Do-overs in Canadian golf architecture

Yesterday I wrote about the potential reworking of Angus Glen’s South Course and whether an extensive renovation would change the perception people have of the golf course. That led me to thinking about the fact that many classic Canadian courses have had significant alterations, often early in their history. They, of course, aren’t perceived as renovations any longer, often because the changes were completed decades ago. But when perceived that way, it is surprising how many great courses have been substantially renovated. Even courses like Hamilton and St. George’s have been substantially altered over time — meaning most of Canada’s best courses have had a hole or two completed reconsidered.

1) Mississaugua — Initially created by George Cumming, the course has been reworked by a half-dozen architects over the years. Doug Carrick currently works there, but everyone including Robert Trent Jones has made some alterations along the way. You could argue that it should have one more big overhaul to bring all the disparate elements together once and for all.

2) Summit — See above, but this time the main alterations were done by Stanley Thompson. Since then both Bob Cupp (very odd) and Doug Carrick have reworked holes on the course. Largely the work is fine, though I’m still unsure of the new 7th hole.

3) Royal Montreal — Built by Dick Wilson. Underwent a Reestorification by Rees Jones for the Presidents Cup and is no longer considered one of the best in Canada. Proof that some courses should be left alone.

4) St. Thomas — Significant changes by Robbie Robinson, including several new holes. The work is largely very good.

5) Banff — Initially a Donald Ross design, Thompson completely redesigned Banff.

6) Beaconsfield — A Willie Park Jr. course that had several holes reworked, again by Thompson.

7) Scarboro — Another George Cumming routing, this course was almost completely overhauled by AW Tillinghast. I have no idea what Cumming’s work looked like, but Scarboro is a strong course. More recently Ian Andrew and Gil Hanse made more changes, though the routing was left intact.

8) Lambton — a course that had several architects work on it over the years, though the initial work was apparently done by Tom Bendelow. Reestorification occurred a few years ago. Not awful, it improved some elements of the course, but couldn’t overcome the storm culvert that runs through the middle of the routing.


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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

31 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Websters defines Reestorificaion as: 1) A golf course reworked by the so-called “U.S. Open doctor” Rees Jones 2) A course renovated where deep bunkers flank the green, and the putting surface is cut into segments 3) the process of overpaying to have an average renovation job done for top dollar.

  • You left out The Rock which was redone before the grass had grown in on the original design.

    Le Manoir Richelieu was done by Herbert Strong in the Golden Age but it has been substantially redone, I think by Graham Cooke.

    Victoria Golf Club opened in 1893 and was redone some years later by AV Macan.

    And then there are all of the clubs that have changed location one or more times through the years, which includes dozens of clubs.

  • Robbie Robinson did a LOT of work at Summit. Many tees were enlarged and some moved for safety.
    The 7th hole was completely rebuilt, the tees moved over close to the road, fairway bunkers put in on the right to influence the golfer to hit it to the left, and the green and bunkers rebuilt.
    The tees on the 8th hole were moved toward the road for safety and the fairway opened up on the left side.
    The 10th hole had a large hump in front of the green removed.
    The 11th hole was completely re-designed, tees, fairway and green. It had a large hill which made the hole blind from the tee.

  • It sure must be nice to sit back and get paid to give your “opinion” especially when you’ve never sat on a dozer or worked on a crew. How do you know when you are critiquing a course why things were done a certain way such as permits, money, safety. You don’t do your homework to find out these reasons you just make your comments. No wonder you are the laughing stock of the industry when it comes to journalism. You should take a page from Rubensteins book and back off on the controversy and class up your act. People would value your articles more if you backed up comments with substance, call the architect, find out why things are the way they are, sometimes architects are forced to do things that are out of their control.

  • Wayne: Thanks for the career advice.

    Since most of the architects I spoke about in this are dead, would you suggest I consult a psychic? Or maybe get a ouija board out? Perhaps you have a suggest on how I might reach out to George Cumming — that would be an interesting conversation.

