In the early 1900’s fifty teams of horses and about two hundred men carved out what is the Jasper Park Lodge golf course. It was quite the feat back in the day but what would be an even greater feat would be to try to build a similar Stanley Thompson designed golf course in this day and age. Sure, you could put a carbon copy of the course together in a lot less time than was done back in the 1920’s but the tricky part would be getting the permission.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a piece of property, but to remove this number of trees to start from scratch, it would be very difficult,” said Director of Golf Gregg Lown.
The road block is the fact the course is within the confines of a national park and therefore officials in Ottawa get a little antsy when there is talk about disturbing anything in the park. Over the years there were some cosmetic changes made to the golf course and in 1994 the government spent a couple of million dollars to bring it back closer to it’s original design, with an added feature.
“Part of that was a little bit of a modern touch with the installation of the wildlife corridor. It’s mainly used in the winter to allow the wildife to migrate up to the mountains,” he said.
One might think the operators of the golf course have their hands tied when it comes to doing anything outside of maintaining what is already there but Louwn says that’s not really the case.
“It’s a two way street. We work closely with parks. They help us manage the wildlife and we manage the golf course by working on the agronomy techniques to try and have as little environmental impact as we can.”
The actual practice of being a steward of such an iconic piece of Canada is a real art according to Louwn. “The key is how you put the course to bed in the fall, how you wean the grass off in the fall and time it to be dormant,” he said. “We do apply a fungicide to combat the snow mould in the spring and that’s an art in itself as to when you can catch it right as the grass is going dormant and before it freezes.”
It’s a chore to keep your head down with all those majestic peaks watching you knock the ball around but if you do manage to focus on the actual playing of the course you’ll notice some interesting tidbits. For instance, if you compare the mounding in place behind the greens you’ll notice how they mirror the mountain groupings in the back ground. You’ll discover more about Jasper on your own because you just might play it more than once and it’s the playability of the course which made it a top resort course to visit.
“For someone just getting started there are wide fairways, there are big greens, they are good targets,” said Lown. “But for better players they’re going to notice the strategic positioning of the bunkers that don’t come into play for the average player. The really subtle breaks in the greens and how the mountain takes effect in some spots of the property but not in others.”
Enjoying the surroundings through playing a round or two on a forgiving, spectacular track is a bucket list item for certain and once the round is finished you can still take in the the dominating scenery by hanging around the property for a couple of days. With a variety of accommodation choices Jasper serves up one common factor to any guest-plenty of space.
“It’s more of an open valley than you might find in other traditional communities like Whistler or Banff. There’s something much more open and inviting,” said Lori Cote, marketing director for Fairmont properties. “You’re able to get out of your guest room and walk around.”
Your choices range from the standard Fairmont guest room to the signature cabins where families or corporate groups can kick back in and relax. “Everybody has their own bedroom but there’s that common space so it’s like having your own cottage but with all the amenities Fairmont provides.”
One aspect of Jasper Park Lodge which might be overlooked by some is the fact this is a 365 days a year operation, a choice made only a couple of decades ago. For years vacationers identified with Jasper as a place to hike, canoe, kayak and play golf but winter in a national park lends itself to some great activity along with blending in a very romantic atmosphere, said Cote “There’s snowshoeing, cross country skiing, Marmot Basin downhill skiing is close by.”
WestJet will be offering flights to nearby Edson which brings the park closer for more people so the future looks bright for one of Western Canada’s gems.
“It’s a special place that sadly can’t be recreated but for us we really look forward to welcoming everyone and showing them what we have to offer. It’s an experience more than just a round of golf,” said Lown.