Review: The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course

Information: 

  • Jasper, Alberta
  • Public – Daily Fee
  • Stanley Thompson (1927)
  • 2nd in Canada (ScoreGolf)

Those who have heard about Jasper Park Lodge have heard it’s a good golf course. Those who have played it, well, they know it’s a fantastic golf course. There’s an argument to be made that Jasper is Stanley Thompson’s crowning achievement; his magnum opus. Alister Mackenzie sure thought so, claiming it was the best inland course in the world when he visited in 1929. Below is his thoughts on the course!

Before we get started, it’s been awhile since I’ve been to Jasper. My pictures are a little older and less pretty, but we’ll review with what we have!


The course starts with a fairly benign par 4. Measuring 390 yards, it’s not overly long, but a big bunker right side of the hole that cuts into the fairway at 273 yards off the tee takes driver out, and even 3 wood for the bigger hitters. The green is almost a natural punchbowl, with the front, back and right side sloping towards the centre.

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The second is a lovely short par 5. At 488 yards, it’s short, and I mean real short, but there is some difficulty within the hole. As with a lot of older ST courses, the fairway is very rugged, never really providing you with a flat lie. There’s a bunker way left that isn’t in play off the tee, and ideally you should stay left as the green slopes to the back left from the right right hard with a big bunker short left.

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The 488 yard, par 5 2nd is a good birdie opportunity to start the round

The third is an absolute brute of a golf hole. Usually playing into the prevailing wind, the 454 yard par 4, 3rd doglegs sharply right, up and over the natural undulations. My only advice for this hole: you can hit it way further than you think. The tee shot is blind, so you won’t really know where to go. The green is perched up on a natural shelf, cut into the hill with some really quality bunkering short left, long and right.

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The fourth is the first of the devilish par 3’s that Jasper has. 240 on the card, still into the prevailing wind, this probably would’ve been a driver into the green. It’s narrow, and surrounded by bunkers, so par here is a fantastic score.

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Below is a look at the yardage book so you can see just how many bunkers there is and how narrow this green is.

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Now I’m not really sure what’s wrong with me, because I didn’t take photos of holes 5, 6, 7 or 8. So I’ll just show the yardage book so we can still get a visual. When I go back to Jasper I’ll take a ton of photos and update this review!

The 5th is another really short par 5, playing 480 yards. A common theme at a Stanley Thompson golf course is the par 3’s playing really difficult, almost acting as a par 3.5, and the par 5’s playing very generous, almost like a par 4.5. The key: they still balance out to a par 5 and a par 3, so take your 4’s on the 3’s and the 5’s, and hopefully you get away with a par on one of the 3’s here or there.

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In reality, this hole probably would’ve played more difficult upon opening. A 240 carry over the bunker in the middle fairway would’ve been a good poke, while as today it’s a fairly easy carry even with three wood. The green complex kind of bowls in again, with the bunkering raised around it.

The 6th features an astounding 19 bunkers, joined with hole 10. It’s short at only 393 yards, but it’s a fairly big dogleg, so keeping it right is key. After that, it’s a fairly straightforward wedge to an elevated green.

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The 7th is probably my vote for the easiest par 3, even though it’s not the shortest. 178 yards, playing up the hill, this is a pretty cool area, and you feel completely secluded from civilization. Short and left is death, while right isn’t a bad miss.

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The 8th is just, I’m not sure words describe it. It is among the best par 4’s in the world, and I’m not even sure it’s the best par 4 on the course–a testament to the quality of holes here. Check out the yardage book view below, as it’s bunker-less!

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I had to steal a photo (well, not steal!) of the 8th tee shot because the visuals here as just amazing. The tee shot is so difficult, without any bunkering, thanks to the natural contours. Just a spectacular golf hole.

The 8th tee shot at Jasper. Photo Credit: Top 100 in Canada

The 9th is probably the most famous hole at JPL. 231 yards, this hole plays straight downhill, probably taking 20 yards off the card. The green is a peninsula, surrounded by 7 bunkers left, long, right, and one short. Another bunker way short is also on the hole.

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Nicknamed “Cleopatra” because (as rumor has it) Thompson was paid less than the agreed amount, so he added two mounds on the right side of the hole to replicate a curvy women lying on her back. Needless to say, Thompson was paid the rest and the remains of Cleopatra is all that is left

The 10th hole is titled “Maze,” thanks in part to its 15 bunkers that are in play. It’s a pretty big dogleg to the left, so a draw is ideal. It’s the third par 5 on the course, and the third par 5 under 500 yards (exactly 8 yards under). Finding the fairway is a tough task, but if you do, you’re greeted with a long iron to a slightly uphill green that allows for shots to be run up.