    Richard: Thanks for the note re: Robbie. Not terribly up to speed on the 60s-70s changes to Summit and the club doesn’t reference them at all on their website. Did he reroute anything?

  • No re routing RT, just moving the tees closer to the road to get the golfers to hit away from it.

  • Wayne grow – You hit the nail right on Thompson’s head.

    100% agree!

    Relatively little homework on most articles. He just prints hearsay. “I heard an owner say this or I heard from so and so on one of my freeeeeebie manufacturers’ trips.? Always ZERO research…..

    Not even in the Rube’s class. Now he IS a columnist not just a wannabe.

  • I find it interesting that posters criticize Robert T.’s commentary because he has not “sat on a dozer or worked on a crew”. So if he had, then presumably Robert T. would have credibility in the poster’s view.

    Hmmm, wonder if the posters have ever “written an article for publication or authored a book”? Seems to me that would be a requirement in order to credibly offer criticism to someone’s literary work…

    Robert T. seems to be offering his opinion on various issues based on his experience and perspective. The majority of the time he offers a rationale and gives examples for written material on his blog.

    Generally when people have an inability to offer constructive differing opinions on issues, they resort to attacking one’s credibility. This reflects weak reasoning abilities.

    • Weekend: I actually know a lot of architects who’ve never sat on a dozer or worked on a crew. Does that make them less capable? There are only a few these days that do it — Gil Hanse is one, Jeff Mingay is another that are top of mind — but I have been around dozens of projects in construction, spoken with the architects and supers involved, spoken to greens chairs, etc. Spent a decade doing that — but I guess if I got on one dozer, for which I have no training, I guess it would change things. There’s some work being done at St. Thomas — I’ll ask Wade if I can sit on a dozer.

  • Wayne grow and Peter.I believe in free speech and the right to comment, but why do you even bother to read Robert let alone waste your time to reply??It could be harmful to your health.

    • John,

      Yes, free speech is good, but as Wayne says, RTs commentary is often factually incorrect and yet I assume he expects to be taken seriously within the industry. Wouldn’t have taken much more than a quick internet search to find out that Banff was NOT “initially a Donald Ross design” Best for me was a writer on this blog last year (Gary Slatter?) who made a list of his favourite Calgary courses and couldn’t even spell his No 1 choice correctly! Still, always inetresting to read this blog.

    • Paul: Page 164 of Jim Barclay’s history on Stanley Thompson: “The parks brand of the Dominion government took over the course and in 1919 commissioned Donald Ross to expand it to 18 holes. CPR took back the course and in 1927 hired Stanley Thompson…”

      Or I’d add from the Brad Klein’s book on Ross (page 203): “Thompson went to work and incorporating holes from both the original Thomson and Ross layouts…” Later he adds: “the remains of the Ross course can be found today as holes No. 2, 6, 17, and 18 of the Stanley Thompson course.”

      I’d add:


      I could go on. But I think I’ve made my point.

  • Hey Bennett

    My comments are made to offset incorrect commentary by ill-informed writers.

    This is a free country unless we get more left-wing NDPers at City Hall or if that Trudeau (who has NEVER had a job) gets in federally.

  • Well Paul, how is that humble pie tasting?

    I can understand you ranting on Robert Thompson, but why pick on one of Canada’s most respected golf professionals for a simple spelling mistake?

    Of course, if I read all of your comments on this blog and others you participate in, I would find many.

    Of course, I will not be holding my breath waiting for you to apologize to either of these two gentlemen.

    • Please read my comment to Robert below.

      Regarding spelling mistakes, everyone makes them, but spelling the name of your favourite course incorrectly immediately takes away from one’s credibility as a blogger.

  • Actually, you’ve proved my point (and that of other posters). You directed me to a website selling golf packages as a source? Really, this is where you get your information from? Regurgitating content from other sites doesn’t make it correct.

    To the case in point, you wrote “Intitially a Donald Ross design” which is simply untrue. Banff was originally designed by Bill Thomson. I have the Darius Oliver book you directed me to and he writes that the Banff course “dated back to 1911 and had been tweaked by Donald Ross” So how is this initially a Donald Ross design?

