- Edmonton, Alberta
- Members only
- Stanley Thompson (1927)
- 92nd in Canada (ScoreGolf)
Royal Mayfair is in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta, the provinces capital and second biggest city. It’s on the bluffs of the North Saskatchewan River, and is the definition of a “charming old style course.”
When you drive in through the gates, you know you’re among Edmonton pedigree, and the course shows that from the get-go, with the opening 434, downhill par 4.
Three bunkers guard the driving area (one left, two right), and to fly them all is 302 on the right. Players should drive it down the right for the ideal angle and line, as the green is angled front right to back left, and (unfortunately) the trees on the left overhang.
The second, maybe my favorite hole here, although it’s hard to choose just one, is a short hole, maxing out at 331 yards. From the old routing overhead pictures, this hole looks like it plays virtually identical to the opening of the course.
The tee shot forces you to navigate the bunker on the right, which I did not, but likely is just a five iron off the tee or so. A full swing wedge to this perched putting green is ideal.
The third is peculiar. A 90* dogleg left par 5, this hole plays upwards of 550 yards, but almost takes driver out of your hands. There is a chance to cut the corner, but upon visiting a second time I would likely just lay up with 3 iron.
The approach, however, is wonderful. A long bunker akin to 10 at Augusta National makes the green look guarded from all angles from way back in the fairway, making the player think the layup is easier than it looks. The bunker, however, is actually in the layup zone!
The fourth, a mid length par 3, topping out at 190, features a pretty cool green complex, guarded by bunkering left, short right, and long right.
The fourth used to be Stanley’s short par 3, topping out at 140 yards. With time, the club has added length, but other than that it looks like it plays fairly close to the original hole!
I liked the 5th, even though it’s clearly not Stanley Thompson, but I felt like tiwas still a pretty good hole. A huge bunker guards the left, and is a big poke at 290 to carry entirely. I’m pretty sure my playing partner carried it by 30 yards, but that’s another story.
transiting from the long, 455 yard par 4, 5th to the short, 368 yard 6th, the player is forced with another short 4 with decisions off the tee. Bunkering pinches the landing area from 239 to 290, so iron is likely the play to get it in the fairway.
The approach shot was my favorite. A bunker guards the front right portion, and a ridge runs off the left side, creating a left and right tier. Small mounding to the right of the green makes a play off the right a viable option, which almost everyone in my group did use.
Looking back, you can tell that this green complex is special, and is architectural brilliance, even with a wedge in hand. The golfer has so many options, and it would vary with pin locations, that he’s almost forced to think about what to do!
The 7th plays similar to the 1st. A slightly downhill tee shot with two bunkers left. However, this green is angles front left to back right, prompting a fade with the approach. This green, however, is devilish, with a front left shelf that is difficult to get anything close to a pin there, and a back tongue.
The 8th, a fairly standard par 3, felt like the most dull on the course. Playing close to 190 yards, bunkering long-left and short-right is the only defence. A cool spine is back right, and a back left shelf is among the features on the green.
The 9th is one of about four or five holes at Mayfair that could use a good chainsaw to help open playing corridors. The tee shot was pretty claustrophobic (for a definition of claustrophobic in golf, look at my review for Sahalee) with overhanging trees on the right, with the hole bending to the right, and O.B. left as well as a bunker complex left.
I still felt like this was overall a pretty nice hole. Gotta give credit where credit is due, Royal Mayfair does guide you to hitting the proper shots, but never really forces you to. A player can elect for iron off the tee at the bunker on the left and still be in play, but an aggressive player can hit drive or three wood.
The 10th has undergone copious changes over the years. I’m not sure on the exact timeline of the hole, but originally it was a 430 yard dogleg right with two massive bunkers on the inside of the corner. The hole moved to a shorter par 5, still doglegging right, but had a pond added presumably in the 80’s or 90’s by Les Furber that likely played similarly to a cape hole. In 2011, the club moved the tees way up to expand the short game facility and create a snack shack, and now plays as a 378 yard par 4, with two bunkers on the outside corner of the hole and a really, really tight fairway.
This hole, to put it bluntly, sucks. The original hole looked quite cool, and my friend that used to be a member said that even the par 5 with the artificial pond was still a good hole. Now, it’s easily the worst on the course.
The ideal play is the hit 5 iron, 5 iron into this hole, unless you can bend a 2 or 3 iron to the right and feel confident enough to hug it to the left bunkering. An easy fix to this hole would be to bunker the inside corner of the dogleg, like the original hole, and have ample room left so that the player can be as aggressive as he feels that day.
