This Week in History
Canada's Master of the Greens
For the week of Monday September 15, 2008
On September 17, 1893, Stanley Thompson was born in Toronto, Ontario. Thompson would become one of the world’s leading golf course architects, designing world-renowned courses across Canada, the United States, South America and the West Indies.
In 1922, Thompson opened his own golf course architecture firm, the largest in Canada at that time. He employed an engineer, soil chemist, plant pathologist, landscape architect, town planner and arborist. His first big contract came in 1923 from the Canadian National Railway to design a course in Jasper National Park. The course would become one of the world’s best, attracting international press coverage for its beautiful views and challenging layout. The CNR promoted the course as an international golf destination. In 1927, the Canadian Pacific Railway commissioned Thompson to design a course at the Banff Springs Hotel and requests from across Canada and around the world soon followed.
Thompson learned his craft from both Cummings and Harry S. Colt, an architect famous for his use of nature as a feature of the design. According to Thompson, “nature must always be the architect's model.” His designs would incorporate new and existing trees, woods and marshes with natural inclines in the land to increase the degree of difficulty. Thompson’s courses were meant to challenge the golfer to think about their shots, not just test their physical strength. Each tee offered multiple ways to reach the green in order to challenge the experienced golfer without discouraging the casual player.
As well, each course preserved traditional Scottish elements. For example, at Highland Links in Cape Breton, each hole was a given a Gaelic name based on how it looked or played.
Thompson died in 1953, but many of his courses continue to exist, preserving his legacy as one of Canada’s greatest golf course architects. Stanley Thompson was designated a National Historic Person in 2005 for pioneering new techniques in golf course architecture, creating a more strategic game both in Canada and abroad.
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