Jasper Park History


Ian Andrew

February 2015


Jasper Park Golf Course – 1921 to 1929


This piece began when I purchased a collection of original Jasper Park photos taken just after opening. The bunkering that I loved was not the bunkering found in the photos. I had heard the legend that the CNR had ordered Thompson to immediately renovate the bunkering at Jasper Park after seeing the finished work at Banff Springs. But there was Alister Mackenzie’s quote from September 1928, “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.” Could the bunker work have happened earlier? Is Jasper Park rather than Banff Springs the quantum leap in his architecture? I thought it would be interesting to fully document what he actually did from the opening till the 1929 Canadian Amateur when the current bunkering shows up for the first time in archival photos. Perhaps this might shed some new light on the evolution of his architecture…

Origins to Opening

I had always assumed that this was a Canadian National Railway project driven by then president Sir Henry Thornton, but it turns out that it was originally the idea of Parks Canada to add golf courses to the Park System to increase tourism. In 1921 they had asked Banff’s professional William Thomson to look for a golf course site for Jasper National Park. In 1914, author Arthur Conon Doyle had suggested a site by Pyramid Lake, but upon closer inspection Thomson dismissed the site as too difficult to build. After scouting out the area around Lac Bealivert he suggested that this location would be better suited for building nine holes. He pointed out there was even the possibility to add an additional nine more holes later if the Park desired. The Park begun building the nine hole course in 1922, but it barely progressed because of limited resources.

Sir Henry Thornton


Between 1921 and 1922, there had been a number of cabins built overlooking Lac Bealivert by the Grand Trunk Railroad. In 1923 when the Canadian National Railway was established (GTR was one of the amalgamated railroads), they took over the area and immediately began the construction of destination resort. A.J. Hills, an assistant to vice-president of CNR wrote, “On his first visit to Jasper Park Sir Henry reached the conclusion that a golf course was a necessary feature for the Canadian National’s principal tourist resort, and in line with his well-known principle that if a thing is worth doing at all it was worth doing well.” So in 1924 CNR took over the project and property leasing it for one dollar.

Early in 1924 Stanley Thompson was selected as the architect. In a report to the CNR he wrote, “The principle observed in planning the course has been that the course should be sufficiently high-class to justify itself apart altogether from the extra-ordinary setting in which the course is being placed. While there are peaks of great height and extra-ordinary grandeur in the distance surrounding the entire course, yet the terrain actually utilized for the course is only such that is proper for good golf.”

Stanley Thompson visited the property in May 1924 and set out a preliminary routing for the course. A.J. Hills wrote, “It required great courage to undertake the construction of a golf course at Jasper. Uncleared Rocky Mountain country made it hard for any but the boldest to think of golf in the immediate vicinity of the lodge. Finally the advice of Mr. Stanley Thompson [who] looked over the uncleared country and saw the makings of an ideal golf course when others saw only forest, rough brule land, swamp, a wild lakeshore line and a plain covered with rocky outcropings. Unhesitatingly he reported in favour of building the course in the vicinity, and he was given the job of doing it.”


The original plan was for a course measuring approximately 6,600 yard course. “[Mr. A.J. Hills] and Mr. Stanley Thompson, the architect of the course, made visits to some of the most celebrated American courses before the plans at Jasper Park were finally decided upon and complete.” I can confirm they played Mt. Bruno together in July of 1924, but in the book Golf at Jasper Park, A.J. Hills wrote, “The highest comparative standards were set up. While not attempting the harsh difficulties of Pine Valley, the interest attaching, as on that course, to each shot was kept in mind.” Hills continued, “The large scale of doing things at the National Links of the USA (Southampton LI) was made part of the objective, as well as the modern scale of lengths and the bunkering treatment found at Gleneagles – most notable of countryside courses recently built in Great Britain. ”

Further on in the book he added, “Designed from the outset to be the highest championship caliber, it follows that the course will be somewhat more difficult than the usual run of courses – but alternate routes make it more enjoyable for all classes of players.”

In the summer of 1924 the land was cleared of vegetation and rocks using 50 teams of horses and 200 men. The project was built all at once, but there was a definitive push to open a nine hole course before all eighteen would be available for play. This would encompass the first six holes, then the 11th, “the practice hole” and finish on the 18th hole.


One of the earliest projects was to create a dam 200 feet up on Signal Mountain to collect, store and supply water for the golf course. This was approved by the local Parks Superintendent without going through any upper administration because the water in the creek disappeared through the limestone further down in the valley and therefore there would was no potential impact on the resource below. The “entire course” was irrigated including fairways, tees and greens right from outset.

