Jasper golf in the summer is a refreshing change from golfing in the city. There are two national park golf courses in the province of Alberta, Canada. They are both in the heart of the Rocky Mountain range of western Canada. The southern one is in the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) town of Banff and the northern one, in the Canadian National Railway (CNR) town of Jasper. The town of Jasper is about two hundred and twenty-five miles west of Edmonton, Alberta, the provincial capital and about one hundred and eighty miles north of Banff. I mention these two national railway lines because they were both instrumental in building two of the world-class golf courses in Canada; first, CNR’s Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course and second, the CPR’s Banff Springs Golf Course.
The Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course
The Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course was built in 1925 in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It was designed by the world famous Stanley Thompson, arguably the number one Canadian golf course architect of his days. The course has undergone some refurbishing over the years, but retained the design principals established by Thompson. SCORE magazine has rated the course as the number one Best Golf Resort in Canada over the years. It has even caught the attention of The Globe and Mail in 2005. The golf course has been visited by royalty several times; the last time being in the year 2005 with the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillips.
Reminiscent of the Banff Springs golf course, the immediate reaction to the Jasper golf course is its setting. The high altitude, clean crisp air, crystal clear lake, the lush forests and the towering mountains surrounding the golf course make for an invigorating romp along the fairways. Wild life abounds on the golf course as well as the nearby forests. Elk, deer, moose and bears can be seen on or near the golf course. Big horn sheep and an occasional cougar can be spotted nearby. There are warnings posted, however, to stay clear of the animals and to not feed any of them.
The course is relatively short by current standards, at 6,663 yards from the Black, 6,373 from the Blues, 6,033 from the Whites and 5,397 yards from the Reds. One has to keep in mind, however, the altitude of 3,484 feet at Jasper; the undulation and elevation changes of the fairways and the strategic placement of sand traps on both the fairways and around the greens. Therefore, the length of the course, in itself, does not necessarily make for easy golf as precise club selection becomes critical and a bit of a guessing game ensues. The fairway grasses are comprised of bluegrass, fescue and poa and the greens are primarily bent and poa. Putting on these greens can be challenging due to the speed, the slope and the undulations of their surfaces.
The elevation change of the golf course is particularly noticeable on the par five, thirteenth hole. Playing to 523 yards from the White (tee box for us tourists), even after two good shots, you are faced with an almost blind shot to a green that must be sixty, seventy feet below you. For the first timer, the club selection will be a problem.
The signature ninth hole, the Cleopatra, is a par three 182-yard shot to a green that is probably seventy feet below the tee box. The green slopes from front to back, in line with the topography of this hole. The club selection is again critical as most golfers will tend to over club. Because of the sloping green just described, the shot called for is the exact opposite. The shot must be slightly short of the green to let it trickle onto the green. It is interesting to note that Thompson replaced the two mounds (from whence came the name for this hole) with several bunkers about sixty yards short of the green to catch anyone getting too cute with their approach shots.
After finishing the arduous thirteenth, par five, 523-yard hole, the golfer is treated to the next three holes along beautiful Lake Beauvert. This pristine, aqua marine, crystal clear lake is sure to distract the golfer as he wends his way towards the seventeenth and the eighteenth finishing hole. The finishing hole, 419 yards, even for us amateurs, is likely to be one of the more challenging holes. The gradual sloping, dogleg left fairway will help shorten the hole a bit, but the bunkers that surround the green that sits in front of the clubhouse, will still necessitate a precise iron shot. It is a fitting finish to an invigorating round of golf.
Jasper Accommodations and Amenities
After finishing a memorable round of golf, the golfer can relax in the fully licensed clubhouse. On the course, there would have been a beverage cart and a snack shop at the seventh tee. The golf shop is well stocked with big name golf apparel; catering to your individual needs or for souvenirs. The pro shop offers name brand golf clubs, practice facility as well as rental clubs.
The town of Jasper is, first and foremost, a tourist town. The busiest tourist season is between May and September. Unlike Banff, where the spillover tourist can head out to nearby Canmore, there is no such place here in Jasper. So if you plan a trip here, you must book early; that is, if you plan to stay in one of the hotel/motels in town. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course does not provide a huge hotel as at its sister Fairmont Banff hotel; instead the Jasper complex provides a main lodge accompanied by fifty-six individual lodges. The main lodge is extremely popular for conventions and seminars. My previous association, the Petroleum Accountants of Western Canada (PASWC) used to hold its annual seminar, golf tournament and award banquet here. The individual lodges are roomy, sumptuous, elegant and beautifully upholstered, and extremely popular during the summer months; however, they may be a bit pricey for most tourist/golfers.
For those who have done the tour of the Banff Springs Golf Course and thoroughly enjoyed it, a trip to Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course will be icing on the cake. Having traversed the roller coaster terrain of the golf course; viewed the pristine scenery of the azure waterways, vibrant forests and the abundant wild life, you should feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that you have golfed one of the premier golf resorts in the country.
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