Jasper Park History by Ian Andrew – pg ii

The plan drawn on November 1926, by Thompson, clearly indicates the addition of multiple new landforms and the introduction of high sand faces to make the bunkering far more visually impressive. His technique was to import additional topsoil into the bunker to add new interior features like a nose or an island, or add soil to the surrounds to raise the grade. Then he would either flash up the sand faces for visibility or add mounds to showcase the bunker location. He was bound and determined to get the players eye off the mountains and onto the landscape … at least while they were playing their shots.

The November 1926 Plan indicating major changes to the bunkers.

 

It was long rumored that the work was done immediately upon the completion of construction of Banff Springs, which would have been in 1929. The story was that once the CNR had seen the finished results at Banff Springs they demanded Thompson return to Jasper immediately and make their bunkers even more impressive than Banff’s. The only problem with this story is by the summer of 1929 Jasper Park had hosted the Canadian Amateur and the pictures taken in that year clearly show the bunkers have been changed prior to the event.

The first hole at Banff Springs as seen in 1927.

 

While the plan suggests that work could have started as early as 1927, there was never a mention of any new changes taking place to the bunkers. And in 1927 Thompson began the rebuild of Banff Springs Golf Course, with all the holes closest to the hotel being constructed in the first year. This project was large enough to require a great deal of his attention and require a large initial labour force. All this work at Banff would have drawn the attention of the CNR and they would have come to see the work in progress. The competition between these two railroads was intense.

In the book Jasper Park Lodge: In the heart of the Rockies, by Cyndi Smith we find a reference to the start of the renovation work, “Shortly after the [The Silver Totem Pole] tournament was started the Lodge hosted the 1929 championship of the Royal Canadian Golf Association. In preparation for it the golf course was reconstructed in 1928-29 and a clubhouse was built. Jack Milligan, the current greenskeeper, came to work on the course at that time. The crew was 120 men and 60 teams of horses. They dug soil up from Lake Edith and added it to the course. Cartloads of rotted manure were brought in from packing plants in Edmonton, which were giving the stuff away. Horace Purdy was the head greenskeeper at the time; he worked as an architect under Stanley Thompson.”

A Century of Greenkeeping by Gord Whiteveen helps straighten out the above paragraph. Jack Milligan joined the reconstruction of the course in 1928 as a labourer. From the Lewiston Journal, “It was during that intense improvement and rebuilding program that Jack Milligan came to work… .” He would eventually become the head greenkeeper in 1936 and was still in that position at the time of Cyndi Smith wrote her book. Horace Purdy was the head greenkeeper during the renovations in 1928. He was most likely recommended by Stanley Thompson. He would eventually leave in 1936 to take a position at Toronto Golf Club. That would be when Jack Milligan became the head greenkeeper.

The same article mentions, “ … a job that took 200 men and 50 teams of horses and the entire summer long.” The project started in April 1928 when the Canadian National Railway undertook a major expansion of the resort. The added multiple new buildings, built new roads, added a walkway system, additional trails and a new clubhouse for the golf course. The CNR were investing heavily in the resort and were likely interested in any improvement that would make Jasper Park Lodge better than Banff Springs. I would expect that Thompson also understood the level of competition and played both railroads against each other to get his changes underway.

Jack Milligan

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In the fall of 1928 a team of British senior golfers, including Alister Mackenzie, visited Jasper. Mackenzie was quoted saying, “In Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Canada has taken the lead in golf course architecture and has produced 18 holes that within the whole scope of my experience and knowledge are not surpassed. Quite apart from its scenic features, which are glorious, and considering it purely from the golfing standpoint, I consider the course to be the best I have ever seen. It is greater than our Gleneagles which we are inordinately proud.” (Regina Post Sept. 1928)

I have to believe, using Jack’s quote, the level of manpower and the high praise of the course by Alister Mackenzie, that the work was completely finished by the time the senior golfers played Jasper Park in September.

Canadian Amateur in 1929.

 

The Canadian Amateur was awarded to Jasper Park Golf Course in 1929. They course measured 6,445 yards. Interestingly, all the best Canadian players were knocked out in the early rounds of match play. The Canadian National Railway had offered to get the players to Jasper Park free of charge if the players would play a series of exhibition matches along the way, mostly on the CNR properties. It was felt the players were affected by a week spent on the trains and the event beginning almost immediately upon their arrival.

