- Architect: Stanley Thompson
- Built in 1927
- Banff, Alberta
- 8th in Canada (ScoreGolf)
- 5th in My Top 50 Golf Courses
The “Toronto Terror,”A.K.A. Stanley Thompson is perhaps best-known for his courses in Ontario, such as St. Georges Golf & Country Club, but what sticks out the most is his two courses in Alberta: The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club & The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course. The former, the first one built out out of the two, is arguably his best design, but has diminished with age.
The first hole that makes your jaw drop is the par 3 2nd hole, a short iron to an elevated green.
The hole has two beautifully cut bunkers into the slope, which plays with your mind. They aren’t exactly green-side, and are 20 or so yards back from the green. The two bunkers which you certainly don’t want to go in!
The next par 3, the fourth, aptly named “Devil’s Cauldron,” is one of the best par 3’s in the world. Over a natural glacier lake, the hole is played downhill to a punchbowl style green surrounded by bunkers.
Interestingly, if you’re feeling ambitious, the original tee shot is still in tact, and while the teeing ground isn’t cut regularly, it’s still accessible over the cart path on the right, climbing down the hill. Here’s the view:
After the 4th, you make your way to the 5th, which is the first great par 4 on the course. A tough tee shot, with a bunker about 300 to carry off the back tees, the hole slightly doglegs to the left. Forest on the right is also in play, but you’re able to find your ball in.
The hole is a great risk-reward tee shot. Carry the bunker and get rewarded with a short wedge, or play out to the right of the bunker and have a longer club in.
The final hole on the front nine, and perhaps the hole on the front nine that looks the easiest on paper and on the tee, the 501 yard, par 5 9th. The hole features a fairly easy tee shot, although critical to get it on the fairway and not down in the right rough. A bunker short left about 50 yards short of the green guards the green from the long approach if the player chooses to run the ball up.
The key to this hole is playing as close to the right rough as you can. It’ll give you a better angle, and a shorter club.
The 10th is yet another par 3, and the fourth in 10 holes. Unlike the first 3, however, the 10th plays over 200 yards, playing about 215 yards.
The hole becomes even more difficult when the prevailing wind blows; into the player from the left, pushing the ball to the right.
On the left of the green, a big kicker slope on the backside of the bunker helps feed the ball towards a back or even middle pin location. Unfortunately, the kicker slope isn’t fairway, and is rough, taking away some of the brilliance of the slope.
The course’s back nine and front nine are drastically different. On the front, the course is fairly easy. 3 par 5’s, 3 par 4’s, 3 par 3’s, none too difficult. The back nine is drastically different. Two par 3, one par 5 and 6 par 4’s, with each hole meaty and difficult, and the majority of the holes playing into the wind. It isn’t until the 15th where you get relief from holes 8-14 playing into the wind.
The 14th is my favorite hole, and is probably the best hole on the course. 440 yards, with bunkers literally everywhere and The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the back, it’s one of the favorites among all players.
The 16th, one of two easy holes on the back nine, requires the player to get in his pars and birdies as it’s the only relief in the past few holes.
The dramatic bunkering of Banff Springs is on full display at the 16th. The bunkers short are around 200 yards to carry, while the bunkers in the background are 300 yards to them. The bunkering blends together, making it difficult to navigate exactly where the tee shot needs to be hit.
The 18th is a 570 dogleg right par 5, which is debatably a cape hole. The player can decide to get aggressive and fly the O.B. and bunkers on the right and be rewarded with a chance to go for this relatively unguarded green in two. The player who decides to play out to the left will have an easier tee shot, but a really, really difficult lay up between three major bunkers.
Overall, Banff might be my favorite round of golf I’ve played, or darn very well close. Seeing Stanley Thompson route a golf course and use the natural features was fantastic, and is certainly worth a spin around this Canadian gem. This is one golf course I would go out of my way to play.