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Monday, August 4, 2014

Golf In the Wilderness at Jasper Park

Canadian Rockies golf will leave you with many visual memories, but one that will stay with me for a long time was a wolf stalking ground squirrels late in the day on the thirteenth hole at Jasper Park.  Add that to the brown bear we'd seen earlier in the day near the ninth tee, the elk that stopped to nosh on the flowers in the window box outside my cabin bedroom that morning, and my visit to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was a visual delight. The golf was memorable, too.

The Jasper Park Golf Course epitomizes classic design that has stood the test of time.  Stanley Thompson’s genius was such that only one hole has been altered since the course opened in 1925, yet it remains challenging and thoroughly enjoyable to today's titanium-faced, graphite-loaded modern golfer.  With a brilliant mix of long and short, left and right, up and down holes and four sets of tees ranging from 5,397 to 6,663 yards—not to mention a spectacular setting—Jasper Park will please and test every golfer.

The par threes are treacherously delightful. There are five of them, each unique. The first you encounter is the fourth hole, where drivers are frequently used on the tee since it measures 220 yards and plays to a lightly elevated green and often into the wind.  The 214-yard ninth plays steeply downhill to a green shaped like the hole’s namesake, “Cleopatra.”  The last one-shotter is the fifteenth hole, aptly called “The Bad Baby,” a little bugger that earns its name with 130 yards to a small, heavily defended green where even the slightest misdirection off the tee will send you into a deep bunker to the left or a nasty collection area on the right.

The back nine gives you one memorable hole after another, beginning with the 483-yard par-five tenth that is shaped into a double dogleg by innumerable bunkers. The 581-yard thirteenth finishes with a downhill blind shot to a tiny green nestled in the pines—aim for the birdhouse mounted behind it. A knee-knocking tee ball over crystal-clear Lac Beauvert turns the 361-yard fourteenth hole into a shotmaker’s test.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge couldn’t be more different from its sister Fairmont Hotel in Banff Springs.  No imposing castle here.  Instead, the rooms are located in cabins spread throughout the property around picture-perfect Lac Beauvert.  The cabins vary in size and layout, but all exude a wilderness aura made perfect by a small herd of elk that frequently meander through the grounds during the morning hours and the coyotes heard wailing into the night. For a real memory, consider booking the “Royal Retreat,” a 6,000-sq. ft. log cabin recreated from the plans of the original that hosted King George VI in 1939.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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