    The golf package website review of the Banff course you directed me to makes no mention of the original course, and so in your mind that means the Ross course was the first?

    To illustrate how bizarre it is that you use these other sites to back up your argument instead of doing some old-fashioned research, here’s a direct Oliver quote from the bottom of the page you sent me to: “Banff Springs is also significant for …..its legacy as the first great mountain track.” So, Robert, I assume if someone says to you that the Jasper course is older than the Banff course you would tell them they were wrong, send them to the Oliver text and say “See, I’m right, told you so” like some kid in a school yard? Except you’d be wrong and Oliver is wrong, Jasper was built first.

    Finally, the golf package website text about Banff, the one that doesn’t mention the Thomson course, is so badly written it’s laughable. It states: “On a section of the property Thompson never intended to use, an avalanche in the winter of 1927 created the glacial lake that is now a centrepiece to the signature fourth hole at Banff Springs”

    An avalanche created a glacial lake in 1927? My elementary school kids would be aware of how absurd this statement is. Besides, the lake was formed by a rockslide – not in 1927 but at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. And this is the place you send readers for a history lesson? Just because this website has cut-and-pasted from another website doesn’t mean it’s credible.

  • Paul: You willfully ignore both the other references I make to Jim Barclay and Brad Klein’s work. Not credible enough for you? Where is your proof that these guys are wrong and you are right? Klein even lists the holes that are still there from the Ross course. Is he wrong as well?

    So Thomson did nine holes. Ross added another nine or redid the entire course depending on who you believe. Regardless, holes from the Ross course are part of the Thompson course. Are you willfully ignorant or just won’t admit you are wrong?

    And I’d say he’s right — Banff was the first great mountain course, which is why Thompson was asked to come back and renovate Jasper after Banff opened.

    Send me the info that that proves I’m wrong on this, as is Brad Klein?

    • Yes, a few Ross holes are part of the Thompson course and both you and they are correct. Where did I say otherwise? But neither of these two authors claim that the original Banff course was designed by Ross, which is what you originally wrote.

      Keeping in mind that the dictionary meaning of initial is “of, or at, the beginning” was Banff initially designed by Bill Thomson or Donald Ross?

    • I don’t want to interupt a good internet stoush, but RT you have it the wrong way round. The Jasper course was completed in 1926. The Banff course was completed in 1929. CN asked Thompson to change the bunkers on 9 at some point but that was it. There’s a good book called The Golf Courses of Stanley Thompson. On page 10 it states “After Canadian National’s success at Jasper, the railroad decided to call in Stanley Thompson to build a competing masterpiece at Banff.”

      George (Jasper resident for 50 years)

    • @George P

      Just to clarify, it was different railroads in the case of Jasper and Banff was it not? Banff was CPR vs CN at Jasper.

    • The Oliver text clearly refers to Thompson designs:

      As Thompson was 18 years old and fighting with the Allied troops in Europe in 1915 I’m curious how he was able to design the Banff course that year?

      Regarding the Jasper course, I go back to my original point about regurgitating information others have written on the Internet and laying it out as fact. Let me guess, you went to Wikipedia, saw “1922” for Jasper Park Lodge? Go back and re-read the Wikipedia passage more carefully.

  • Paul: I really think you’re not seeing the woods for the trees on this one. The point of this was to discuss courses that had been overhauled. Did a pro name Thomson do work at Banff? Yes. Did Ross redo all 18 holes? Some suggest yes. Did Thompson rework those holes. Clearly. Is the course better now? Apparently.

    I didn’t intend for this to end up in a debate with some guy from Calgary on how I cited the original architect. The goal was to demonstrate that historically there have been some interesting courses that were renovated very extensively.

    Anyway, I’m tired of this debate. If you have some real insights into the work Ross did at Banff, or what Thomson did, I’d be interested in hearing. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with the bigger point.

