While golfing recently at Whistler Golf Club, my friend and playing partner Breton Murphy of Tourism Whistler posed an intriguing question: Where in the world, if I had ample funds to settle anywhere, would I choose to live?
Canada, I answered, without a moment’s hesitation. Ours is a rich and gorgeous country that, not least of all, is ripe with wonderful golf courses. Admittedly, I’d spend my winters golfing in tropical climes, but every spring I’d return, golf bag slung over my shoulder, to play the nation’s top tracks.
I’d start at Newfoundland’s Humber Valley, a brilliant Doug Carrick-designed layout, and slowly make my way west, with stops along the way in Cape Breton, Quebec’s Laurentians, Ontario’s Muskoka Lakes district and at the prairie courses in and around Saskatoon.
Over the years, I’ve grown especially fond of the mountain layouts of Alberta and British Columbia: Stewart Creek, the two Trent Jones Sr. beauties at Kananaskis, Greywolf, Salmon Arm, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Tobiano and so many more.
But the truest, most enduring loves of my golfing life are the Stanley Thompson-designed jewels found in Jasper and Banff. Each comes so close to heavenly perfection that even now, after playing them so many times, I can’t choose a favourite.
At Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Thompson cleared gaps through the forest of fir and spruce to point the golfer toward greens aligned with distant mountains, then whimsically patterned his bunkers after the snow formations on the peaks. In choosing a circular course path that flowed with the natural contours of the land, Thompson made the most of lovely Lac Beauvert by setting three holes against its shores.
Thompson’s genius — and mischievous personality — is best seen at Jasper’s ninth hole, Cleopatra, one of Canada’s signature par-threes. The 231-yard hole plays downhill to a steep-sided and heavily bunkered green framed by the backdrop of distant Pyramid Mountain. Inspired by the mountain’s name, Thompson (who also built bunkers at Jasper in the shape of a clam, an octopus, a crab and an eel) painstakingly moulded the ninth’s greenside bunkers into the voluptuous form of the ancient Egyptian queen. Unamused by Thompson’s gag, hotel officials ordered the architect to go back and mask Cleopatra’s charms.
My passion for Thompson’s other Alberta masterwork, the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, is described in detail in Canadian Golf Traveller‘s feature story, Golf Courses We Love: Fairmont Banff Springs. Both the course and the hotel that looms like a fairy-tale fortress on the cliffs overhead have come, as I say in the article, to symbolize Canada as surely as the beaver, Wayne Gretzky and Niagara Falls.
With courses like that, why live anywhere else?