Saturday, 1 January 2011

9th at Jasper Park

“Oh, was Thornton (Sir Harry Thornton of the Canadian National Railway) ever upset with me! Harry and I played golf at Jasper for the first time together, and when we arrived at the ninth tee he stopped and just stared down at the hole. I had a good idea what he was starring at. He had finally noticed the hole was modeled after a woman reclined on her back (laughing)! Well, Harry blew a gasket! He said, “Mr. Thompson, we have been friends for many years. I never thought you would have the audacity to do this to the Canadian National!” I had no choice other than to make some minor alterations to the hole, to hide the woman’s form! The hole no longer resembles a woman, but it kept its name!"

That story contains real quotes, but is largely a stitched together account of what happened to Cleopatra after the opening. In the open day photos, Cleopatra is the one hole not clearly shown. Too bad!

So what makes this hole a great long par three? For one, Stanley Thompson lined the hole up with the most spectacular peak in Jasper, Pyramid Mountain. He created a hole that drops close to 80 feet from tee to green. He used a green site that sits on a plateau, that hangs above the valley 20-30 feet further down. The shot is fun since missing right, left or long is severely penalized; the smart play is short and bounced in. Where the fun begins is which route to play to bounce it in. Most now like to fly the ball all the way to the green and risk being off line, but the original intent was to fly the second bunker and use the natural slope to feed the ball onto the green.

This is not a conventional use of land, otherwise the green would be at the bottom and the hole would likely have become a par four or five. He did a number of things that I think were very clever. There is no question that there is some suggestive forms to the hole and the bunkering around the green certainly resembles hair! While you can’t see a woman’s form, you certainly begin to imagine that you do. His bunker placement is critical in giving the fairway a beautiful sweep left, then right and back left at the green. Very few architects have achieved this graceful a contour. By building up the green site into a plateau, he created a perfect peninsula green site. His real genius was to have the green widest in the front and narrow in the back and straight on to play. The average player looking to bounce it in has the simplest task – carry the front bunker. The aggressive player has to control the ball from going long which is not easy at altitude. Even the green itself has some fantastic contours to make putting a treat.

The green site is the key to the hole, on a downhill slope; he created a plateau part of the way down instead of placing the green at the bottom. This leads to a green that favors using the slope in front to reach the surface. By adding bunkers to get the contours pitching wildly back and forth he opened up more options for the ground game and fun. Lastly instead of trying to compete with the backdrop, the hole falls out of the way revealing the stunning vista in the distance. Stanley was truly a genius.

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