Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — Golf Course Architect


Canada's Jasper National Park was created in 1907, one of Canada's oldest and largest parks it covers an area of more than 1000 square miles and has been drawing tourists and outdoor enthusiasts ever since. The Town of Jasper was seen as an island of civilization in this vast wilderness.

One of the great civilized pleasures offered in the park today is a round of golf at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Stanley Thompson designed golf course. Considered by many to be Thompson's "Masterpiece", with it's tranquil fairways progressing along what seems to be the golfer's private pathway through the forest, it remains to this day the first and only golf course ever built within the park.  

What is fun to note however, is that Thompson's was not the only or first "golfing links" to have ever been conceived or laid out a in Jasper Park. 

At the time of Jasper becoming a Canadian National Park, the role of Superintendent was assigned to South African War hero Lieutenant Colonel Maynard Rogers.  Although Colonel Rogers was no stranger to the wilderness, having spent a good deal of life dedicated to its conservation and protection, he was not quite ready for Jasper. 

Describing it as "God's own handiwork", he realized he was engulfed by "nature in her grandest and most majestic garb."

During the South African War Colonel Rogers and had met and become close friends with the greatest of all British novelists, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Knowing the Sir Arthur had spoken often about creating a Canadian masterpiece, Rogers extended an invite to Sir Arthur and Lady Doyle to come by for a visit thinking that Jasper's "primeval mountains, forests and lakes" would inspire the Doyle's fertile mind. 


With engineer's rod in hand laying out the golf course in Jasper Park,
Canada's most northern game preserve

The Doyle's accepted the invite and planned a visit in June 1914.  "The news that he was to visit Canada was hailed with delight from coast to coast, and Canadians are particularly delighted at the thought that Jasper Park with all its old Hudson Bay Day traditions has given the inspiration to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write a Canadian story of the past glories of the great Hudson Bay adventurers. The call of the past, the magnificent grandeur of Canada’s most remote mountain park, through whose domain flows the storied Athabasca, thrilled Sir Arthur. In his journey over the Athabasca trail Sir Arthur gave vent to his feelings in a beautiful poem, as he gazed upon the gleaming waters of the Athabasca: - 

“I shall hear the roar of rivers where
the rapids foam and tear,

I shall smell the virgin upland with its
balsam-laden air,

And shall dream that I am riding down the
winding woody vale,

With the packer and the packhorse
on the Athabasca Trail.”

When Doyle arrived Rogers could barely contain himself as he shared with Doyle the scope and ramifications of his role at Jasper. In short he saw it as his chance to create paradise on earth. The Canadian government had decided that Jasper Park, "remote from civilization, in this mountain vastness" was to become a "a pleasure and resting ground for the nations of the world." And part of it would be, "a beautiful mountain town, called Jasper", to be administered by Rogers for the government. And in this model town site Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was building a million dollar hotel. 

Hmmm...., now Doyle and Rogers were average though avid golfers, it was June in the Canadian Rockies, the nearest golf course, The Edmonton Country Club, 400 miles to the southeast, is it any wonder the idea of designing and laying out a golf course in Jasper came up.

If you have ever been to Jasper then you know it sits in a huge beautiful valley surrounded with stunning mountain peaks that seem to touch the sky. Each one a perfect frame for a golf hole, and I'm sure this was not missed on Doyle and Rogers. 

Now Rogers being charged with building this "pleasure and resting ground for the nations of the world", thought having his friend the world renowned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, design and layout a golf course would surely place Jasper very quickly in on the list the top tourist destinations for the world's privileged to visit. 

So the design and layout began, and quite frankly I can not imagine how much fun these two guys must have had or the celebration that followed when Doyle struck the first shot, sending his golf ball into the forest where their first hole was to me. Nor can I imagine what the golf course would have looked or played like. Or how about the names of the holes..."The Hole of the Baskervilles", The Exhumed Bunker" or even "The Adventure of the Dancing Putter"


During his visit to Canada, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited 
Jasper Park in Northern Alberta and while there laid out
 a golf
course. The photograph shows Sir Arthur, the fourth
 from the left, at luncheon, in one of the shelter houses of the Park

To learn more about Jasper Park, Stanley Thompson or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, continue your search here....

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