th starts a very strong finishing stretch. At 396 yards, it’s another mid-length par 4. A nondescript tee shot sets up the second shot. It’s moments of restraint like this that really show Robinson’s maturity in understanding where to be loud, and when to let the land do the talking.
The green complex, tucked into the corner of the property, is beautifully guarded by two big bunkers: one short left, a ways from the green that is more of a visual hazard, and one short right. Like the 9th, the green features a big back tongue for a variety of pin locations.
Tumbling back into the valley like the 1st, the 212-yard par 3, 16th is a stunner. Surely the signature hole at Brampton and the start of a 3-hole finishing stretch that takes any club play or championship to a whole other level.
For those keeping track, we’re at 5 par 3’s. This is something that Robinson likely took from Stanley Thompson, who built 5 par 3’s at his five greatest commissions: Banff Springs, Jasper Park Lodge, Capilano, St. George’s & Highlands Links. In a 1947 McLeans article, Thompson’s ‘ideal course’ was described as:
“He tries to shoot for a par of 72 with a length from 6500 to 6800 yards. His ideal course would have five par three holes, varying from 145 to 245 yards; five par five holes, 475 to 590 yards; and eight par fours ranging from 340 to 445 yards”[McLeans 1947, via In Every Genius is a Little Madness, Ian Andrew]
The penultimate hole at Brampton is a gettable par 5. At 468 yards, it’s short for todays standards, but a creek running diagonally must be crossed by all, either on the golfers first or second shot.
From there, the hole turns right, going back up the valley. The green, beautifully framed by four bunkers, is a smart green site selection.
No doubt, this is perhaps the most natural green site on the course, and something that any golden age architect would find.
To close out Brampton, the player is met with a 424-yard par 4. This big swinging dogleg left is of the “Cape” template in nature. The farther left you take your tee shot, the more you’re rewarded with less club in for the second shot. However, this is a much harder first shot!
A better look at the hillside on the left, which is what needs to be challenged for an advantage coming home.
Coming around the corner the clubhouse looms in the background. The valley, at its bottom the par 4 1st fairway looms on the left, and two bunkers short left and right await. A par 4 fit to finish the club championships in style!
With flashes of Stanley Thompson’s legacy for all to see at Brampton Golf Club, and Robinson’s own flare, there’s no doubt it’s an awesome golf course to spend time at.
With that being said, Brampton has that sort of “secret sauce” that can’t be captured on camera. With an excited staff always keen to exceed member expectations, the club continues to evolve into one of the most under-the-radar, yet excellent golf clubs around. Add to that its fantastic playing membership, a big junior program, and a big practice facility — it’s a place I’d be happy to call home.