    What would be intriguing is if you were a big enough man to really put yourself out there, to use your real name to back up your points instead of typing nasty invective remarks behind the anonymity of a keyboard. Feel free to take a shot at me, but don’t hide when you do it.

    • Robert,

      I log on every week or so and enjoy reading your opinions. I saw that that you had written that the initial course at Banff was designed by Donald Ross and commented that this wasn’t correct. You called me “willfully ignorant” because I stand by my original comment, and that’s fine.

      You say you’d be interested if I had any insights on Ross’s work, and so I’ll try and clear up another of your misconceptions. Your exact words were “Did Ross redo all 18 holes? Some suggest yes” At the time Ross arrived in Banff, there were not 18 holes to redo. The Thomson course was 9 holes. and Ross expanded the course to 18.

      And while you comment that how you cite the original architect is not important, do a Google search with the same words as in your original post and your blog comes up 1st. And so sooner or later, as a prominent golf blogger, your text will be referred to as a source, and others will claim that the first course at Banff was designed by Donald Ross. The formatting of fellow commenter Dick’s comment screams “I found it on the internet so it must be true” in regards to the year the Banff and Jasper courses opened. But he’s wrong. The avalanche-formed-the-glacial-lake-in-1927 story on the page you referred me to yesterday is repeated hundreds of times in print and online, but it’s simply not true. My point: Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, and, especially if you’re earning a living from writing, do lots of research before putting something out as fact.

      My name is pretty simple to figure out from my email address, which has been included with every one of my comments. And I don’t live in Calgary.

  • Jasper Park

    Since I have all 18 holes photographed on opening day and a copy of his plan to renovate all the bunkers in 1928, I can assure you he did a lot of work after Banff (1927) was opened.

    Banff Springs

    The routing plan is in the Guelph archives. There are countless photos of the course before and after Thompson – it was very plain. Brad Klein believes he incorporated some of the holes – considering the importance of the commission, the unlimited resources and Thompson’s knowledge of agronomy – I’m not as convinced this is the case.

  • hey peter.You do seem to take things personally regarding all that is Robert.As for the rest of your Rant there is just no reply.I guess we could find the person who sold you your computer and burn them at the stake so they don”t make that mistake again.But how could they have known.Regards Bennett John. I don’t know how I got that wrong. Thanks.

  • Reading through all this back and forth about the Banff golf course, this is what I understand:

    Thomson designed 9 holes on the property but no one has quoted a source. The website does state this – The reader can decide whether that is credible source.

    Ross expanded 9 holes to 18 holes but there is no conclusion on whether any of the original 9 holes were kept in the 18 hole course. Thompson did a major re-work of the 18 hole course some years later.

    @Paul – Is your point that Thomson designed the original 9 holes so he is the original architect of Banff Springs? Even if Ross used some or all of those holes, it seems like a weak argument to suggest that Thomson was the original architect of the Banff course as it stands now. At best Thomson is the original architect of 9 holes.

    Seems to a layman that the person who designed the original 18 holes on the current land is the “original architect”. But that is one person’s opinion.

    I would suggest the original architect of the Banff Springs course is a conceptual discussion with no right or wrong answer.

  • William E. Thomson built a 9-hole course at Banff in 1911 which included a 650 yard par 5, according to Brian Kendall’s “Northern Links” page 89.

  • The article simply points out that courses are subjected to substantive renovations, often soon after they have been built, and sometimes on an on-going basis. I am not sure what this has to do with the need to mount a bulldozer; to require a a seminal work on the history of Banff’s do-overs; or to defend free speech.

    The point is well made- renovations are made in the ordinary course, even to great courses. It should be obvious that technology, agronomy and environmental concerns often necessitate changes to keep tracts relevant.

    Its like home-renovations- sometimes they are met to modernize; some are done for ascetics; and some are meant to restore and maintain original character. Every renovation will have its fans and detractors. We are free express our opinions on what we like or dislike, as evidenced by all the uncensored comments.

    You can even offer up an assassination on Robert Thompson’s character to make a point, but when you do, so do not take offense when you are being called out for being an ill-mannered buffoon.

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