1 Old Lodge Road, Jasper, Alberta |1-780-852-6090
Green fees: $119 – $225
can lay claim to the design of some 178 golf courses around the world. 144 of them are in Canada and of those, a century after he started designing courses, 6 of them are in Canada’s Top 13. One of them, designed in 1928, is the Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course
Thompson’s courses are known for respecting the natural geography and preserving the flow of the land. And when you have the raw materials of wolves, bears, elk, and caribou wandering through a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site to work with, respect must be given.
This is the third Thompson course I’ve been fortunate to play, having previously wandered Highland Links
in Ingonish, Nova Scotia, and the Banff Springs Golf Course
in Banff. All three are absolute national treasures.
Ranked by SCORE Golf Magazine as the third best course in Canada, Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club
has been a legend for nearly a century. Bing Crosby
and Marilyn Monroe
have teed off here, and King George VI
, Queen Elizabeth
, Queen Elizabeth II,
and Prince Philip
have all spent vacation time at the JPL. That’s quite a resume for a golf course, and it has long been on my #ExploreAlberta Bucket List
of places to explore.
Finally, with a random weekday off in June, I decided to get up at 4am, drive the 400+ kilometres to Jasper from Calgary, play a round, and then return the same day. Now, while the drive is absolutely spectacular and completely worthy, I’m not sure a 16 hour day with 800+ kilometres of driving wrapped around a 4.5 hour round of golf is going to result in the best score.
Still, it was what I had to work with and so I made it work.
From the very first tee, you know you’re somewhere special. Nothing is particularly difficult about the course except for everything.
The first hole is just a long wide-open fairway, with a big bump right about where you’re going to land as you approach a massive green. Drive it long and you can’t see where you’re landing, drive it short and you’ve got a long approach, hit in the middle and you’ve got a funky lie. This is what a Stanley Thompson course is about and the next 4+ hours played all sorts of tricks on me.
The second hole, a reachable par 5, has a split fairway. It’s a narrow target to land up top (which I managed to accomplish), but the reachable green was still protected by numerous bunkers. The third hole is a long blind shot to a wide fairway, or you can try to cut off the right angle to the hole over the trees. Regardless of which you pick, you won’t see where your ball lands.
The eighth is a long par 4 with an extremely tight gap to try and thread.
The ninth is a long par 3 with a massive green that looks to be half the size because of a swallowing bunker right in front. If that wasn’t enough to distract you, there’s Pyramid mountain overlooking the scene.
Water and sand will mess with your head as you to try to pick a spot to land at 10, and the clear mountain air messes with your perception of distances the entire round. While you can add about 15% to your shots because of the 1100m elevation of Jasper, I still had a hard time accounting for distance.
Something that looked 125 yards measured 170. Something that was 250 yards away, looked closer to 190. I just couldn’t get a read on how far things were the entire round. And that’s the wonderful part about the course. It’s nestled perfectly in nature, Thomspon taking only what the mountains and rivers and valley would give. The air is clear and perfect, and it’s up to you to try and figure out the best way to get around.
Then there’s the thirteenth hole, a swing out of your shoes stunning 598 yards downhill. Sure, you can run it out there a long way for a few big swings, but right at the end he’s stuck a postage stamp of a green for you to try and make par. There’s something on every hole to make you work.
Fourteen is where you bring your camera out as you enter a trio of holes hugging the shore of Lake Beauvert. While the green of this short par 4 looks reachable, you need to punch a sideways shot across the lake, through the trees, and stopping short in the fairway to make it work. Again, Thomspon has you earning your score on even the shortest of holes.
The par 3 fifteenth is even scarier. It’s barely a pitching wedge to the green, but if there’s a front pin (as there was on my round), don’t even think about going for it as everywhere near the hole falls off to collection areas.
Sixteen has ridges in the fairway, again forcing you to lay up your shot with a difficult approach to an almost island green along the lake.
Finally, the eighteenth hole brings you home on a long par 4 with a wide forgiving fairway and a big Canadian flag blowing in the breeze.
Wide-open fairways with subtle Fairway tricks with angles (3) or levels (2) or undulations (1) pinched in (8) water and sand to mess with angle (10) to challenge your tee shots
All in all, it was a fantastic early season round at Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club.
It’s a beautifully vintage course that, nearly 100 years after players first tackled it with persimmon drivers and plus fours, still poses a challenge to the modern game. The par 3s and 4s play long, the par 5s play short and reachable (outside the 13th), and the entire course is dotted with all sorts of unique challenges that the more often you play the course, the better you’ll understand.
And that’s the reaction I had after walking off the 18th course, beaten quite badly after a long day; I need to get back here. Local knowledge can be an extra club in your bag, and after a few more walks of this epic eighteen, I’ll be better prepared for the challenge.
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Dad. Broadcaster. Writer.
Three time Guinness World Record Holder.
I run the world for Team Diabetes.