The soil in the valley proved to be too thin for growing turf, so Thornton took the decision to buy a quarter section of prairie farm land in Stony Plain Alberta. The soil was shipped to the site by train. It was received and spread over the site prior to establishing turf. A. J. Hills adds some insight in the grassing in Golf in Jasper Park, “A word about the greens is in order. Creeping bent, which was put in by the stolon process, was used throughout, with most satisfactory results.”

Stanley Thompson in 1946


So what did Jasper Park golf course cost? We know the cost came up for discussion in Canadian parliament with reference to it being $124,290. In Canadian Golfer the final cost is given at $190,000. But what’s far more fun is the Stanley Thompson Interview by John Lecenda found in the Saturday Evening Post written in 1946, “The Jasper course was supposed to cost not more than $500,000. When that amount had been spent and the work was still far from finished, Thompson went before the Railroad’s Board of Directors, “Gentlemen”, he pleaded, “You wouldn’t spoil a ship for a hap’orth of tar would you?” The directors recognized the logic as well as the genius, tolerantly appropriated enough extra to complete the course.” In Hugh Newton’s 1946 Liberty article the project estimate was said to be $500,000 and he added, “A good guess is that it cost $1,000,000. before the last of the sod went down.”

Our answer comes from an intergovernmental memo found in Golf on the Roof of the World, “In May of 1926, General Passenger Traffic Manager C.E. Ussher asked General Executive Assistant J.O. Apps, in an item of inter-departmental correspondence headed “Golf at Banff versus Jasper National Park to ascertain how much had been spent by Canadian National at Jasper… Apps responded to Ussher’s query with information that up to February 1925, almost $125,000. Had been spent by Canadian National on the Jasper course with $25,000 additional estimated till the end of the year.” The reason they could get this answer was that Canadian National was a “nationalized” institution.

All of this information makes me wonder about the actual cost of Banff Springs.

Since we have already touched on the John Lecenda article, I’ll bring up another legend referenced in this article, John wrote, “Jasper’s No. 9 fairway is named Cleopatra because of its shape. Thompson took great pride in this anatomical breath-taker until he was playing in a foresome with Sir Harry Thornton, then the head of the CNR empire. When Harry was about to tee off, and saw the form of the fairway and its topographical embellishments, he quietly blew a gasket. “Mr. Thompson”, he said, “we have been friends for many years. I never thought you would have the audacity to do this to the Canadian National!” Thompson accordingly made some alterations, but the abridged version still aptly bears the name Cleopatra.”

I have thought about this one around for years. Knowing Stanley’s sense of humor and love of symbolism, I’m convinced that the hole played through some sort of “embellishments in the landscape.” At Jasper Park there are still numerous “sea themed” bunkers on the 10th hole. At Cape Breton Highlands he did construct a clearly visible woman’s face out of the 6th green site (Mucklemouth Meg) and the green itself was a perfect egg in shape. The man had a sense of humor … it seems Thornton did not.

The infamous ninth green in 1925.


From the pages of Golf at Jasper Park by A. J. Hills, “Here on the tee we are still on high ground. A straight decline before us runs down to a green of unique configuration, with Pyramid Mountain in grandeur beyond, which may be mentioned, because this hole is named after the Queen of the Pyramids – Cleopatra – and there the lady lies sixty feet below, like a huge fallen idol, as if the mountainside had slid down, upset and partly buried the colossal headless statue which now recumbent forms this unusually interesting green.”

The official opening of Jasper Park Golf Course was on July 16th, 1925, featuring Field Marshall Earl Haig and Lady Haig. They opened the first nine holes, with the second nine opening shortly after. For reference, the cost of a round was set at $2. and a caddy was an additional 75 cents. The course played to 6,455 yards and one of the very first players described it as “a little bit of heaven” when writing in the first visitor’s book.


“Surroundings of the course can’t be ignored, but at Jasper the aim constantly adhered to was that the golf should be good enough without taking the magnificent setting into account. The Rocky Mountains are imposingly grand and Jasper is a gem set in between four distinct ranges. Each direction has a totally different aspect, but hole by hole each of the eighteen was considered purely from a golfing point of view and glories of views are not expected to atone for a dull tee shot or an uninteresting putting surface.” A. J. Hills

Changes to the Bunkering

In Golf in Jasper Park, there is a wonderful review of the 1926 Annual Silver Totem Tournament. In this article, B.L. Anderson from the RCGA indicated that “Jasper must receive serious consideration as a host for a national event.” Later in the piece we also see the first mention of potential change, “A few changes are necessary, but no drastic ones, and it is agreed generally that Mr. Stanley Thompson, of Toronto, the architect, has achieved rare distinction.”

We know Stanley Thompson was kept on a yearly retainer (confirmed by Alan Carter, long-time director of Golf at Jasper Park) and provided an annual report to the Canadian National Railway. He also produced a renovation plan drawn in November of 1926 indicating his intended changes to the bunkering. It’s not uncommon for Thompson to recommend improvements to his own work.

