By Rick young
To have two pages dedicated to Jasper Park Lodge’s Golf Club in the most famous book on golf course architecture ever written, ‘The Spirit of St. Andrews’, is quite a remarkable achievement.
So who better to extol this national treasure property’s many virtues than the book’s author, Alister MacKenzie, arguably the greatest course designer of all-time? “The whole place is most romantic! Jasper Park has an amazingly beautiful setting surrounded by rock mountains and bordering a lake so clear that the reflections of the mountains in it appear more vivid than the mountains themselves,” he wrote in his 1933 memoir. “There are some excellent holes on the edge of the lake, and the 18th hole is one of the finest finishes I know.”
Fairmont Jasper Park Golf Club is to the late designer, Stanley Thompson what Augusta National is to MacKenzie. It’s his definitive work and perhaps his grandest achievement.
Many of the legendary Toronto based course architect’s signature trademarks—elevated tee boxes, holes aligned with snow-capped mountain peaks, dramatic bunkering and panoramas that take advantage of glacier fed lakes and natural wildlife corridors—are perfectly present in Jasper.
Legend has it that Thompson envisioned up to 200 golf holes in this vast 4,200 square mile national park before he ever put pen to paper. However, for some unknown reason, his grander dream was quashed, and he had to settle on just the current 18-hole, par-71 routing, which remains virtually unchanged. He bequeathed to Canadian golf a national treasure.
To experience the game at Jasper Park is to be captivated by a Canadian Rockies landscape that rivals California’s Monterey Peninsula or Ireland’s southwest coastline for sheer spectacle.
Distinguished by wide, undulating fairways cut from thick stands of forest that narrow as they meander to spectacular greens settings, Thompson’s genius is evident on every tee box, approach shot and green site. By no means is this the most challenging course he ever created. Jasper is a resort course by proper definition. Its collection of holes is for us, the golfing masses, and was never meant for professional tournament play. That’s a big part of its unique appeal. Golfers of any skill level—from beginners to seasoned veterans—will enjoy and appreciate the experience. How much? I say, remove the surrounding mountain vistas and golf here would still be some of the best anywhere.
“When you mention Jasper, some of the great old classic courses around the world come to mind,” suggests Canadian course designer, Doug Carrick. “There’s something magical about them.”
Of the many majestic holes that traverse the outward nine, the highlight is ‘Cleopatra.’ Named for the Egyptian queen after Thompson crafted bunkers on the hole to match her womanly shape (which ownership forced him to change immediately), the par-three, 231-yard ninth hole at Jasper is one of Canada’s finest. It plays downhill to a green site with Pyramid Mountain providing a stunning backdrop. An argument can be made for it being the best long par-3 in the country.
Always conscious to blend natural contours with challenging terrain, Thompson’s only deviation from his mountain-based routing at Jasper Park is a three-hole stretch on the inward nine.
Using a peninsula which cuts straight into the emerald waters of Lac Beauvert, he fashioned the par-four 14th, ‘Lac Beauvert’, the par-three 15th, ‘Bad Baby’ and par-four 16th, known as ‘The Bay’.
Today, this trio is considered by golf design aficionados to be the best trilogy of holes back-to-back in Canadian golf. Having travelled and golfed our country extensively, I could not agree more. “You could play these holes over and over and never get tired of them,” Carrick added.
With this club, there is a quality to the outback experience that tugs at a golfer’s heartstrings. Along with the terrific combo of holes, there’s the balance of beauty mixed with the awesome, not so uncommon challenge of wandering elk, black bear or even a grizzly or two.
This much is certain. Those very same bucket list characteristics that made Jasper Park a notable standout for Alistair Mackenzie in the early 1930’s when he was author- ing The Spirit of St. Andrews’, remain to lure golfers back to Jasper again and again.
It’s a place that just hits you deep inside.
Award-winning golf writer/author Rick Young is one of Canada’s most trusted voices on golf and matters related to the golf industry. A founding member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Young’s articles have appeared in a variety of publications through- out North America.