Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stanley Thompson is Officially a Person of National Historic Significance

I got an email from Ken Donovan today that couldn’t have made me happier.

“Stanley Thompson has just been recognized as a person of National Historic Significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. This designation will take place at Cape Breton Highlands Links in Ingonish. “

Ken is best known for writing the wonderful essay called "Thinking Down the Road: Stanley Thompson, Canada's Golf Architect, Artist and Visionary, 1893-1953". If you haven’t read it you should, it’s found in the The Nashwaak Review, St.Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, vol. 14/15 (Fall, 2004 -Winter, 2005), pp. 252-302. The interview with Geoff Cornish in the back is as entertaining as his wonderful essay. The pictures are enough to leave your mouth open wishing you could see it in that form.

And that is where this announcement comes in…….

This means that an important course under government control, like Highland Links, can be restored as a place of historic importance. The fact that Highland Links is a historic site would give the people in charge of the course the opportunity to go to Parks Canada and explain to them why the tree removal is necessary to “restore the historical views and playing widths”. This would provide an opportunity to finally open up many of the long corridors and view sheds lost through growth and Parks Canada policies.

This also opens up the slight possibility of restoring the bunkers back to the original locations and shapes. They are clearly shown in a wealth of photos that are easily obtained through the course or through the National archives. There are even a few found in advertisements and other sources. I dream of seeing Highland Links restored properly, and this definitely takes this from the unlikely back to the possible. It’s a very happy day for any golf historian. I have to commend Ken and Mark for their efforts .

The other courses that spring to mind are Banff Springs and Green Gables which are also on Park Canada land. It’s never to late for Banff, but it may be too late for Green Gables which is scheduled for a renovation by McBroom which from all reports will fundamentally change the course.

On a more personal level, I don’t think this changes things at most existing courses. It may encourage more preservation, but most courses are well aware of the legacy that they understand is worth protecting. I look forward to seeing the impact at Highlands, it’s so appropriate that the ceremony will be held there to honour Stanley Thompson.


Chris said...


That email from Ken also made my day!

Greg MacLeod said...

I fully support governemnt ownership through Parks Canada of the course..It should be seen as an historic site and restored

greg Macleod

Brewnoser said...

There are several other ST courses on National Parks lands, Ian. The most apalling one, in terms of its lack of respect and upkeep, has to be the glorious 9 hole track in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick. Originally laid out as a full 18, Parks Canada either ran out of cash, or had a "management change" and stopped at 9. The full design was recently uncovered in the National Archives by a member of the Stanley Thompson Society (I'm a member, are you?). Fundy has 9 wonderful golf holes, including what I think is his best starting hole (I've played quite a few ST courses), and one of his best long par 3's. The 9th hole is also a great strategic short Par 5. But there is not a weak hole. Then again, the greens are shaggy and chopped up, the bunkers do not get raked, and the course dries out to brown most summers. It is played for cheap, and a lot of hackers hack it up.

I just played Highland Links (where I learned the game) and it sure would be nice to allow the super to do some tree work, especially improving air drainage around the ninth green, which is almost dead. The rest of the course was in good condition.

My email - brewnoser@ns.sympatico.ca

Ian Andrew said...


I was not aware of Fundy's nine holes, but I will add that to my list of places to see.

I am not a member of the society because of the politics involved. I want an accurate list of his work, but that will cost memberships - so we all agree to disagree.