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The 11th hole is probably the one one here that’s fallen most to modern technology. It’s not overly long at 403 yards, but from an elevated tee, the tee shot plays wide and is the only shot on the course that requires almost no thinking. There’s a bunker right at 293 yards, and one in the middle of the fairway at 183 yards to carry. That’s right, 183 yards. So never in play. I’d love to see this bunker restored to a similar yardage for today’s standards, maybe like 240 or 250. It’s a beautiful tee shot, though, and the green complex is a lot of fun.

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The 12th is another mid length par 3, at 181 yards. The green is pushed off, with a bunker long left, short left and short right. Do not hit it long. The bunker long is absolute death and you will be lucky to make 4 from the back bunker.

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Ignore the picture quality, the 12th is a stout par 3 regardless of his yardage

The 13th is the only par 5 here over 500 yards, and it happens to be 3 yards over 600 yards. That’s right, not a single par 5 here is in the 500 yard range.

The 13th plays over some pretty crazy terrain. The tee shot goes down, then back up slightly, then down, up a little bit more, then down, tumbling towards the green. 5 bunkers are on this hole, with two being right (220 to carry), 2 to the right about 122 out and another bunker that’s 60 yards from the hole and is where you want to hit it if you’re trying to get home. It’s absolutely possible because the hole plays closer to 560 as everything 40 yards short will bounce towards the green.

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The 14th starts a three hole stretch that is among the best 3 hole stretches in the world. The 14th doglegs left around the Lac Beauvert, the 15th is at the most northwestern part of the golf course, and the 16th has the Lac Beauvert all down the left and cutting in front of the green. At 361 yards, the 14th is among the best par 4’s I’ve played, let alone the best bunker-less holes I’ve played (I’m pretty sure my bunker-less holes are both at JPL).

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The key to this tee shot is to keep it as close to the hazard as possible for a flatter lie into this difficult green. Right is an easier tee shot, but is a harsher hook lie, and with water short left, a flat lie is ideal.

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The tough approach to the 14th is just a wedge, but requires your full focus

The 15th is nicknamed “bad baby,” and for good reason. 138 yards on the card, a bunker short left and long right, as well as a harsh run off short and right are the defence here. The main difficulty is the green; it plays like an inverted saddle, with everything sloping to the middle. Anything missing this green is surely chipping to a downhill slope with a very difficult pitch.

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The 16th is the final of the three hole stretch that is spectacular. At 380 yards, it’s really difficult because of the undulation and topography in the fairway. It doesn’t help that the Lac Beauvert is all down the left, as well. I wish I would’ve gotten a picture of the tee shot, but for those of you who have played Pasatiempo, it plays fairly similar to hole 16 there.

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The approach plays to a green that’s only 22 yards deep, with a very harsh slope towards the front left, or the water. Short and right kicks towards the green. You’ll have to control your spin with a wedge or short iron here otherwise you could see it land middle green and end up in the water.

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You can see some of the undulations of the par 4, 16th for the approach

The 17th is the only hole I didn’t like here. It plays back up the hill for the dramatic 18th, with only one bunker right of the fairway, 237 to carry. The hole slopes towards the Lac Beauvert, and produces some really difficult hook lies into a green that is angled to the left with bunkering left and right.

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The 18th is a spectacular closing par 4, and the longest par 4 here. 463 yards, the hole sharply doglegs to the left around bunkering that’s 184 yards to carry. A second bunker on the left side is 308 to get to, and with a draw running on the downhill slope, it’s certainly in play.

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Looking down towards the green on the finishing par 4, 18th

A bunker left and right guard the green. The undulations of the green makes two tiers, and puts a premium on club selection. A bunker short right is deceptive, and upon first loop around here you think it’s in play but it’s not.

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There’s no doubt that Jasper is among the handful of the best classic courses in the world. The biggest thing you notice is the genius of Thompson’s routing, utilizing the land he was given in a way that produced a great routing with variety and intrigue. One thing Jasper should consider is a bunker restoration. The bunkering at times can be a little bland, by no means bad, but bland, and with a little clean up it would be spectacular.

I would say Jasper is among western Canada’s few “must play” courses, and something everyone should see for themselves at least (at least) once.

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