Review: Devil’s Paintbrush


  • Caledon East, Ontario
  • Private
  • Dr. Michael Hurdzan & Dana Fry (1991)
  • 11th in Canada (SCOREGolf)

Devil’s Paintbrush is apart of a two club facility northwest of Toronto. The other, Devil’s Pulpit, was the design duo’s breakout moment into the world of golf design in 1990.

A year later, they returned to build Devil’s Paintbrush. As opposed to Devil’s Pulpit, which is very modern, a collection of ideas and often times a bit herky-jerky in its flow and feel, Devil’s Paintbrush is a cohesive plunge into the land of faux-links golf.

The opening hole at Paintbrush is a quirky little 379 yard par 4. Right off the bat, you notice the wonderful rolling terrain of the property. With a gully in front of the green, driver is likely not the play.

With a short iron or wedge, the aerial game is preferred here. A good green site awaits cut behind the hazard short.

The second is an incredibly short par 5 at 468 yards. In reality, it’s a par 4. A blind landing area awaits off the tee, slightly moving to the right.

This approach shot is wild. To a triple green (yes, a triple green), there’s a massive mound blocking the entire left hand side of the green. Obviously, a drive down the right-hand side is ideal for the angle.

However! The putting green has and does double as another option for a pin. This makes the hole play roughly 40 yards longer. Insanity! The third green is the 9th green, and you’ll never see a pin for the 2nd green on that surface. Below is a view of the left route to the putting green, and the route to the green we played that day. The hole is split by the massive mound.

A view looking at the second green shows you the scale of this place. The flag, behind the bunker is just peaking over.

This is also an introduction to some of the frightful contouring in the green complexes at Devil’s Paintbrush. Quite frankly, these green complexes are some of, if not the most extreme I’ve ever played. The only other course that compares may be Tobacco Road, which I thought was over the top.

The green complex slopes so hard off the mound that it’s borderline impossible to get a ball close unless the pin is in the bottom. Personally, it’s a bit much for me; I don’t agree that golf needs to be fair all the time, but there should be a feasible way to play a hole and I don’t know how you’d even approach this hole with a wedge.

Continuing with the short introduction to the golf course, the 3rd is a 293 yard par 4 playing up the hill.

Bunkering, as seen above, is staggered up the entire lefthand side, while the hole falls right. A drive closer to the bunkers has a better chance of finding the green.

The approach plays slightly uphill over a service road. The green, protected by a bunker short right, left, and long left, has some pretty intense slope.

The 4th brings some difficulty after the relatively easy three hole opening stretch. 191 yards, it’s a mid to longer par 3. The green sits behind some landforms and a bunker, which hides the surface from the tee.

The 5th is a really quality hole at 428 yards that might be on my shortlist for one of the better holes at Devil’s Paintbrush. A tee shot that falls down into the valley is whats in store.

The approach shot is pretty cool. Playing over a ridge, it’s blind to a green sunken into the land. A big, almost bathtub like bunker on the righthand side catches shots that didn’t accurately pick the line properly. Here’s a view of the blind approach shot. The only help? Three rocks at the top that help you choose the line. In my opinion, this is gimmicky; I’d rather see no rocks and force the golfer to pick their own line than looking at the rocks.

The green is really cool, however, so it makes up for the rocks!

The 6th hole is a 419 yard par 4. A tee shot bending to the right and over a bunker is lovely.

The green, however, is way too much for me. Two tiers, separated by a huge ridge, is not my style of green. Frankly, it’s not needed and in reality, it’s a gimmick for memorability.

The slope of this green is absolutely egregious. Take a look below:

The 7th is the second par 3 on the golf course at 202 yards. Slightly downhill, the green complex here is perfectly cut into the surrounding topography.

The green is divided into two sections: the left, upper; and right, lower.

The 8th is a very cool, funky, and quirky par 5. 574 yards, it’s a bit longer than the standard par 5 in the GTA. The tee shot must navigate the ruined foundation of an old, abandoned building. Very cool.

Here’s a closer look at the ruins of the old building, which almost feels Victorian Era-esque.