The 11th is another fairly bland par 3, measuring 3 yards over 200. That artificial pond to the right of 10 fairway comes into play short right and wraps around the back, but with a bunker right, left and long, the water should be the least of your worries.
This is another hole significantly changed over time. The original routing shows this hole played as a 255 yard par 3 (!), with two bunkers back in the left side of the fairway some 40 yards back, and bunkering left and right of the green. The original green site (and possibly complex, I am not sure) is the putting green behind the water that’s behind the current 11th green now.
The one issue that I found with Royal Mayfair is the lack of variety of the par 3’s. The original routing has the par 3’s at differing lengths of 140, 195, 255, 160: perfectly spaced out to make you hit different shots in. Now, however, they play 188, 186, 203, 157. Less variety, although 17, the final par 3, and 8 play similar to their original yardage. A good restoration would add the varying yardage back and give the par 3’s some much needed life.
The 12th is another decent hole that’s been changed a lot. This one I’m not really sure why they moved the bunker complex from the outside of the dogleg to the inside, but it’s fine. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s just a solid golf hole. This is a lovely tee box, though, with the clubhouse looking as you swing!
The approach has bunkering guarded on the right and long, and a cool knob in the contours of the green is short left.
The 13th gets back to the Stanley Thompson feeling holes. A wonderful dogleg left with bunkering on the inside of the corner and on the outside, a draw is preferred, but if that’s not in the back the player can elect to hit iron off the tee at the farthest right bunker. A wonderful risk-reward hole.
The approach is another good iron/wedge shot in, with a cool green complex flanked with a sorta false-front short right and a front left tongue. A spine runs up the left side of the green-side bunker. Lots going on on this awesome hole!
The 14th is a fantastic par 5 fallen to overgrown trees, but nonetheless a good 5 still. The tee shot has bunkering 268 to carry off the right, and 301 to get to on the left. The one on the left is a good aiming point as it sets up the best angle into the dogleg right 5.
The green complex here is perhaps the best, with two levels, guarded by bunkering left, short right and right. A bunker 80 yards out blends in to the green complex from way back even without a restoration!
I really loved the 15th as well, which plays close to a mirror image of 13. The bunkering is a little closer off the tee, though, so instead of 3 wood on 13, I hit 2 iron on 15.
The final par 3, 16, is perhaps the most obvious Thompson hole. The bunkering has fallen to Father Time, however, if you’ve played Banff or Jasper, you can see the vision with 16.
With some sharp bunker edges, this would easily be the most photogenic hole on the course, although I think there’s a case for it now. The green features a ridge in the middle, separating the green into two halves.
17 likely plays similar to how it was intended in the late 20’s. A bunker-less tee shot, you can swing for the fences (or the Edmonton skyscrapers) on this tee ball.
The green here is nasty, with a back left shelf and a back right shelf, anything above the hole here is death with fast green speeds. This hole puts a premium on the second shot, which is a nice change of pace at a first-shot course like Mayfair (or any tree-lined course, really).
The home hole is weird. On one hand, the fairway rolls over some beautiful topography. On the other hand, there’s two massive ponds green-side that make this hole feel awfully fake.
The hole plays roughly the same length as originally designed, but the club has removed the fairway bunker on the right around the area of 14 tee. This was a pretty smart bunker, and still would fundamentally play the same, as the original hole had a bunker short left instead of the pond.
The green site has a natural amphitheatre, and with a sharp eye, you could see the potential of a Banff, St. George’s or Capilano bunkering style behind the green to sharpen things up.
I’m not sure the club will ever remove the pond, although I would vouch that they maybe should to try and recapture the full Thompson feel, but it does make for a good picture and likely plays disaster to make good rounds.
While I think it’s a fantastic golf course that deserves to be higher than 92nd in Canada, I don’t see it being any higher than 55 in its current state. But make no mistake, Royal Mayfair is among the can’t misses in Alberta, and worth a play at least once. One can see Stanley’s imagination and distinct design elements sprinkled throughout the course, and I think with a good restoration from the likes of, say Ian Andrew, the course could very well stand up against the Blackhawk or Banff’s of Alberta.
Critics will often seek out the holes renovated that feel nothing like Stanley Thompson (namely 5, 8, 10, 11, 12), but there’s enough Thompson (2, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16) to see his vision, and with the original plans and photos scattered throughout the clubhouse, there’s still a possibility to recapture the Thompson charm and vault it to among the very best in Canada.
The takeaway here is never turn down an opportunity to play one of Alberta’s most exclusive, and finest golfing experiences. I would return in a heartbeat and hopefully will soon!