St. George’s Golf & Country Club
On one side of a busy thoroughfare is the St. George’s course. This side is a dry county. On the other side, a clubhouse, this time located in a county that is not dry. Right away, you know this is a smart club and that wisdom manifested itself in whom they hired to design their course.
Stanley Thompson was coming off great success at Jasper Park and Banff Springs. Upon Banff’s opening in 1929, it was widely acknowledged among the world’s best. Canadian Pacific Railway, who had footed the bill for what was then most expensive course ever built, was delighted with Thompson and hired him again to design St. George’s (known at the time as the Royal York Golf Club). It was a perfect match from the start: an architect at the height of his powers was given a scintillating piece of property with the perfect amount of roll for a golf course.
Stanley Thompson used the valleys and ridges that dominant to full advantage – no mean feat given that if he made a misstep, the course could end up fighting the terrain. As it is (and as usual), Thompson got it right and one of the tricks to the course is placing the ball to avoid the sidehill, downhill and uphill lies. How to do this most efficiently won’t be evident on your first few rounds, but what great course doesn’t take (and deserve) time to get to know her?
In 1967, St. George’s hired Robbie Robinson, who had worked and studied under Thompson, to prepare the course for the 1968 Canadian Open. Among other things, he relocated the greens on the par five 4th and 15th holes to their present majestic locations. Though these two greens seem disproportionately big compared to Thompson’s original ones, they are full of character and their location on top of hills makes those two holes.
The authors toyed around with doing A Holes Not to Note section for St. George’s, as that would be far shorter. Not one hole is over indifferent land and with the exception of the 9th, not one green lacks appeal. Still, we have confined it to the holes below.
Holes to Note:
Second hole, 450 yards; This hole symbolizes the appeal of the two shot holes at St. George’s. There is plenty of room off the tee, even though the artistic fairway bunker on the left is near the ideal spot that opens up the long, narrow green. The green complex has four uniquely shaped bunkers, the type that only Thompson built and that characterize his courses. Finally, the green itself has a knoll front right and back left, creating numerous hole locations. The green is not overtly dramatic, but my word, it is full of interest.
Fourth hole, 475 yards; Another in a long line of examples here of ingeniously routing a hole through a valley. A big drive brings the green into reach. However, anything less than ideal and the second shot must slot in between a fairway bunker on the left and two more further down on the right. Once past the 150-yard mark, the hillside on either side of the snaking fairway is covered in tall, unkempt grass, giving this hole some teeth should the golfer stray.