With all the early praise for Jasper, it’s stunning to think the bunkering would look quite different by the time they played the Canadian Amateur in 1929. Thompson didn’t change any of the tees, fairways or greens. His work focused on renovating a majority of the bunkering to add more artistry. Some of that work was fairly subtle in nature, but most turned out to be quite significant.

About a decade back Robert Thompson and I purchased a collection of Jasper golf photos taken just after the opening. I turns out many of the same images were used in the book Golf at Jasper Park written by A.J. Hills (published in 1928). What was most fascinating to me were the bunker shapes and surrounding features.  The bunkering was on a grand scale, but they were surprisingly on the plain side. But yet there were a few bunkers on the 10th hole in particular that suggested the transition between simple forms and the introduction of more flair into his architecture.

From photo set taken just after opening.


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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.



Hole 9 – Cleopatra


This single biggest surprise from Golf in Jasper Park was the original bunkering scheme for the 9th hole. The image taken from the upper tee, supported by the perspective water color found in the booklet, confirm that there was “only” a single bunker short of the green. The remaining (six) bunkers formed a ring around the back.

Worth noting: There does appear to be two well-placed mounds, in the foreground, that indicate the ideal line, although the size and prominence suggests suggest these are the reduced version of the famous embellishments. From Golf in Jasper Park, “As the illustration on page 16 [the water color] shows, the green is surrounded by bunkers and the run-offs are severe. It is an interesting “neck or nothing” stroke involving a stiff carry, with the recovery none too easy.”

The plan by Thompson recommends that a new foreground bunker (1) be added where the mounds were located. The bunker closer to the green was to be reshaped and expanded for additional character. Additionally a new bunker (3) was added to the front left to the green to emphasize the alternatives. Players can either play around the right of the front bunker (2) using a running approach or play directly at the green and hope to stop the ball. The remaining bunkers were left exactly the way they were originally built. Which was flat, simple and on the grade of the valley floor well below the green.

Worth noting: All five of the back bunkers show up still on the 1948 aerial, and now there are four, so at some point the far back right bunker was removed.

From Golf at Jasper Park – taken just after opening.

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1946.

Hole 10 – The Maze


When you look at the earliest images, the Octopus (2) (then known as the Rose Bunker) stood out as the most dramatic of all the bunkers. Stanley Thompson had built it around a significant existing landform including a series of faces and noses extending to and from the high point in the middle. Even the other supporting bunkers around the Octopus were more impressive than most of the others on the course. Thompson made very few changes to any of these bunkers beyond giving them a series of sea-themed nicknames. Now the right side of the first landing features the Octopus, Eel, Crab and Clam.

Closer to the green was where Thompson made his most impressive change by importing enough material to create a ridge separating the two holes. He added a couple of bunkers tight to the fairway side on the 10th to take the place of the larger shared bunker hidden on the other side. On the left side of the hole he created the Walrus bunker by adding noses and mounds to generate a much more intriguing shape. At the green Thompson continued the ridge up the right hand side and turned the original single shared bunker into a dramatic cluster of intricate bunkers built into all side of the new landform. On the left greenside he continued to add topsoil to develop a series of mounds and noses to add a dramatic flair. The results are impressive even today.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1929.

Hole 11 – Pyramid

Originally the hole featured two fairway bunkers and two greenside bunkers flanking the green. Thompson indicated that the fairway bunkers would remain untouched, but did subtlety alter the shapes. His focus was at the greenside where he imported plenty of topsoil to create a series of islands and noses. He then developed high sand flashes to turn these into some of the more imaginative bunkers at Jasper. Then to make the green site even more impressive, he imported enough topsoil to build a series of large mounds behind the green adding three bunkers into the back to frame the hole.

Worth noting: Thompson was once asked if the first carry bunker was too close the tees and unfairly punished the shortest hitters. His answer was that everyone loved the thrill of watching a ball carry bunker and even the shortest of hitters should have the opportunity to enjoy that pleasure.

From Golf at Jasper Park – taken just after opening.

Left side bunker – taken in 1946.

Hole 12 – Tete Juane


The bunkering configuration has remained the same from opening day. The only change Thompson made was to add a series of noses to each of the bunkers to add some additional fair.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Hole 13 – Grand Allee


One of the more intriguing holes at Jasper because the final shot is played down into a natural draw and is absent of bunkers. The first fairway bunker was split by Thompson into two bunkers and then those forms were broken up with the addition of noses for character. The two bunkers protecting the 17th tee saw the addition of noses to create more imaginative capes and bays. The key left side bunker at the top of the hill was left alone.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Hole 14 – Lac Beauvert

There were never any bunkers on this hole.

Worth noting: Stanley Thompson did build holes with trees in play. They were always set off to one side or the other, but these were far more intrusive than most of his peers.