The host for that exhibition trip was none other than Thompson himself! The eventual winner of the Canadian Amateur was Eddie Held, who was the first of many Americans to win the event.

Summary of Changes

Hole 1 – First

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The opening hole had only a single bunker off the tee. It was cut into the ridge beyond the landing area. The fairway bunker ended having two new noses added to create three high sand faces visible from the tee. The greenside originally had no bunkering and featured fall-offs on both sides, but Thompson choose to add and new bunker on the left featuring high sand flashes and complex mounding all visible from a distance.

From photo set taken just after opening

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1946.

Hole 2 – Old Man

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There bunkering has always been in the same location from opening to present day. The bunker renovation called for a few noses to be added to the right fairway bunker and to the left front greenside bunker. In the end Thompson added additional mounding and a significant nose to the right fairway bunker. The green side bunker received multiple smaller noses to add more shape. The other three bunkers remained unchanged and have become good examples of what the original bunker was like.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Hole 3 – Signal Dip

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The green site originally only had just two bunkers. The first was set at the very bottom of the slope short left of the green. The second was set on the outside right and angled to collect a pushed approach. The approach itself was cut short and the green was described as “natural semi-punchbowl in nature.” Thompson’s renovation plan indicated the original left bunker would remain untouched, but the 1948 aerial confirms that he did alter that bunker by adding a series of fingers to the form. Thompson added a new front left bunker cut into the hillside. The right side bunker remained unchanged, confirmed using the 1948 aerial of the course. In that aerial we also find a new back bunker on the right side.

Worth noting: The third green is the one green site where additional changes were made after 1948. The right side bunker was relocated to the front right of the green, with a second bunker built at the base of the slope far to the right. These two bunkers were eventually separated by the new cart path. The back bunker is now double the original width through expansion to the left.

From Golf at Jasper Park – taken just after opening.

Hole 4 – Cavell

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There was originally five bunkers on this very long par three: the first was short right well out in the open, the second was at a similar length off the tee but set at the base of the left hillside, a small bunker was cut into the natural roll in front of the left side of the green, a flanking bunker on the right ran the length of the green and a small back right bunker finished the complex.

The plan recommended that the two right side bunkers have a series of noses added to create more character and the rest of the bunkers remain as they are. But Thompson ended up adding a series of three bunkers starting on the left side to surround the green with bunkering. The first was placed left of the existing front bunker, higher up the natural roll. The second flanked the middle of the green and the third was cut into the framing slope on the back left. I have assumed the back was removed at this time because it was not there in 1948.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1929.

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1946.

Hole 5 – Miette

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Originally there were five bunkers including the diagonal set called in the middle called the Rum Row Bunkers. The plan recommended that all five bunkers have noses added to create more interesting shapes. The plan also called for a new backdrop of mounds to be added to the green and a series of three bunkers cut into their slopes to frame the target.

Worth noting: The 1948 aerial and 1946 image clearly show a new bunker added on the left side of the fairway short of the first of the Rum Run Bunkers (2). Also the “first” central bunker (1) had been removed leaving a wide open fairway. Currently all the bunkers including the first central bunker and the left side bunker are in play.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Bunkering in 1946 – note the central bunker is gone!

Hole 6 – Whistlers

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From photo set taken just after opening.

 

The plan called for a series of very elaborate bunkers to be developed between the landing area on the 6th hole and the 10th green. The first cluster including the Rose Bunker (later renamed the Octopus) was to remain as built. The other bunkers closer to the green (4, 9 and 10) were completely reshaped after Thompson imported a large volume of topsoil to create a ridge between the two holes. The greenside bunkers also received enough topsoil to create fingers and bays to accentuate their shapes. Once again Thompson added mounding and bunkering behind the green to frame the putting surface.

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1946.

Hole 7 – Colin’s Clout

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The triangular green shape was a critical part of the original hole. The danger was created by the slopes that ran away from the green. A player seeing all the trouble short and left would be inclined to play long and right for safety only to find a hidden bunker cut into the hill ready to capture the shot. Thompson did not recommend any changes to the bunker in his plans.

Worth noting: In the 1948 aerial we see the addition of a front left bunker cut into the hill. This was visible from the tee and effective at collecting a ball coming up short on the front left. A bunker can be found in that location today.

From photo set taken just after opening.

From above – date unknown – thought to be 1929.

Hole 8 – Tekarra’s Cut

There were never any bunkers on this hole and thankfully there still are none.

From photo set taken just after opening.

 

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