Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course
What are a course’s merits? Certainly, one can argue thatconcentrating onthree areas makes as much sense as any other method, namely: setting, architectural merit, and the golfing appeal to a wide range of abilities. Jasper Park’s calling card would thus look like this:
Setting. Jasper is located in Alberta in the towering Canadian Rocky Mountains. Three holes run along Lac Beauvert, which is jade green and crystal clear. Wildlife including elk, moose, deer, coyote and bear roam the course. The course is set in a valley with 10,000 foot distant snow capped mountains as backdrops to many of the holes. Suffice to say: its setting works in its favor.
Architectural merit. Two of the greatest architects of all time rated Jasper among their very favorites. Both men were keen students of the art of designing a course and wrote cornerstone books on the subject. Their names: Alister MacKenzie and George C. Thomas. The course has been recently restored to the design that enamoured these gentlemen. MacKenzie summed it up nicely in The Spirit of St. Andrews when he noted ‘The whole place is most romantic.’ In addition, Robert Trent Jones is a great admirer of the course and was a pupil of Thompson.
Golfing appeal to a wide range of abilities. A single figurer marker, his wife and children would enjoy playing this course together as much as any course in the world. Bing Crosby, a long time two handicap, found the course of great interest and challenge. Others dismiss Jasper as not being a true ‘championship test.’ The course does not play long from any of the tees as this high altitude course is less than 6,700 yards from the back markers. The doubters point to the ease of the three shotters as the 2nd, 5th, and 10th holes play under 500 yards. In addition, shortish irons may well be hit into four of the last five holes.Such curmudgeons surely miss the point. As to the three shotters, ‘par’ is irrelevant; each of the three holes is beautifully designed and asks the golfer to follow a long drive with a well controlled long iron. Sounds like golf to me! As for the finish, the author is unfamiliar with any course that offers three more ticklish short iron approach shots than is on offer at the 14th, 15th, and 16th holes at Jasper.
Jasper appeals to the full range of golfers. Every green is open in the front (at least on one side like the 16th ) even though several are elevated. Many of the bunkers are placed well short of greens and deceive the first time visitor as the flashed up bunker faces appear to be greenside. The 4th , 5th, 9th, 10th, and 18th holes all have bunkers 20 to 60 yards short of their respective greens. On other holes, bunkers are five to seven paces off the edge of the medium size greens. The resulting bunker shots are the awkward, in-between kind of 10 to 25 yards.
Jasper enjoys a key attribute over Thompson’s other mountain masterpiece, Banff Springs, a three hour drive south: the course remains as Thompson designed it. The flow at Banff suffered when the new clubhouse dictated re-arranging the holes. Jasper remains a shining example of architectural artistry that compliments and even enhances the incomparable setting.
Holes to Note
Second hole, 490 yards, Old Man; A stunner, the golfer is encouraged ‘to swing out and give it a go.’ The fairway is miles wide and is threatened only by a bunker at the 200 yard mark, which in the high altitude should be carried. The hole’s defense are two30 yard long beautiful Thompson bunkers, one starting 110 yards from the green and another just eight paces from the green. The large bunkers are in keeping with the grandness of the setting. There is a breathtaking view of the distant mountains, the silhouette of which looks like an old Indian chief lying down in peace.
Third hole, 455 yards, Signal Dip; A blind dogleg to the right. The long hitter can challenge the inside of the dogleg and try to carry the trees. Watching the flight of the tee ball against the bank of trees on the far hill is most satisfying. Thompson perfectly benched the green complex into the hillside.
Fourth hole, 240 yards, Cavell; Unusual for a hole of this length, this superb long one shotter is visually most attractive, despite a poorly placed cart path. The tee shot is elevated and the distant green ringed by five bunkers is visible for all to see. Mercifully, the green is gathering and most putts tend to break toward the middle. Another 1/2 par hole, the type of which is much admired by the author.
Fifth hole, 480 yards, Meitte; The concept that Jasper Park is ‘just’ great holiday golf is as criminal as saying the same about St. Enodoc and North Berwick. Take an excellent half par hole like the 5th with its central hazard and tightly guarded green. Though the tiger golfer using modern technology will have amid-iron into the green for his second shot, so what? Call it a par four and call Jasper Park a par 68 then if that makes the course more of a true test. Regardless of what par says, Jasper is full of very good to excellent holes and few courses can make the same claim.
Eighth hole, 435 yards, Tekarra’s Cut; A brute of a hole, despite being bunkerless. The flag is invisible on any approach other than from a drive that finishes long and left down the fairway. Benching this fairway into the hillside was no mean feat and yet, once again, Thompson’s end result looks both natural and is blessed with very good golfing qualities.
Ninth hole, 230 yards, Cleopatra; The author knows of no other nine in golf that possesses two 230 plus yarders as superlative as the two found on the front of Jasper Park. Regardless of the distance on the scorecard , the 9th play is considerably shorter as there is a 70 foot drop from tee to green. Thompson built a raised green complex on the valley floor surrounded by seven bunkers. As the green slopes predominately from front to back (i.e. in keeping with the slope of the surrounding land), the play is often to land the ball short of the putting surface and watch it chase onto the green.