From photo set taken just after opening

Hole 15 – The Bad Baby


“This is the little one, a mashie or mashie niblick shot to a wedge shaped green, very narrow at the front, but wider at the back, giving a skyline green, with run-offs and bunkers all around, and water in appearance quite close.” A. J. Hills

The front and rear bunkers are quite visible from the tee, but the real challenge is all the short fall-offs around the green between the bunkers. The front of the green is almost impossible to stop a ball on without it peeling out the front or off the sides and rolling well down the slope. It’s one of those wonderful short holes that is far harder than it initially appears.

Thompson only added a nose to the front bunker and made the most minor changes to the back bunker, the hoe remains almost unchanged.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Picture taken in 1946 – from in front of the 16th tee.

Hole 16 – The Bay

This hole is all about the position of the pin in relation to the inlet.

Worth noting: There was a little stone wall in the lake in the earliest images of the hole. I have wondered whether this was added to keep boaters out of play or whether this section of the lake was added by Thompson during construction. The whole area is very shallow compared to the other areas along the shoreline. The original green went much further in front than the current location making the green boomerang around the inlet.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Hole 17 – The Climber


The hole originally featured three bunkers: one on the right approach, a second tight to the front right of the green and the last on the left in the middle of the green. Thompson retained the first bunker and added a couple of fingers for interest. He kept the left side bunker where it was, but added a finger to break the form into two prominent bays. The plan indicated jus some minor changes to the right bunker, but instead he added mounding and expanded the front right bunker further into the green. He then added a second bunker along the back right of the green to frame the entire backdrop with bunkers.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Bunkering after changes – photo from 1929.

Hole 18 – Home

“Perhaps it is the remarkable visibility of this second shot that makes the hole almost outstanding, and by many regard the best hole on the course.” A. J. Hills

The tee shot needs to be played down the left side to shorten the approach and provide the ideal angle. That is where the first fairway bunker resides and Thompson left that bunker where it was but raised the back to make the carry more fearsome.

The next shot is one of the most beautiful on the golf course with two approach bunkers and two bunkers tight to the sides of the green. In essence it creates a green “or else” approach. Thompson added a finger to the left approach bunker, two fingers to the right approach bunker and two more to the left flanking bunker to create a more visually dramatic complex of bunkers around the green. In the plan he indicated he would leave the right greenside bunker in its original shape, but did actually add some minor shape to the outside of that one too.

From photo set taken just after opening.

Jasper Park’s 18th as it looks today.

What I find interesting about the bunker renovation at Jasper Park is it provides a window into what was going on inside of Stanley Thompson during this period. He was quickly transitioning from a very good architect to the creator of some of the most impressive and imaginative landscapes the game has ever seen. It provides a chance to observe what he saw differently from one era to the next.


I’ve been asked numerous times, if I had only a single round to play, where would I want to play? My answer has always been Jasper Park Golf Course. For me, it is the quintessential Canadian golfing experience. Something you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

Legend has it that Stanley Thompson designed each hole to point at a different mountain peak in the distance. He also increased the width of his clearing to ensure that each shot featured a broad panoramic view of the mountains beyond. Stanley Thompson said, “It is good to have an eye for the beautiful. Often it is possible, by clearing away undesirable and unnecessary trees in the margin of fairways, to open up a view of some attractive picture.” And at Jasper Park every step of your journey is done in awe of your surroundings.

But Jasper Park is much more than that. Stanley Thompson designed his courses for the enjoyment of the average player. He spent far more time concerned about the play of the “dub” than he did trying to test the “crackerjack”. He built his share of impressive holes and even a few of the “insurmountable” variety, but by-in-large most of his holes offered a clear line around all the complexity to keep the average player “in the game”. He stated that his objective was to bring joy to all the players.

And that is why Jasper Park is so personal to me. It is the embodiment of what I believe great architecture is should be. It is my entire set of ideals displayed in Canada’s most impressive landscape.

I undertook this journey to find out if this was indeed “the” watershed moment for Canadian Golf. I think of Harry Colt’s Toronto Golf Club as our landmark course. But I also believe Thompson’s work surpassed Colt in Canada and he is our most influential designer. As an architect and as a historian I always wanted to know when that exact moment Thompson’s had his epiphany was. I had previously thought this came at Banff Springs, but I’m no longer sure. The more I ventured down the path, the more I believe that it came at Jasper Park.

I would expect my final round at Jasper Park to be fun. I would enjoy the early opportunities to score, the greatest collection of threes in Canada, the whimsy of the sea themed bunkers, Cleopatra’s “assets”, the late magical trip around the glacial lake, Thompson’s artist bunkering and bold green contours. And as Alister MacKenzie wrote in his book, The Spirit of St. Andrews, “… the 18th hole is one of the finest finishes I know.”