Stanley Thompson: Golf’s Mountain Man

Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course (Image: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge)

Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course established Stanley Thompson’s reputation as Canada’s leading golf architect when it opened in 1926. (Image: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge)

As distinctively Canadian as the beaver and Niagara Falls, the mountain courses of Alberta and British Columbia are a vital part of our golfing heritage; living proof that, thanks largely to the genius of Stanley Thompson, nobody builds them better.

 

Though born in Toronto, Stanley Thompson was at heart a Rocky Mountain man.

Canada’s greatest golf architect made his reputation in the 1920s with the opening of his now world-famous courses in Jasper and Banff. Envied and imitated by golf architects around the world, Thompson’s courses established a template for mountain layouts followed to this day.

In my experience, nothing in the golf world — not even my travels to the fabled links of Scotland and Ireland — compares to the thrill of teeing it up at Canada’s most beautiful mountain courses. Towering evergreens straining toward the northern sky. Jaw-dropping panoramas of glacial lakes and pristine mountain valleys. What could be more satisfying — or uniquely Canadian — than golf experiences such as these?

In 2013, I was asked to select my top public-play mountain courses in Western Canada for the Toronto Star Golf Guide. Despite the difficulty of winnowing the field down to a select few, I tackled the project enthusiastically. Here’s the list I presented in the magazine. As always, I’d be happy to hear any quibbles or suggestions from readers who have already played them. As for those who haven’t, what the heck are you waiting for?

Alberta

Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course
One masterful mountain valley hole flows into the next at a Stanley Thompson course that startled the world with the brilliance of its design — and made its architect’s reputation — when it opened in 1926.

Banff Springs Golf Course
Stanley Thompson’s Banff Springs course, the first anywhere to cost more than $1 million, has long been included in virtually every ranking of the game’s leading layouts, and its most celebrated hole, the par-three Devil’s Cauldron, numbers among the most photographed in golf.

Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club
Calgary-based architect Gary Browning treats golfers to a roller-coaster thrill ride at a course set in the shadow of the Three Sisters, a spectacular three-peak massif in the Rundle Range.

British Columbia

Big Sky Golf and Country Club
Mount Currie looms like a granite god over a superb links-style course built by American architect Bob Cupp on the flatlands of a former potato farm.

Chateau Whistler Golf Club
Wild elevation changes are the hallmark of a design by Robert Trent Jones Jr. that rolls with the natural contours of the landscape at the base of Blackcomb Mountain.

Greywolf Golf Course
Canadian architect Doug Carrick’s drama-filled layout features 500 feet of elevation change, as well as the aptly named Cliffhanger, one of Canada’s most unforgettable par threes.

Salmon Arm Golf Club
Tight and constantly demanding, this design by Canadian architect Les Furber offers awe-inspiring views of the Shuswap Mountains with every shot.

The Ridge at Predator Ridge Resort
Doug Carrick’s award-winning course climbs rapidly into the foothills of the Monashee Range, offering cliff-top tee shots and views of Okanagan Lake far below.

 

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