For those who choose the left-hand side, you’re greeted with an open view down the hole. Going up the left, however, the big bunker makes the second shot blind.

To a shallow green, a depression area short left and a bunker long left guard this hole. At the mid-length of 574 yards, there is certainly enough bite!

Upon a closer look, you realize that short left is absolutely not the place to be.

The 9th is a dogleg right shorter par 3 at 384 yards. A slew of bunkering awaits in the fairway.

To the double green shared with hole two, a big bunker wrapped in railway ties is on the left.

The green complex, as previously outlined, is massive, but here’s another look.

The 10th is a very good short par 4. 352 yards, driver likely isn’t the play because it narrows substantially the more club you hit.

The approach shot plays uphill, without much visibility of the actual putting surface.

The 11th is a big swinging dogleg right par 5, measuring 591 yards. The tee shot is all about challenging as much of the right as you can to shorten the hole considerably.

A layup down the hill with a bunker on the right awaiting is the play for the majority of the golfers. For those who are longer, the double green is well guarded.

To a green fronted by two pot bunkers short right (yes, they look like nostrils to me as well!), the green complex features quite a bit of movement.

The 12th is a good, shorter par 4. Measuring a few yards under 400 yards, the tee shot is blind down the hill while moving to the left.

The green is perched up, and the surface is hidden from the bottom of the hill. Anything short isn’t good, while left could potentially kick back towards the green.

The 13th is a stout par 3, playing around 225 yards. With gunk to the right, a bunker short right and long left, and a tree short left, it’s protected quite well.

In my opinion, this isn’t exactly a good hole. Right is death, resulting in a lost ball, while left you are chipping or pitching around a tree. The green complex is two-tiered, with the back tongue being quite a bit higher than the front portion. For me, there’s too much going on.

Working our way back towards the 11th green, the 548 yard par 5, 14th requires a carry over water with quite a few bunkers in play. Thankfully, the water is more of a visual distraction!

In the layup zone, there’s a few pot bunkers waiting. It can be fairly difficult to navigate these successfully.

The green complex is quite interesting. I mentioned briefly that it’s shared with the 11th, but there’s a tree in the middle of the double green!

The 15th is yet another semi-blind tee shot. Thankfully, the hole is only 372 yards. Four pot bunkers up the left, one in the middle and one on the right await in the fairway. On the right, a hazard that you crossed on the 15th comes back into play. Driver likely isn’t the play.

With the hazard on the right side of the green, it is angled at a 45 degree angle. Challenging the bunkering on the left gives you the best angle in.

The 16th is a funky, cool short par 3 at 159 yards. The green is above the tee box, and with the shaping of the contours, sometimes you just see the top of the flag!

You can see some of the extreme contouring below, which features a massive swale in the middle of the green. It almost features a Biarritz-style green complex.

The 17th is a very peculiar, yet really quality golf hole. A stone wall cuts through the hole akin to the Victorian Era. However, unlike the Victorian Era, which lacked strategy and often was “in your face, everyone has to cross it at the same distance,” the 17th at Paintbrush has the rock wall running at an angle, with the left side being a further carry than the right. To add to that, there’s copious bunkering in the fairway to add difficulty to this 413 yard par 4.

The approach, dictated by both the tee shot and the green complex, is very good. Wrapping around a pot bunker on the right, it’s almost a boomerang green like Alister Mackenzie used to build. If the pin is back, the golfer must keep his tee shot left. If the pin is on the left side, right might be ideal. A wonderful green complex.

Paintbrush finishes on a big dogleg right par 4, but shorter yardage of 388 yards. It’s refreshing not to have one of the longer par 4’s finish the golf course! Beware: the clubhouse is on the right—don’t block your tee shot!

To a green tucked into the hillside, the approach plays a bit uphill. A massive bunker short is not the place to be!

Devil’s Paintbrush is a very enjoyable golf course. Does it cross the line? Sure. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great golf course, however, and among the upper echelon of Canadian golf. Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry stepped out of their comfort zone here and built an experience unique to Devil’s Paintbrush. Its own issues aside, this is a must play. A wonderful example of creativity in architecture, especially at a time in golf that lacked creativity.

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